My mind is swirling after returning home from the recent One Doula: Thriving Together Retreat in Tulum, MX. It was a powerful retreat on many levels and I just woke with this burst of energy and felt that I was being called to put down in words some of what I took away from it.
On the surface a self-care retreat in Tulum sounds like spa treatments, sitting on the beach and relaxing (and there was that). There’s something else that comes to mind when I think of sitting on the beach thousands of miles from my life, work and family… checking out. Checking out is not what this was about. More like, Checking In!!
The retreat was about quieting the mind, listening to your body, connecting with others and checking in with self! It’s only when you go to that place, that you can really figure out what it is to give yourself, self-care. Sure, relaxing is probably part of what we’re all needing. Time in nature is also probably something we can all benefit from. What’s really powerful though, is what you can learn from yourself if you can check-in.
Woven into the weekend of self-care were workshops that offered tools for supporting ourselves as doulas. We practiced yoga daily with Sarah Oakley and had a workshop where we were given specific tools we could use in our own practice as well as with our clients. We delved deeper into the Slow Doula Method™, discussing the importance of being present, observing instead of judging, recognizing our triggers and finding ways to release them, so that we can be the calm, quiet yet powerful presence in the birth room. We were introduced to Nekole Shapiro and Holistic Peer Counseling (HPC), which offers a container for recognizing our emotional pain patterns (can you say triggers) and then some tools for giving that pain the loving attention it needs so that it can heal and be released. All pain, whether it’s physical or emotional distracts us from being fully present! We learned to embody holistic self-care with the aid of Essential Oils (EO), and spoiler alert, DTI introduced their EO Doula line!!! An amazing set of EOs specially formulated to
support doulas in their own self-care! We also learned new tools to use in the business side of our doula work. Many service providers like doulas may shy away from the oh so important part of our work, which is the actual business. If our business is not sustainable, we’re not going to be doulas for long! We learned the concept of a Mastermind Group, where we set intentions, get feedback and be held accountable all the while creating a network and strengthening our community. These tools that we gained were every bit as valuable as the self-care that was practiced!
I found all of the workshops to be informative, to embody self-care and to enrich my work as a doula. One subject that stood out for me was in regards to our role in advocacy. Going into doula work I had been focused on what my impact might be on a personal one-on-one level with my clients, both as an educator and as emotional support. I hadn’t really considered what impact I might have in a birthing location or to birth culture! I am aware that there are some outdated images of overbearing doulas setting out to push their agendas in hospitals. Our DTI training helped me to reframe the image of doula to one who supports their clients choices but doesn’t push an agenda of their own. Sometimes, we are being asked by our clients to advocate for their choices, that may not be in total alignment with the policies and goals of the hospital or birthing place. At a time when there is talk about regulating doulas, I think it’s important for us to think about this advocacy piece. What does advocacy look like? How can we fully support our clients if we are part of the hospital system? Utilizing SDM™, advocacy can look very different than the old stereotypes of aggressive doulas, while still being powerful and independent of hospitals. We’ve come out of a time where we had to fight to get into the hospitals. We had to fight for some really basic standards of care that are now widely available. This isn’t a time to lose that power we’ve exercised, but instead to transmute it into a centered loving presence that has the power to humanize women and birth! I was really blown away with thinking of advocacy in this way and I feel as though I’ve gained a more mature view of myself as an activist. As I’ve aged, as I’ve become a parent and as we are moving into this really critical moment in both our literal and social climates, I see myself as an activist of love!
So what did I discover about my personal needs on this retreat? My basic needs are time to myself, nourishment of the body, breath, creativity, and time with my family. A deeper need I was reminded of is a need for community! One of the opening thoughts at this retreat was, “I am because we are,” from the Southern African philosophy of Ubuntu. The power of connecting with women with aligned goals was palpable. The heart and vulnerability that we each brought to the retreat made it transformational. We were there to do the work necessary to practice self-care, so that we could return to our families, clients and communities and support them more fully.
Sitting in circle with these women reminded me of why I volunteered to be an Ambassador for DTI. I need this type of community to thrive! I want to create access to this amazing sisterhood on a regular basis in a real and physical way. The internet is a fantastic resource and connecting with all of my doula sisters on our forums is awesome. Having support and access to all of our collective wisdom has been so useful for me as I navigate new experiences as a doula. But connecting in person, sharing space, laughter, tears, and songs carries an energy that is like no other. Together we can inspire, heal, grow and feed one another!
Lenaya Kimball: San Francisco Ambassador
Lenaya has a love for and training in the culinary arts, herbal medicine making and jewelry design. She is the mother of one child. She is passionate about the power and importance of community and hopes to be a part of a strong sisterhood of doulas!