Well I am still here in Brighton, and have completed three intense days of Doula Training, learning an amazing amount of stuff I didn't know.
I feel very lucky and privileged to have been able to learn in the way that I did, with the group of people who were studying with me. My tutor Valerie was formerly the head of Doula UK, so has REALLY extensive knowledge of the industry and what good Doula practise should look like. The other women taught me nearly as much, and the style in which we learnt was organic and multidimensional with everyone sharing their wisdom, questions, and even ignorances! I was staggered and humbled by how much I thought I knew, and how much I actually knew, on some topics. Having four children doesn't mean you are a birthing expert, by any means!!!
It was a really wonderful few days, and one of the simplest lessons that Valerie taught us all is that there is no room for ego in the Doula role. Being a Doula isn't an in-your-face cheerleading role. It isn't about advising and trying to a make the mother come round to your style of parenting. It's not about taking over the mother's role, it's about helping her stand on her own two feet, helping her reach her own, fully-informed decisions, and basically making yourself progressively less needed. It's also very much a role in which your influence can be like that of an NLP practitioner. Birth happens mostly in the brain, and since the brain is the control centre of the birth experience, helping a mother to be in a positive, optimum state of mind approaching birth can more useful than anything else you may do actually on the day.
How to help others in a gentle way is something I need to really reflect upon. When I say that, I mean that I will often try to help others in a way that applies for me, that worked for me, but this may be ABSOLUTELY wrong, even irrelevant, for the other person. It comes from a place of genuine compassion and I am a big believer in thinking positively to help change your situations and that a happy and robust state of mind can dramatically change our outlook and self-image. I know from my own life that it can be the most powerful tool in implementing change. But it is only half the picture. Genuinely helping others means looking from all perspectives and not just our own, however well meaning we may be. Being helpful may require a lot less of us than we think, and involves really using our ears, eyes and heart to listen, see, and feel, more than our mouths to jump in and advise. It's not about barging in thinking we have all the answers, because those answers may only be true for us.
Lots to chew on!