Happy International Women’s Day!
There is definitely something very special that happens when a group of women come together with a common cause or common interest.
I feel and experience this every time I teach my doula training courses; you can almost sense all the oxytocin in the air! The women visibly relax, they smile more, and their body language opens up. The conversation takes on a conspiratorial air as they share their highs and lows, their embarrassing moments and their hopes and dreams. In just four days, a group of women become a team, supporting each other, holding space for each other, and willing each other on. The myth that women can only thrive when competing with each other is nonsense; you only have to peek in on one of my training courses to see the reality for what it is. This is the way for women to recharge and restore from our busy lives, connecting with other women in a non-judgemental and nurturing circle.
I’ve had the privilege of training nearly 700 doulas during the 12 years that I have been a doula trainer. Some of the women who come on my courses are grandmothers with huge families; others are young women who are yet to have children. They all have different backgrounds, different families, and different insights into the world of birth and maternity services. But they are all drawn together by a deep rooted desire to support, help, and nurture their fellow women as they cross the threshold into motherhood. They learn during the course that it’s their very presence that makes the difference and not all the other things that they first believe they need to know and do. I often say that we should be called “be-las” rather than “do-las” as it’s so much more about being than doing.
What gives these women energy through the long days and nights of doula work, is the desire to help other women and families. It keeps them motivated when being self-employed with no fixed hours or income can feel, at times, overwhelming. It keeps them going when they feel they have nothing more to give and wondering if it is all worth it. Being present when a baby is born and a family is created is absolutely magical and being a very small part of this is enough to become hooked on doulaing.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #pressforprogress. Even though progress has already been made for women and girls, there is still so much more that we need to be fighting for. The list of injustices that women around the globe encounter every day - from the birthing suite to the boardroom - is long, and frankly, at times, it feels terrifying to me as a mother of two young women. It can be easy to feel hopeless and disheartened. But then I think about the women who I have had the privilege to work with as a doula and doula trainer, and I am reminded that women are strong and we can overcome any hurdles, if we’re well supported.
I’ve worked with women who are survivors of abuse, grieving mothers, mothers who are battling the system to get the care they need, women who are facing discrimination, and women who are fighting for change. Each of these experiences has shown me that women can come together in the face of terrible things and make something good, something better, something beautiful.
I know, from meeting the women who come on my courses and watching them become doulas, who would move heaven and earth for their clients, that we have what it takes to support each other. I know that we have the courage to stand up for each other. I know that we can effect powerful, long-lasting change. What I am seeing now more than ever, is women from all walks of life coming together and building each other up, strengthening each other as they grow.
May this continue as we move into a new era of bringing up strong women rather than ‘good girls’ and show the men in our lives what equality is all about.
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.