Babies are people, too – why we need to consider the emotional well-being of just born babies in the birth space.
It seems that when it comes to modern birth culture, the general theme seems to be “All that matters is a healthy baby.” Now although for the most part this statement is filled with the best intentions from well meaning people or professionals, I have seen it used over and over again to emotionally manipulate or corner women and their families into following their care provider’s policies or agenda. And you know what, this isn’t even the part that pisses me off that most. What frustrates me is the general disregard for baby’s emotional well-being throughout the majority of pregnancy and birth. Or the general disregard for the possibly mega negative imprinting any trauma, aggression, brightness is pushed onto defenseless bubba.
“Do you think babies like being born?”
“What do you mean, like to be born?”
“Exactly what I said. Do you think children are
happy to come into this world?”
“Happy? But a newborn baby doesn’t feel anything.
So it’s neither happy nor unhappy.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, it’s obvious. Everyone knows that.”
“That’s not much of a reason, is it?”
“I suppose you’re right. But all the same, they
don’t really see or hear properly, do they?”
“And that makes you think they don’t feel anything either?”
“Of course, they don’t.”
“Then why do they cry so bitterly?”
“Well, that’s to expand their lungs, isn’t it?”
“Expand their lungs! That hardly explains it.
My goodness, don’t tell me you’ve never heard a
newborn baby cry!”
“Yes, of course I have. But that doesn’t necessarily mean
“Do you think he’s expressing his pleasure, his delight at
being with us?”
“I don’t think it’s either of those things. I
told you, babies don’t feel anything.”
“And what makes you so sure? If I may ask once more.
“Well, for a start, they’re so small. I mean, at
that age …
“How can an intelligent person like you say that!
As if size had anything to do with it. Small!
As for age, have you forgotten that, the younger you
are, the more intensely you feel? Young children
suffer agonies about things that seem quite trivial
to us because they feel a thousand times more than
we do. This is the blessing and at the same time
the curse of their heightened sensitivity.”
“Well, you could be right. But, all the same, it’s
still hard to understand that they can feel, I mean
there is no real consciousness at that stage, is there?”
“Consciousness? You mean they have no soul?”
“No, no. I don’t mean a soul. I don’t know anything
about the soul.”
“But, consciousness? You know about consciousness?
Wonderful! At last I have found someone who can
explain this great mystery to me. My friend, I am
on my knees. Tell me, please tell me. What is
“Well . . . actually . . . well, you see,
well . . . consciousness . . .”
Confronting, isn’t it? This is an excerpt from a book that moved me very deeply when I first begun my career as a Doula. Frederik Leboyer’s ‘Birth Without Violence’. It challenged so many of the birth policies in place at the time ~ 1975 ~ and caused major controversy amongst professionals. Controversy that is still rife today.
It wouldn’t take much digging to see what childbirth has looked like in the last 60 years. Artificial hormones, distress from forced induction, forceps, vacuums, pulling, yanking, flipping a baby upside down, slapping bottoms, swinging baby around, bright lights, ice cold rooms, isolated nurseries, desperate cries, circumcision, forced feeding schedules, separated from mother and the only place it knows….actually, birth and new life as a newborn has been a very violent place, for a very long time.
Unfortunately, many of these acts continue to exist. Regardless of whether they are deemed necessary or not, regardless of it being in the context of genuine emergency, Leboyer said it well when he said it remained violence none the less.
You see, for a very long time, there has/was/is this deeply rooted (and absurd) idea that babies feel nothing. That suffering, pain, joy…neither of these can possibly be experienced by a being so small and so new. Absurd, right? An outdated thought similar to the way we look at animals as non-sentient beings only because they cannot speak our language even when their emotional and body language is undeniable.
Our culture tends to look at baby in two ways – simply that baby is dead or baby is alive. And by narrowing our perception into these two tunnels, we’ve allowed ourselves to ignore the very real possibility that our children are growing up suffering the long hard haul of a hardcore limbic imprint.
Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova from Birth Into Being explains, “Limbic imprinting is the inborn capacity of the nervous system to absorb and memorize, on a cellular level, all of the information from its surrounding environment during the early formative period– the moment of conception through 9 months of gestation, birth, and the first few years of life. Every fluctuation of the mother’s hormonal, physical, emotional experiences are registered by the fetus and non-cognitively recorded in its developing nervous system. These early impressions and sensations remain with this person throughout their entire lifespan.”
One can only begin to fathom the impact from a traumatic, overwhelming or stressful birth on a newborn baby.
What can you imagine happens to baby in a system that views it as an emotionless vessel?
In his book, Leboyer went into great detail about the suffering of newborn babies. How their cries and physical cues were actually to show great distress or sadness and that approaching birth with more better (and more gentle intent) was the new way forward.
He saw babies as more than just a living being. He saw them as complex creatures, capable of feelings of all kinds, worthy of consideration. The same consideration you would bestow on any person going through such a physical, transformative, life altering journey.
I have seen truly gentle births, even in emergency situations; it is possible and it is wonderful. Ultimately I would love to see an overhaul of maternal care – one that is well and truly concerned about more than ticking the boxes for their insurance policies; a system that places the vulnerable and sensitive cores of birthing people and their babies at the forefront.
I believe babies are people. They have the right to bodily autonomy, respect and care on a greater level than just being kept alive. How about you?
Melbourne Doula & Birth Photographer
Growing up, I was notoriously unpopular with the Italian community I grew up in. My family was pretty hardcore Neopolitan – I learnt to play soccer before I could walk! The status quo demanded minimal risk taking, saving for your mortgage at 16, being married by 20, babies by 25. My dad was adamant I adhere to the ‘plan’, unless I became a pro soccer player then I was pretty much free to do whatever. My grandparents, bless them, just as confused at my general disinterest in living my life in a box. So when I left home to live in Hawaii, alone, at 16, they nearly had a heart attack. Unphased, I packed and off I went to explore at every chance I had.
My grandmother (who doubled as my best friend/wise woman/straight shooter/crone) and I chatted regularly throughout my travels. About everything and anything mostly, but each time we spoke she would ask the same question.
“Aren’t you scared?”
“No? Never. Not once.”, I replied.
I got lonely, I missed the people I cared about, sometimes I felt worried or overwhelmed. But never scared. I guess she hated that answer because she would immediately follow it with 3 mega Nonna accented, “But-ta how? But-ta why? But-ta why you no come-a home? Why you no a-fraid?”
Upon further reflection, her reactions made total sense.
My grandmother was so afraid of crashing her car and dying, she refused to drive one. As in, I have never seen her drive a car. A fear, of which you can imagine, was incredibly stifling.
My grandmother was so afraid to perish on an airplane, she never once returned to her home country following her arrival in Canada. Never to see her family again.
I looked at her fears, how they crippled her. It made me so sad to see her live a life that was so burdened by heavy worry. And the truth is, she always looked sad, always looked worried. Her fears actually scared me out of ever letting my own fear dictate my life’s journey. I could die at any given moment but I was more afraid of missing out on a life well lived. I tried to explain this logic to her and I could tell that although she didn’t necessarily understand my fearless nature, she enjoyed living vicariously through me.
At one stage, she stopped trying to convince me to come home. She laughed, she loved me and every inch of my wild little heart.
Years passed, things changed. My grandfather became very ill, dying only to leave my grandmother alone and heartbroken. The last time we spoke she wasn’t feeling very well and I vividly remember feeling very worried for her. This was the only time in many years of travel I felt selfish and confused. I asked if I should fly back to Montreal but she insisted I don’t and that I have fun.
One sunny day, I found myself walking down the CBD in Melbourne. Another big adventure in a new part of this big world. Excited to share my stories, I rang my Nonna only to find out she had passed in the night.
I felt a blow to my chest that stopped me in my tracks on Bourke street. This would be the first time in my life that death would felt real to me and I suppose that this is how most young people who feel invincible are reminded that they too, have something to fear – when those they love start to die.
My naivete became abundantly clear to me in the days following her death. I closed up. Retreated within myself. Not even making my way to the funeral because I couldn’t bear to see her. I imagined her body lifeless, it broke me. I hated what I felt and I chose to hate death for robbing her from me. Should I have succumbed to the anxiety, I too would have been crippled. So I avoided it. I avoided death and that is how I coped. This is how I chose to hold on.
Life resumed, adventures continued. To Thailand. Malaysia. Singapore. London. Mexico. The Dominican Republic. To Australia, again & again. Avoiding the idea of death kept me free from the constraints most people were commanded by. And this is how I liked it. This is how I felt safe. Even when people I cared for began to die around me – I lived boldly and fearlessly in their honor.
But seeing as death is death, and there is nothing more certain than a beginning and an end for each of us, the day came where I had no choice but to meet that truth.
And so I did, in the most agonizingly beautiful of ways…
The day I became a mother was the day I could no longer escape the realities of my mortality.
The births of my children were unbelievably remarkable human experiences, transforming me from the inside out. Feeling the most alive I have ever felt, exploring realms of consciousness and physical feelings unseen to the eye. Palpable feelings of new life, I felt strong and like I had defeated my sworn enemy, you know, he who must not be named…Death.
I had a moment that looked like me being the kid in class sticking out my tongue at his teacher, shouting, ‘Na Na Na Na, I win! I beat you!’
But holy shit balls was I wrong, so fucking wrong. This great teacher had yet so much to teach me and he was going to hit me while I was down. Although happy and chuffed with my new chapter as mum, fatigue and overwhelm created the perfect breeding ground for negative thoughts. And it was my brain that became death’s playground.
Little did I know, compulsive thoughts about death (dying or losing someone you love to death) are pretty common after birth. Especially in the case of parents suffering with post-partum anxiety. A quick Google search will show you how rampant this issue is, and always more of a presence among mothers after birth.
The foreign dialogue between me, myself and death was depressing me, to say the least. I would try and explain those feelings to my husband and my best friend. I spoke to dozens of women, many I worked with personally, all going through the same thing. One week I slept a mere number of hours as I wrestled the panic of my impending death in my mind.
What would happen to my kids if I died? What would I do if my children died? How could I go on? Just 3 of 100’s of questions I asked myself daily.
A characteristically positive & strong person, I reached out to the most inner parts of my soul for strength. I went searching for my happy place. I resumed lots of physical activity, ate lots of nutrient dense foods, spent lots of time in the sun, started a business I loved, kept busy with my children, travelled…and it disappeared.
The obsessive worry, the anxiety, the fears. They dissapeared. Almost overnight, at the 6 month mark. After BOTH my babies. After two eerily similar bouts of crippling anxiety and insomnia and two very successful turn arounds using holistic healing – I came out of the fog. I felt human again.
When my second child turned 1, I flailed my middle finger in the air, glass of champagne in the other hand. We were living in Mexico at the time, I felt so complete, so whole, so unphased about my expiration date. So excited that I even managed to find a deep peace with death. I was cool, we were cool.
And then just like that, I was brought back down to earth with a hammer. A few nights ago I was in a car accident. And although minor, it shook me to the core, a tsunami of intense emotion bubbling to the surface. The what ifs paralyzing me in my bed. Already feeling fragile, my beloved pet fell very ill. Our connection was so strong, she called me to her open cage with one soft, long chirp. I knew something was wrong and I made a mad dash to meet her eyes, to let her know I heard her and I was there. She looked at me, struggling, taking her last breathe and taking a part of me with her.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurting. Because I am. But there is an unprecedented clarity, too. I am stronger from each lesson this life has taught me, from each reality check death has brought me. I can tell that acknowledging the truths of my mortality makes me a better human, one who is present and engaged, appreciating each moment in life as one to be treasured. And for that I am grateful. I am not running from the sadness, not running from my self-reflection. I want to instill equal parts values of fearlessness, and a respect for the delicate inner workings of how fear fuels us, into the hearts of my children.
I only wish I could have showed my grandmother how to make light of her fears, too.
Have you experienced something similar? Are you still struggling with it? Have you made friends with Death?
Melbourne Doula, Birth Photographer and Mother
I am super duper obsessed with queen fronted, feminist drenched, badass babe based businesses. I have made really conscious efforts to buy and support a wide variety of these same businesses because of said obsession. Every month I will be showcasing one of the people, products or companies I am crushing on and share my experiences with them in my new blog series, ‘Things I Love’.
Early last year, a friend recommended I scope out this range of undies created by Thinx self proclaimed Period/Anxiety/Patriarchy-Proof Underwear. (If you haven’t lurked their Instagram yet please do because they are amazingly sassy!)
Why was I recommended them?
Basically, after Odin’s birth incontinence was a real thing. Every single time I laughed, cried or moved too suddenly the flood gates opened. And gurl, the struggle was real. None of my shit house K-Mart granny panties were doing the trick plus I felt like a non-functional frump wearing them. I didn’t like wearing wee pads either because their bulk factor was super problematic for my skinny jeans. (Sexy skinny black jeans who saved my ass post partum!)
Anyway, I got turned onto Kejal, who was one of the queen bees behind ICON undies. We run in similar circles and she was like, ‘You need to try these undies ASAP, send me your address!’.
Can I just get a Kejal appreciation moment here? Besides saving my life with this revolutionary panties, she showed such patience and generosity when not 1 but TWO packages never made it to me.
Third time was totally a charm and when my package finally made it to me it was instant crotch crush connection. I am not shitting you when I say I have not touched nor worn my 32 other pairs of underwear since getting my ICON undies. I got about 13 pairs (a mix of the available styles) and have worn them on rotation for the last 72 days. The Hi-Waist and the Bikini are my favourite!
“Why are you so obsessed Angela?!”
– They are RIDICULOUSLY comfortable. No seams cutting into my jiggly (gorgeous) bits. No wedgies. No bulk. No odd material folding. Just super soft and cushy on my tushy. Totally true to size. They feel like gloves for my vagina.
– They actually do what they claim to do. And even more. Not only are they pee proof but they have also covered me with period leaks over a dozen times. I can’t tell you how handy that was!
– After having babies, the PH and general health of my vulva changed. I became allergic to 99% of every pair of panties I bought. (The pain in throwing out underwear that cost you a fortune to buy….) The reaction is hard to explain so I will leave it at this and spare you the gory detail – most underwear material made me smell & itch. ICON undies are the onllllllllllllllllly underwear I have bought and not thrown out because of their performance. Not only can I wear them without the above BUT I can run, sweat, have sex, get my period without a problem…they whisk away moisture and keep me feeling clean. No smells, no itch…it’s sorcery.
– I know that my purchase supports a company whos ethos I genuinely love. ICON and THINX are doing amazing work in their respective fields (Like with the Fistula Foundation, every pair of Icon sold helps fund life-changing surgeries for women in developing countries!) and it feels good to know I am playing a small part in that.
The peeps behind ICON were sweet enough to give my readers a little something something – use code GALLO at checkout to nab 5$ off your purchase! Pick up a few pairs and let me know how they work for you!
Did you have any strange and inconvenient stuff happen down south, after having babies? Share your experiences with me below or by heading to my Instagram and Facebook pages.
The vulva vixen in me honors the vulva vixen in you,
Angela is an incredibly charismatic, caring and heartfelt birthworker with so much to offer. She so clearly loves what she does and is passionate about serving women and families. Angela has a beautiful ability to make you feel at ease comfortable and like youve been friends forever, while challenging you and your thinking at the same time. This is a rare skill that makes her services unique and sought after. Heart and Hustle in particular has been personally poignant in helping me push past a number of business blocks, to challenge me, to force me to be clear about my goals, and to be part of a community that keeps me accountable. Well done Angela for starting something so needed in this community to keep Birth workers from hopefully becoming another statistic of burnout, but instead thrive and be able to keep serving the way we want to.Katherine Eden Lech
If you have recently certified or accredited in your respective field, you can probably attest to the fact that there ain’t nothing straightforward about choosing, crafting and creating the trifecta of a great business name (business name + location/role + tagline/slogan). It really takes guts to own your birth biz – and the glory part starts here!
Your birth business name has the potential to get you seen and recognized, just as it has the potential to deflect clients far, far away from booking you.
Not sure where to start? Here are a couple of hot tips to point you in the right direction…
+ Consider using your own name as your business name. Taking ownership of your business and of your brand starts here. It is original and when combined with a tagline or slogan, makes you easier to find. Not keen on your own name? Create an alias of a different version of your own.
+ Include a tagline or slogan. Your tagline should tie your business name and offer together in a really eloquent way that speaks volumes to your visitor.
+ Brainstorm a list of words and ideas that you feel accurately reflect your vision and message. Bust out the thesaurus if you have to. Crack your own code with some killer language. Inject your energy into the mix and make sure that the name you choose truly is am embodiment of you and your offer. Remember you want people who read your business name & tagline to feel intrigued, enticed and connected to you. What sort of words will achieve that desired result?
+ Have you previously worked with any clients? If so, touch base with them and ask them to provide 5 words they feel best describe their experience with you. Did they enjoy working with you? Why? How did you make them feel? What did you do for them? This is such a wonderful, reaffirming exercise that almost always provides the inspiration we need to creating the ultimate business name & tagline.
+ Research other businesses in your market. Worldwide, baby. I want you to Google your face off here. Triple check your ideas and make darn sure you check if they are already being used. Anywhere. Check business name registries, Facebook and other popular social media platforms too. In many cities, using the same business names is illegal so please be aware of your local copyright & trademark laws before being lazy and using something that’s already been done. In addition to this, it is super confusing for clients to sift through exact replicas of business names when trying to choose a professional service or product.
+ Include rich keywords that tell people who you are and what you do. As much as I want you to be original, it’s critical to include a few keywords that at the minimum, let people know where you are and what you do. (I.E Birth Doula, Dallas Pregnancy Services, Melbourne Birth Photographer) By creating a keyword rich name will make it easier for Google to rank you and for people to find you.
+ You want your business name to work seamlessly with your tagline, logo, message and overall branding. Conflicting business names and branding are a no-no. Cohesion and consistency is both sexy and professional!
You can catch the replay on this exact topic up for a limited time HERE. And don’t forget to share it with friends who may benefit from it, too!
Want access to ALL of me, all the juicy info and all of the strategy? You can get all of that and more by signing up to my business for birth pros course today.
All my love,
“I maintained my edge by always being a student; you will always have something new to learn.”
– Jackie Joyner Kersee
In 2014 I made the decision to become a Doula. At the time, I knew very little about training organisations and chose my study path based entirely on the only locally available in person workshop. If you listen to any one of my webinars, you will often here me say how disconnected I felt from that particular community. (It was actually quite frustrating but I did manage to use those feelings to motivate me to create something that would connect & inspire women way past their original training.)
Following receiving my certification, I made every effort to expand on what I learnt. I have always been an eager sponge and it was critical for me to live my passions to the fullest and be the best birth professional I could possibly be. I knew that the best way to do that was with a variety of experience and continous professional development. This is how my journey with Doula Trainings International came to be!
It all started when mid way through last year I made the decision that I wanted to recertify with a new Doula training organisation. You may be wondering, ‘But Angela, if you already had your qualification, why bother getting them again?’ And you know what, that is a pretty fair question. But my answer is even fairer – being the best Doula we can possibly be and serving women & their families in the most compassionate and comprehensive way, does not happen by hindering our willingness to learn. I knew deep in my heart that I wanted to keep learning, but to find the perfect place for me to learn was a bit more of a challenge.
With dozens (if not hundreds!) of Doula training organisations around the globe, I had to refine my search parameters if I was going to find the Doula community of my dreams. As a busy mother and business owner, this list of my non-negotiables will give you some insight on what I was looking for.
– Super engaging, jam-packed-with-goodness, easy to listen to and easy to digest course content available online for me to follow whenever I had the time.
– In person workshops available in the event I wanted to attend one.
– Modern, inclusive, maternal/infant/reproductive/human rights focused, heart centric at the core.
– Supportive of go getter gregarious business types like me (you wouldn’t believe how many training org’s were eliminated with this one!).
– A genuinely amazing community of like minded individuals available in a busy Facebook forum. (With so many divisive & preachy Doula groups – this was so so so important.)
– Opportunity for growth (possibly teaching or being involved in some larger capacity in the long term).
– Excellent price points and payment plans.
– And the most important – finding a training org that was in line with my philosophies as a human and as a birth worker.
Would I ever find one? Did anything like this exist? Was I being too picky? I often doubted I would find anything that would fit the bill.
And then one day…BOOM. Out of The sky I fell onto this…
I came upon DTI’s Instagram and lurked really, really hard for a few months. What struck me was their involvement and commitment to varying types of people in different places, as well as their unapologetic views of maternal care. Their tone was fierce but soft, and it really resonated with my own Doula style.
I finally decided to stop crushing from a distance and write to Tara and Gina (founders and general bad-ass, big hearted babes behind DTI!). From here, we went back and forth on Doula Training Internationals offerings. It felt organic to enroll in their Path2 program; re-certification course for established and previously certified Doulas. This specific program would not only enable me to brush up on my general knowledge as a Doula (with a ton of awesome videos and workbook content) but also get me access to mentorship calls, option to purchase other Learning Labs relevant to my needs, initiation and guidance through our Slow Doula Method™ and the SDM approach and access to their expert affiliate video program in Advanced Doula Trainings covering topics such as Advanced Business Development, Bereavement and Loss, Birth Advocacy, Comfort Measures, Navigating Induction and much more.
The program itself cost 1197$ for their online Path2 option and has been worth every single penny. I am currently 35% complete and the stand out points for me right now have been flexibility, affordability and genuinely amazing content. I am learning again and I love it. My clients are getting a better version of me, and that in itself is worth it’s weight in gold.
The course is super easy to follow with a brilliantly functional member/students area. You log in and simply follow the prompts that guide you through. Easy peezy world class training at the click of a button. Most welcoming are the videos – super pleasant and straight to the point. To be honest, the course has fit in perfectly to the wild rhythm of my life so really can’t fault it. I know alot of the trainings I looked into required you to do tideous tasks, read a million books and hand in 3 essays a week. Although this might be your learning style, it sure as hell isn’t mine. It’s been so refreshing to buy an online course and actually follow through with it!
If you are contemplating joining the DTI community – stop thinking. Just do it. To sweeten the pot, Doula Trainings International has offered my readers an exclusive promo code when signing up to their re-certification Path2 program. (Freaking awesome, right?!) Just head on over to their registration page and use code WOMBWARRIORPATH2 at checkout. And after you do that, I would love you to leave a comment below and let me know how your own Doula learning journey is going!
To being the best you and delivering the most impact,
P.S I have got a rad FREE webinar coming up on February 11 ALLLL about helping you choose the purr-fect business name. Hurry though as you need to register to lock in a limited invite. CLICK HERE to join the party!