PostCompassionate Birth Work: beginners mind

I was lucky enough to get along to the Doula UK conference at the week end and connect with some incredibly warm and inspiring birth workers.  I spent 22 years as a Midwife but the conference has taught me once again that I’d probably rather like to be a Doula when I grow up.

One of the highlights for me was walking into the wrong workshop by mistake and deciding in an instant to stay there.

Jo and April ran a self-care workshop; we knew we had a finite amount of time so the whole group very quickly got down to connecting and doing the important work of self-care and love.  Two days later and I still feel a deep sense of peace when I think of the oasis of calm and connect created in that room and of the two beautiful souls I was partnered to work with.

I was there with my stand and my lovely friend and favourite Doula, Tara Thompson from Birth as it is, to launch my legacy training course: The Compassionate Birth Worker.    This is the culmination of my life’s work in birth.  I started out teaching Hypnobirthing but my classes evolved, to the point where they barely resembled the programme I was supposed to be teaching. I had begun to include elements drawn from my therapeutic work as a Specialist Midwife for Women affected by drugs and alcohol and from my earth based spiritual (shamanic) practices as I found them to be very powerful work for the women and their partners.  Some-how they just seemed to fit. The inclusion of Compassionate Mindfulness was a natural response to my experiences of postnatal work as a Community Midwife. I became concerned at the way the hypnobirthing message was being heard by many women and sadly contributing to birth trauma in some cases.  Hypnobirthing; so much potential if presented and taught in a mindful and compassionate way yet the potential for so much harm if taught in an outcome focused way; hinting that ‘failure’ is a product of having not practiced enough.

My client’s responses to the classes; their reported sense of preparedness for their personal birth journey and their unfailingly positive birth reflections were thought provoking and humbling.

With increasing frequency, I was approached by Birth workers who had cared for women who had taken my Classes. They had often looked at their client’s resource folders and learnt as much as they could about my techniques so that they could support them.  Witnessing a woman practicing self-compassion is a powerful message and so they would contact me to ask where and how they could train to teach these techniques them-selves.

A real turning point came when a fellow Midwife and her partner took my classes.  Following the birth of her baby she invited me to her house.  After telling me her birth story she wanted to give me a serious message.  She told me that I had the opportunity to bring a powerful medicine to families, a medicine that she felt my classes had empowered her to discover for herself; this is what made it so powerful.  She had discovered her power for herself and was already taking that forward and changing all areas of her life as a result.  She told me very earnestly that I had to make myself vulnerable, take ownership and admit  that I was teaching a very different course to the one I was advertising. 

I was scared.

So, I breathed, smiled and drummed and started the work I knew I needed to do.

First I set about training to be a Hypnotherapist.  I knew very deeply that self-hypnosis would play a part in my course; it is such a simple and accessible tool. I would need to be proficient at creating properly constructed scripts if I was going to do this properly and in a responsible way.

From there, it took just over a year to create the Compassionate Birth Worker as it stands now.  A real labour of love (pun intended).  And to some degree it is still evolving; shaped by every woman I have taught it to and now by the beta testers who are so generously giving their time to engage in the sessions, go over the online materials and give me their feed-back.

I am naturally expansive and enthusiastic and one of the things that I came to understand at the Doula UK conference is that there is so much included in the Compassionate Birth Worker training that it is virtually impossible to sum up.  Each time I spoke to someone about it I told them of maybe one or two aspects of the course but so much was left unsaid.  I am not a slick, media savvy self-promotionalist able to trot out my elevator pitch to a prospective client.  I am a heart centred, passionate, some-what untidy, coffee drinking, experienced, birth nerd with pens in her hair and a tried and tested set of tools for bringing self-compassion, empowerment and fun to birth work. 

Having researched far and wide I see that there is (currently) nothing else like this course available so no wonder it’s a little tricky to explain.  It’s an advanced course, open only to existing birth workers who have submitted a successful application.  Places are awarded on a ‘best fit’ basis, not just an ability to pay the fees.  There are two scholarship places available each year to ensure accessibility.

Over the next few weeks I will take you on a tour of the course, starting with the first two days: Preparing for Compassionate Birth Work.  I hope this will give everyone an opportunity to understand the depth of the work being offered and the inbuilt, ongoing support that will be available to them should they decide to join me on their own journey to Compassionate Birth Work. Despite being so full of learning opportunities, the techniques taught are so very simple.

I worked in the NHS for so long that many of my techniques can be utilized in the most time pressured of scenarios with enormous benefit and most powerful of all is learning to embody self-compassion.  The course is immersive and students learn to live the tools and so teach from an authentic place of knowing.

I am always learning and so I encourage students to adopt a ‘beginners-mind’ too.  We can all err towards ego so how wonderful it is to have the self-compassion to smile at that and let it go.


Swim Deep

Nicola x