My personal experience...
From the moment I was born until the day I left for university I was brought up with a large external family. Although I only have one brother, it felt as if I had 10 additional siblings because I was constantly in the company of my aunties, uncles and cousins. I absolutely loved the family and community feeling that I grew up with. One of the things that I mostly remembered was when somebody in the family was pregnant or had just had a baby; they were constantly surrounded and supported by family during pregnancy until 2/3 months after the baby arrived.
At 18, I moved to Nottingham for university and as life sometimes does, it dictated that I was meant to stay. In my first year of university, I got married and my husband and I started our beautiful life journey together, with no family around us. At 23 I fell pregnant with my first child and it was then that I started understood the importance of the support and comfort I would have received from my family if I was still living close to them, but I was so overjoyed with starting a family that I embraced it. I had been looking forward to motherhood for 4 years as it took fertility treatment to help my eldest son come in to this world that became so focused on looking after him.
Two unexpected beautiful surprises...
Two and a half years later, my second son was born. With our previous fertility issues, it came as a beautiful surprise and we were both overjoyed and overwhelmed. Again, my Mum was able to stay for a few days after the birth but from then on it was just the 4 of us. With the appreciation of having 2 sons that once upon a time I never thought I’d have, I was so grateful that all of my focus and effort went to bringing them up – I had completely forgotten about me.
18 months later and I was unexpectedly pregnant again with my 3rd son, but this pregnancy came with its challenges. Suffering from gestational diabetes and severe SPD which left me in crutches at 4 months, a wheelchair at 6 months and bedridden at 8 months; my husband and I were facing the most challenging months of our lives. With no family around to support us throughout this pregnancy, birth and for the first year, we really struggled. It was this time that truly appreciated the importance of the support that we would have received from our families and I missed it. This also made me realise that we’re not alone in this situation and there are many couples and single mothers who face similar difficulties through what is supposed to be the happiest times of their lives.
It takes a village...
In the last 20 years, women have felt that we should be able to do this on our own and any signs of struggle is a sign of weakness. This made me think about how women used to cope in the previous generations – SUPPORT! The saying was ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and the natural support that mothers received is the main difference to today’s modern world. In previous generations and still in many cultures around the world, pregnant women were and are surrounded by other women in their family and community. They are required to rest and both mother and child would be cared for by the women around them for the first 40 days after birth. I didn’t realise the importance of these customs until I had my own children as we are expected in our society to do it on our own.
With such an overwhelming experience of pregnancy and birth and the effects it has on the mind and body, it is crucial that mums look after their physical, mental and emotional well-being throughout pregnancy and after the baby has arrived.
With all the wonderful things the modern society has given us, unfortunately we’ve now lost those beautiful traditions. Doulas bring back this much needed support system for the modern woman.