Over 30 years ago, my introduction into the world of birthing and babies was becoming pregnant whilst I was undertaking Yoga Teacher Training in Sydney. As soon as my teachers discovered I was having a baby they invited me to start working with the pregnant women in the classes.
To say this was a turning point in my life is an understatement! Coming from an advertising and marketing background, I knew very little about natural birth… well the truth was my mother birthed me at home in England in the late 1950’s – so maybe I did know a little!
I was passionate to learn about natural birth and became inspired by midwives Ina May Gaskin (Spiritual Midwifery) and Jeanine Parvarti Baker (Pre-natal Yoga & Natural Childbirth), along with Janet Balaskas (Active Birth).
It was a joy to share my newfound knowledge with the pregnant women in my yoga classes, who reported great results using the postures, breathing and relaxation (yoga nidra) for their births. I went on to train as a Childbirth Educator/Birth Support person*, which was a wonderful time of learning, self-discovery and growth. *The word ‘doula’ did not become popular until the mid-nineties.
Yoga Teacher as Doula within a Prenatal Class
I realised in my role as a yoga teacher I was, in fact, already a ‘doula’ for the pregnant women who put their trust and faith in my guidance. They had become accustomed to the sound of my voice guiding them through the yoga practice, when I attended the births of their babies they trusted me to intuitively guide them through labour.
Sometimes it was not even necessary for me to be present at the birth, one new mother shared –
“I was SO relaxed during my labour – I could just hear your voice in my mind saying ‘Relax your fingers, relax your hand, relax your arm… relax your whole body and your baby” – she had given herself a yoga nidra practice during labour!
On a practical level, my work as a doula went hand-in-hand with my popular Prenatal Yoga classes. I ensured I had a reliable relief teacher, who I could call at short notice, in the event of being at a birth, in reality I only ever missed a couple of classes. As a doula you can choose exactly how many births you wish to attend, most doulas say their clients ‘find them’ once they hear about the services they offer.
Birth as a Rite of Passage
Getting to know the women’s partners, supporting them as a couple to look forward to the birth with confidence was another role I enjoyed immensely. It became clear to me that giving birth is a sacred ‘rite of passage’ – an initiation into a whole new way of being in life as a parent, creating a family.
It has been an honour and a privilege to share this time of new beginnings with the many families I have supported over the years. I now enjoy training and mentoring doulas or ‘birth-keepers’ in this essential role – participating in bringing new life into the world in the most conscious and loving way possible.
Anna Watts is the founder of Celebration of Birth Doula Academy, a Doula Trainer, Childbirth Educator and Counsellor. She is the co-creator and lead trainer on our Online Birth Doula Training, and runs in person Doula Trainings and Sacred Beginnings Postnatal Doula Trainings in Byron Bay, Australia.