From the beginning I was always interested in people. How we relate, how we communicate and what it means when we can’t: how it feels to be different. Transgressing from childhood aspirations to become a nurse and ‘look after’ others, I sidestepped into youth work through my student years, volunteering with the Edinburgh University Settlement and at the Tabernacle Youth Club in Ladbroke Grove, before heading off to teach English in Latin America and Southern Europe. A combination of caring and sharing perhaps.
Ten years later, I returned to Scotland with a mission to train as a midwife. Childbirth was another passion and by my early 30s I was ready to engage with the art and science, and indeed politics, of this life-changing process and extraordinary profession. I learned from mothers and fathers what it meant to become parents and from the wise women of midwifery, I began to understand that ‘care’ was perhaps more useful to the recipient when offered in terms of ‘support’. Choice and autonomy for birthing mothers were the buzz words at that time. I also had the privilege of working alongside midwives at Marie Stopes International during a sabbatical on the awesome island of Madagascar.
Despite my love for the work, it was not long before the confines of medicalised childbirth practice felt too restricting, I wanted to support women and couples in a freer, more empowering way, for them as well as for myself. It was 2001, I had not long become a mother (and wife) myself and doulas were just arriving on the scene: I immersed myself into this emerging community of women offering lay support and companionship through childbirth. A keen member of Doula UK, I soon combined my teaching skills and midwifery experience to establish the Mindful Doulas preparation course. Facilitating and mentoring other women through their early doula journey was to become my main focus during the next decade.
Returning to refine the art of communication was inevitable though and leaving midwifery had been a huge wrench. I wanted to bring doulas and midwives together, to unite the best of both ways of working for the greater benefit of mothers, fathers and babies. Always an avid writer, I was lucky to have had articles received for publication by a number of midwifery and parenting journals, when in 2009, my first book ‘Birth Space, Safe Place’ was published by Findhorn Press. Not long afterwards, I felt compelled to tell the story of the UK (and European) doula movement and went on to write ‘Gentle Birth Companions’ in 2010/updated edition published by Wysewomen Publishing in 2014.
I had been using counselling skills throughout my career to date. It made sense therefore, when I reached the life stage where I wanted to work beyond childbirth, to train to become a qualified counsellor. An interest in supporting offenders and torture survivors had been sparked by a period of prison visiting at Lurigancho penal institutions while teaching English in Lima, Peru. A history of family members in the armed forces and an ongoing interest in trauma and PTSd, also drew me to working with combat stress. And of course the fire for childbirth issues still burns.
I feel most passionately about my current work as a counsellor, hugely privileged to bear witness to every story that is brought to the therapy room and keen to promote the benefits of the psychodynamic approach. Also running seminars on The First Relationship (mother/baby dyad, attachment, trauma), my long term aim is to establish a funded counselling service for PTSd and train in Equine Assisted Therapy.
Awards: Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship 2004 ‘Homeopathy in Maternity Care in Cuba’.
Affiliations: Human Development Scotland, British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), Scottish Doula Network, Association for Improvement of Maternity Services (AIMS), Society of Authors