Eleonora, the Hugging Doula

For those of you who, like me a couple of months ago, have no idea what a doula is, here is the short definition I have come up with so far: a doula educates a mum-to-be (and sometimes her partner) prior to labour, and assists her before and during labour with all the non-medical aspects of the experience. A doula will traditionally be with you in the delivery room, and may also help you through your post-partum challenges.
Two weeks ago I was training a new client on the reformer demonstrating some cool chest opening exercises when Eleonora kindly asked if she could interrupt me to ‘do something’. All I knew was that she was a client of Pilates Academy, and a doula.
 
Before I knew it, her arms were wrapped around me. I was almost shocked, but her hug was such a heartfelt one that I decided to go to her place in Knowledge Village and get to know her. 
Eleonora is Italian, has three girls (11, 9, and 7 years old), grew up in Italy, the US, Brazil, and Portugal, and has been in Dubai for 6 years. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and how you became a doula?

capture-decran-2016-09-30-a-11-00-31It was a process, really. I grew up fascinated by the magic path that could take a woman from being just a woman to being a mother. I became a mum for the first time at the age of 25. The scenario was: I had moved to Milan 5 years before, had graduated in Public Relations 3 years before, had asked my fiance on a beach one evening: why don’t we have a baby? and had gotten pregnant the next day.
Going through my first pregnancy I was ignorant. I followed the doctors’ advice, and experienced everything in a medical way. When the baby came, I felt alone. I did not want anything to change, so I would go to the aperitivo (happy hours in Milan) with my 5-day-old baby. But truly, I felt alone.
During my second maternity leave I decided to settle the Mom’s Club in Milan, a non-governmental organization I created with my husband. I rented out a space, called yoga teachers, psychologists, and other knowledgeable people who had a different approach to pregnancy. I organized encounters and activities so the mums-to-be could feel supported. That’s when I found out what a doula was. And I realized I was already being a doula. I was the person they came to when they had questions, I was the one who listened.
Later came the trainings of course, in Mexico with one of the most famous midwives, in Bali with DONA International. But this was how it started.

According to you, what is the best way of giving birth?

capture-decran-2016-09-30-a-12-12-00I believe it is when the woman feels empowered. This changes from mum to mum. I think water birth is a beautiful process but some mums are afraid of water, and some get too early on in the pool…
Being empowered does not just mean being conscious through the delivery, it also means choosing the position that feels comfortable and natural for your body. Did you know that the reason why women now deliver in the position they do is because a French King back in the days enjoyed watching his lovers giving birth? Another main reason is that it is more practical for doctors, not for the mum!
In any case, I think shifting the emphasis towards gentle birth should be a priority, for the mum and for the baby. For the baby it means reduced lights and noise. For the mum, avoiding the « rush », letting things happen in time (i.e..no induction).

When would you say it is best for a mum-to-be to get in touch with a doula?

I would say the earlier the better. To feel empowered, you need knowledge and serenity. And this requires time.

I organize antenatal sessions with couples that revolve around 8 main topics (i.e.: placenta, labour, prenatal exercises…). This can be a good way of feeling more knowledgeable and alleviating fear. A mum also needs time to get to know her doula, confide in her, through private meetings.

This is a unique and intimate moment. You want to be sure you trust your doula and yourself.

On top of birth itself, what are the most magical moments in a woman’s/doula’s journey?

capture-decran-2016-09-30-a-11-58-38I can’t say for them. But for me, there are two particularly magical times in the journey that brings us together.

I love doing private blessings. I consider them the opposite of a baby shower. Private blessings are done in the presence of close friends/relatives around week 36. They revolve around the pregnant lady, each friend expressing something beautiful about her, each friend bringing a gift for the mum, not for the baby. So she feels loved, and again empowered.

I also love the rebozo. I have learned how to practice it in Mexico. The woman is wrapped up in it. It recreates the feeling of being in your mum’s arms, and in her womb. A transition from womanhood into motherhood. You’ll have to try it!
I will try it for sure, closer to the due date, and will keep you posted 🙂 
You can contact Eleonora at eleonora@thehuggingdoula.com

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