Who is supporting you in your motherhood journey?
And what it takes to achieve an optimal birth.
There’s a lot of talk in the media about the trend of women supporting women. We’ve heard how women are tearing each other down, or holding each other back – particularly amongst the achievement ladders of the independent women. Sadly, it’s often underpinned with judgement, and common within the parenthood community.
But as we’re reassured, there are still some instances amongst society and culture, in where we may find the true notion of women supporting women in its purity. In a throwback to ancient cultures, the Doula (more like a ‘spiritual’ midwife) is one such example.
In what was perhaps one of the most spiritual and inspiring conversations we’ve had during our blog series for #MotherhoodMonth, we caught up with doula, yoga teacher/trainer, and birth educator Rosanna Kalliabetsos.
Rosanna, or Rozy as she more commonly goes by, is a doula specialising in all aspects of perinatal yoga. She is a teacher trainer for Birthlight, specialising in yoga for fertility and healthy conception and pregnancy, and works with couples to prepare them for pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.
Over a conversation interwoven with life experiences from one woman to another, we talked openly about fertility and pregnancy, expectations of the mother, what it means to be a doula, and finding your rozyglow.
What is a doula?
Historically speaking, ‘Doula’ is the ancient Greek word for ‘woman who serves,’ dating back to the traditional role of women supporting women during the transition to motherhood.
Back then, birth was ‘women’s business’, and the women of the village would be called to be present at a birth in a form of pure traditional midwifery.
Long before the services of hospitals and obstetricians were brought in, these women would be there to help the body do what it needed to do. It was a hands-off, spiritual role. They would support the mother both psychologically and spiritually, to support the energy of birth and to ensure the birthing mother felt safe and nurtured – which lets the oxytocin flow.
In modern days, a doula functions as ‘birth keeper’, brought in to nurture & support the mother, her baby, and partner. This is separate to the doctors and midwives, who are more focused on the physiological aspect of the birthing process.
So a doula is pretty much the best birthing partner you would want to have by your side?
Well typically we see that in modern Obstetrics, they tend to look for the first sign of a problem during the birthing process. I absolutely believe that the role of Western medicine and the ‘traditional’ health system has a role to play. Without their intervention during emergencies and at-risk labours, women would be worse off.
But often we find that the typical hospital’s mind-set is to treat you as though you’re ill and need help to get better, and that every sign during labour is trouble. This approach can have a serious influence on your birth experience – either positive or negative – and can drastically affect the mother’s concept of control and “say” over both her body and her baby.
“It’s important to understand that everyone has a role to play during the birth and can influence it according to their thoughts and feelings. Fear breeds fear.” says Rozy.
HN: You mention this concept of ‘control,’ during the birth and the mother’s experience of pregnancy. This is a big factor isn’t it? I know it can potentially have long-term ramifications for many who might feel they didn’t get to have the experience they’d hoped for due to a loss of “control.”
Is having control a realistic expectation during labour?
Birth is a normal physiological event, either helped or hindered by the psychological process. The moment you over think it, or you want to control it, you lose your ability to ease the physiological process.
Part of a doula’s role is to bring conscious awareness to what we can control. This includes staying calm and relaxed as the labour gets more intense, maintaining a conscious connection with the baby, whatever twists and turns occur. We focus on helping mum to lengthen her out-breath as an antidote to ‘pain’. We remind mum that baby is doing this with you as well – that mother’s breath is baby’s oxygen and oxytocin supply.
“Fear doesn’t go away if your mind-set is fear based. What we have to do is shift that around and build trust that your body can do it. Reframe and trust your body’s instinct though body based practices that shift the hormonal balance from stress hormones to oxytocin.”
If a woman is well nurtured, nourished and supported, in 9 months she can grow her spiritual toolkit to sustain her for the entire journey of motherhood and parenthood.
Reframing your mind-set to focus on your inner glow which comes from having the light of another soul in your physical body & opening your heart to receive this light. Amplify it by focusing on it. Birth ‘light’ means literally to birth without undue strain, and refers to the spiritual dimension of birth. This can be overlooked if we try to control it.
Read More: Welcoming Newborn Mums On Your Journey
HN: Many of our expectant mums are typical senior career women, often juggling work life and home life, and place high expectations on themselves. Sometimes they’re so busy planning / working / doing life, to bond with their growing baby bump, or to prepare for the birth. Other times, they rely heavily on this notion of ‘control’ and therefore become anxious if they feel the pregnancy and birth won’t go the way they’ve planned it.
What are your top tips for expectant mums?
You’ve a life and soul inside of you.
Remind yourself that all day everyday you’re connecting with the baby inside you. You’ve got a visual representation that you can’t disconnect with. So celebrate every time you remember you are pregnant and ‘smile’ from your heart to your baby.
Practice BIB: breathe into baby.
As you wake up and go to sleep, take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing and be present with your breaths. Focus on lengthening your out-breaths and deepening your in breaths. And don’t forget that sighing is the best way to release tension.
Set a an alarm reminder with ‘BIB’ so you can reconnect during the day….or put a post it note on your PC. Your breath is your baby’s oxygen supply, and it maintains the healthy function of your baby’s placenta
Ensure you’re well nurtured, nourished and supported.
This is so important. Nurturing yourself will allow you to grow spiritually and prepare for the whole journey. Remember that you have the life and soul of another human being inside of you, and you need to take care of it.
Everything is designed to prepare you.
Your pregnancy and birth experience prepares you for motherhood. So look to seek out activities that will support this. Things such as prenatal yoga, relaxation techniques and psychological support will all play a transformational role in your experience of motherhood. Make the most of being pregnant and resting, and take into account that you’re going to have many broken nights sleep ahead of you after giving birth. Prepare for this. Use these tools as a way to build the foundations of support to overcome the subsequent years and challenge.
Know that your baby takes after you!
This means that the more stressed you are during the pregnancy, the more likely you are to have a high needs baby. Those who learned to relax in their pregnancy, generally have babies that are better at relaxing. A brief 20 minute relaxation, ideally a guided visualisation, is like 3 hours sleep to your body.
Schedule it in daily just after work, so you get your evenings back! You can get a free guided visualisation rom Roxy here.
Let your emotions out!
As women we often don’t want to feel the emotions that are difficult. We’re scared that it’s going to hurt the baby. But you can’t hide an emotion from your growing baby – either inside the womb or out. Therefore the quicker you get them out, the less exposure your baby has to the unpleasant ones. But also remember that it’s ok to feel emotion. If you’re sad, be sad. If you’re angry, be angry. But speak to baby about your emotions. Say, “Mummy is angry right now so I’m going to have a moment and let it out so that it’s not inside of me.” Once you’ve processed your feelings, you can move on instead of holding it in or deflecting.
Develop a positive inner narrative.
It’s vital that you inform your baby about the world they’re coming into, and that starts by creating a positive inner narrative. Guilt, blame and shame rob you of your power, so let them go! If you have a strong inner critic or self saboteur, look at ways to reprogram your subconscious mind, ahead of your baby’s birth.
A woman during pregnancy is just desperate to meet her baby – she wants to sleep on her back, to get her body back, and to hold her precious baby in her arms. But above all else, try to enjoy your pregnancy. Remember that there is always hope and joy at the bottom of the box, and you’re giving life to the soul who you will nurture to one day change the world.
Rosanna Kalliabetsos is a Doula, yoga teacher/trainer, and fertility/birth educator who specialises in all aspects of perinatal yoga practices. She teaches Birthlight yoga for fertility/ healthy conception and pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period, and works with couples to prepare them for pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Rozy also teaches yoga for babies, toddlers, children and teens and general dynamic/restorative hatha classes, and works with deep fear release & reprogramming the subconscious as an Emotional Mental Detox coach.
It’s important to note that the we’re all different, and the same goes for doulas. Some doulas are very practical and have less to do with the spiritual side of birth – so you might find a varied mix of beliefs, practices, and services along your pregnancy and birth journey. But know that all doulas are focused with “woman care,” which can be expressed as empowering the woman to trust her body and her baby. // Happy Nest team
You can find more info about Rosanna here:
For self study and online coaching programs, workshops, retreats, video blogs and more, visit RozyGlow.com. For her yoga & holistic living / conscious parenting community, visit InjoyYoga.com. For SAFE home practice Pre and Postnatal Birthlight DVDs and Free downloads, visit RozyandKate.com. For teacher training courses in yoga based practices for pregnancy, birth, and beyond, ‘find a Birthlight teacher’ in your area.