In 2013 I took part in a REBOZO day with Stacia Smales Hill, which opened my eyes and heart to the wonder and versatility of this ancient tradition. It is woven into Mexican culture, moving with woman through her life and remains part of birth culture there.
Cultural context is of the highest importance. Giving oral honour to the line of women and teachers of rebozo, who have shared their wisdom, is of necessary significance. Here we acknowledge its roots, sharing the highest intention to use rebozo for the benefit of women.
My son, Connor, spent a year in Mexico in 2016, with a mission (from me!) to note its evidence and use, which is more visible when you move out of urban areas. It is used for protection from the sun, a shawl for warmth, a privacy cover, to carry loads, to belly wrap, for massage, during birth, to carry baby, cerrada ceremony … and also in death, as a shroud.
In San Cristobal he found a small co-op of traditional weavers within an indigenous community. This is a good way to support ethical production, where prices are set and not open to bartering.
I feel fortunate to have one of their beautiful rebozos, and also a faja woven by them too; this is used during postpartum as womb support and womb wellness. In Mexico these are usually red, which symbolises energetic protection for pregnancy and post-partum.
I use both of these personally and as part of my care with women during pregnancy, birth and post-partum.
Connor also spent time at Project Somos in Guatemala, where he shared cooking skills with the children and their Mothers as well as being involved with plans for future education buildings there, offering hi skills as an Architect.
Last year I learned so much about caring for an Indian woman post-partum, according to her cultural traditions.
Her Mother arrived from India to direct and oversee care, she brought herbs native to their region for cooking and therapeutic use. Although she was present to begin with, over time, she passed over care ..throughout this I was guided by them both, with deep respect for their cultural ways and joy at the learning I was receiving.
It evolved so her Mother did all the cooking and I tended her with daily massage involving lots of turmeric, this yellowed the skin but was positively welcomed and seen as a good thing.
There was important focus on keeping her warm always, particularly the feet. There was herbal bathing, followed by belly wrapping. This was done using long cotton sarong, bound very tightly and kept on for many hours. Then restorative rest with baby being brought to her for breastfeeding.
This continued for six weeks, here I witnessed a new Mother emerge slowly, purposefully and so very gently. I think of her Mother's love and how, within her home community, she would also have been surrounded by her female folk, tending her daily.
I too received such gifts .. the experience, the giving, the sharing of turmeric powder from their village and her Mother wrapped me too. Felt blissful 🧡
This was published by Doula UK after I launched this call to arms in April 2018
After several years of personally trying hard to use the term ‘caesarean birth’ within the birth worker world and beyond, I began to increasingly feel it wasn’t enough, and felt the pull to do more. The reality seemed that even with use, repetition, explanation and reinforcement, the power of learned language held strong.
To give context, my passion to be part of the change has roots in my own birth experiences and acceptance, at the time, of the language used to define it. It manifests, too, in my connections and relationships with women who birth, and how medicalised and impersonal terminology can devalue their birth experience, leaving them disempowered and disillusioned as they step onto the path of new parenthood.
I understand, in most cases, it is not used with any bad or negative intention, but it is clear if we don’t harness inclusive language for all, it remains divisive for some. How different would a woman feel if her caesarean birth was referred to as such? Firmly placing the word birth right there with it rather than using the term ‘caesarean section’, which implies a procedure, intervention, surgery, being ‘done to’.
It puts me in mind of the words shared by Susan Highsmith in her 2016 article for ‘Midwifery Today’, “We can perpetuate society’s paradigms by using its language, or we can choose our words to create the change we want to see”.
And so, in this spirit I shared my plans with Maddie McMahon, who was my mentor when I began my Doula journey in 2012 and who has continued to be incredibly giving of her time and thoughts beyond this. She commented that it linked up well with the recent RCOG guide to phrases that need to be changed when talking to women and to a growing awareness of birth trauma and how language can be triggering. She further added “If it's asking people to be mindful of their language, then your campaign is zeitgeist”.
It was beginning to feel more timely, particularly in light of the momentum that had been created with the published article in February by Professor Andrew Weeks, Catherine Williams and Natalie Mobbs, titled: ‘Humanising birth: Does the language we use matter?’. It provided a fantastic insight into the power language holds, with its ability to positively transform or have the inverse effect, while exploring its use within maternity settings. There is reference within it to the brilliant work Maternity Experience (#MatExp) continue to do around this. You can read the full article here:
What started out as raising awareness with a direct focus on women evolved when Professor Andrew Weeks asked for an additional meme to share, one that considers all people within the birthing journey. I was grateful for this suggestion as it made it fully inclusive.
Alongside my sharing of #caesareanbirth #birthisbirth on social media, I posted a related meme which asked the question, ‘How important is language to you in the context of birth?’ Here are some replies from the MatExp facebook group:
“Incredibly important to me. There are certain things which were said to me during each of my previous pregnancies which have continued to affect me in the years following and create a huge amount of anxiety in my current pregnancy”
~ Amy Taylor
“Vitally important - it has the power to transform perceptions, both negatively and positively”
~ Johanna Rhys Davies, Birthrights
“It’s very important. Words are so powerful”
~ Emma Jane Sasaru, #MatExp
“I’m an NCT Antenatal teacher, we use caesarean birth, the first time I heard it (when I was training) it was so clear to me that it was right”
~ Ella Hoskin, NCT 
“They carry enormous power to influence how a person feels and how they act”
~ Denise Rose, Doula
I realise that my reach will have targeted natural allies, who are already language aware. My hope is that the seeds are sown further, though I’m content with the reality that even if one person considers their language moving forwards, it has been every bit worth it.
Thanks to Maria Booker, Programmes Director of Birthrights, who I first discussed my intentions with. Also to Milli Hill, who inspired the double #
Finding the right match when looking for a Doula is so important. It's very usual and expected to meet several, giving yourself the chance to see how the connection feels, both ways. Just as we are all uniquely different, Doula's too come with their own personal gifts, skills and character traits. There is a Doula for everyone, so shop around!
Here in Wales we have established the Welsh Doula Network, which is simply a list of Doula's that all know each other and offer their services, all being mutually supportive and keeping in regular contact with the occasional meet ups. We've all undergone training with an approved Doula UK course, offering each other continued support and working closely together by offering back-up support, sharing skills and knowledge.
We are listed here:
As a rule of thumb, I will travel anywhere within an hour or so of my home in Llantwit Major, though would consider further if the need arose. This geographical area covers a lot of South Wales, all the major cities and towns: Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot, Bridgend, Cowbridge, Llantristant, Llantwit Major, Barry, Penarth, Cardiff, Pontypridd, Caerphilly, Newport, Cwmbran and the smaller places that reside in between.
Health boards I cover include
~ Aneurin Bevan University Health Board
~ Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
~ Cwm Taff University Health Board
~ Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board
CF3, CF5, CF10. CF11, CF14, CF15, CF19, CF23, CF24, CF30, CF31, CF32, CF33, CF34, CF35, CF36, CF37, CF38, CF46, CF47, CF48, CF61, CF62, CF63, CF64, CF71, CF72, CF81, CF82, CF83, CF91, CF92, CF95, CF99, NP4, NP7. NP8, NP10. NP11, NP18, NP19, NP20
Me, Karin and Sam