BRINGING a new life into the world can be one of the most amazing experiences a woman can have, but it can also be a daunting and isolated one if the mum-to-be doesn’t have the right support around her.
Next month two local women will be trained up as the first Doulas - “women servants or care-givers” - in this area. They will volunteer their time to help new mothers, offering emotional and practical support before, during and after childbirth.
Both women have different experiences of the birth of their own children, but they are equally committed to the idea that women can benefit from the support of a Doula as they journey into the world of motherhood, whether it is for the first or fifth time.
They can visit the mother a number of times before birth, advise them on a birthing plan, and provide support during the birth - which can include ensuring no painkillers are administered at any point if that is what the mother has stated beforehand.
The Doula can also visit mother and baby after the birth, to check how they are coping and to offer support gained through their own experiences.
Hazel Mayger remembers the trauma of having to undergo gynaecological surgery after the birth of her first son and vowed to help others in similar situations should the opportunity arise later in life.
At aged 17 Hazel found herself pregnant and soon married. She gave birth to a baby boy ,Samuel, just after her eighteenth birthday. The teenager had moved from Kent to Northern Ireland a short time earlier and came to Banbridge when her son turned two.
Since then she has welcomed three more children - another son and two daughters - into the world. But it is Hazel’s memory of the pressure and difficulties surrounding her first birth that motivated her to become involved in Doula Vision in Northern Ireland.
Up until 2010 there were no Doulas here, but in the past two years 10 women have become part of the charity which is dedicated to providing a free service to low-income families and teenage mothers.
Loughbrickland mother-of-three Heather Morton said her nerves before and during the birth of her first two children, and the post-natal depression which followed led to the break-up of her marriage.
“I developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder after the post-natal depression and it really held me back for years,” said Heather.
“When I went to give birth to my first child I was terrified - to have had someone there looking after me would have been just brilliant.”
Heather, who was eventually able to work through all her problems and is still happily married to her husband, said she wants to be there to comfort the mother as the medical staff take care of the child.
She said, “I just think there needs to be someone there to comfort the mummy and tell her she’s doing well and that everything’s ok. I would have given anything to have had that. Now I’m very much looking forward to being able to provide that for someone else.”
June Donaldson, Chairwoman of Doula Vision NI, described her own experience as a Doula as one of the most enriching of her life.
“Aside from the birth of my own five children, I would have to say being a Doula is such a wonderful experience,” she said. “It is amazing to see a new life coming into the world.”
Recalling her experience of teen pregnancy and birth, Hazel said she would have loved to have had someone by her side to advise her and provide support.
“When you are young and find yourself in a situation like that it can be very difficult to voice your opinion and say how you want things to happen,” said Hazel, who has previously worked as an auxiliary nurse and care assistant.
“The whole experience was daunting, but I was very naive and sort of told myself everything would be ok.
“Looking back now I can say there were certain things I didn’t want. But it is not easy to say them at the time. If I could have had a Doula there supporting me and listening to my needs and wishes I imagine it would have been a completely different experience.
“There are so many more options now and with a Doula there to listen and ensure your needs and wishes are met as far as they can be, the pregnancy and birthing experience can be so much more pleasant.”
June said more Doulas are needed across Northern Ireland, and appealed to local mums with the time to spare to get involved.
“We would welcome more volunteers to come and get involved - and it’s not just Doulas we need. We would like people to come and help to run the office and fundraise.”
To this end the charity is hosting its first ever local fundraising gig night. All proceeds will go towards training the two local Doulas to provide pre and post-natal support for mothers in the area.
Six musicians have offered their time and skills for a charitable gig in the E2A Theatre in Banbridge Business Centre on Saturday January 28 from 7pm. Tickets are £8 and can be purchased via Paypal. Check out the Singer/Songwriter Gig for Doula Vision NI page on Facebook for more details.