Support the mothers! Don’t leave them alone. Love them and help them to feel the love… My doula philosophy is about how ancient wisdom and the latest research are combined together to give a much deeper level of support. This hasn’t been the easiest combination to accept, but I’m an willing to keep learning. Every day.
My first doula baby was born in April 2014 and I’ve been on this extraordinary path of love ever since. To be honest, I was first a bit shocked, when Rosalia asked me to co-train with her. The question I held was not that I couldn’t do it but more about the eternal quest for learning about and for oneself. Since this was a chance of a lifetime, I agreed after having thought about it for maybe just a couple of seconds..
In the last five years I’ve been a birth doula, postpartum doula, doula mentor, birth activist, lecturer, lactation consultant, conference coordinator and sauna healer. From the beginning I’ve felt, that my doula path isn’t quite the usual one, but who’s would be?
I started my doula path and education in 2013 with the local Finnish training Doulakka. Then after being a doula for 3 years I decided to attend the first DONA International’s birth doula course in Helsinki and oh, it felt so good to go back to basics! Everybody should do it now and then – to crystallise for yourself why you are doing something and what your role in it is. These past five years of working as a doula I’ve done tens of different courses, seminars, conferences, workshops, meetings and master classes to update my knowledge and education – in Finland and abroad. Each one helps me to concentrate deeper on that which I want to offer new mothers unfolding.
And of course the births. Attending dozens of births and all the time spent with the families has been my schooling. Don’t get me wrong – basic education is very important. That’s the foundation you build your whole doula existence on, but still – meeting the families, supporting them, loving them, loving yourself and your colleagues is the only way of learning to do this work. That’s why I love the concept we are creating of educating new and old doulas. There is something for everyone. Learning to know yourself on a deeper level and feeling the support of the sisterhood.
Supporting breast feeding has been extremely important to me since I took the WHO/Unicef lactation consultant course in 2015. Preparation for breastfeeding is always included in my doula packages. A hugely important area is my interest in supporting adoptive and other social mothers to nurse their babies. This passion is near and dear to me due to being an adopted child myself. In general I see there is so much to do in today’s world regarding lactation. Mothers are not receiving the support they need even though they are expected to nurse their babies. This is something doulas can truly affect in a positive manner and it’s so great, that we’re going to dedicate a whole day for lactation during our birth doula course.
Postpartum support is definitely the apple of my eye, working as a doula. When they say, that birth can break or make you, I think the same is true during your post partum period. We need to rediscover and practice some of our old traditions when serving newborn mothers and babies. Mothers should be given a chance to be nursing queens, who are privileged, after the effort of birthing, to rest and recuperate and enjoy nutritious food and drinks – served by supporting wise women. Women from the same community – that’s us doulas, and the mother’s own network, that we can help to build. Empowering mothers during the postpartum saves lives.
Before I started my doula journey, I worked as Russian translator and producer of cultural events. I have a MA degree from the University of Helsinki. You would probably think, that these two professions could not be easily combined with birth work, but it’s possible. My fluent Russian has given me a chance to meet great birth workers and learn some unique and traditional ways to take care of mothers and babies. This has been especially helpful as a large part of my clientele are Russian speaking.
I organised a trip for Finnish midwives, doulas and other birth workers to the joint conference of Midwifery Today and Russian Domashny Rebenok journal in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2015. A group of nearly 20 Finnish birth workers made such a big impact on Jan Tritten and the other organisers of one of the most well known conference in the birth world, that they decided to bring the Midwifery Today conference to Helsinki in 2017. I helped with organising the event, which actually took place on my home island of Suomenlinna.
The exciting conference in St. Petersburg didn’t just lead me to organise an international conference in Helsinki but it led me to Julia Shelepina, my Russian-Mordovan sister and teacher, povitukha (Russian traditional midwife), healer, anthropologist and psychologist. Meeting with her I was immersed in the great rituals and closing ceremonies made in the sauna. The sauna is a sacred place in many cultures and so with Julia’s help, I have learnt to do these special rituals, which sadly have already disappeared from my own Finnish culture. After spending hours in archives with my Finnish sauna doula colleague Kirsti and with great help from our teacher, we have managed to recreate the traditional Finnish closing ceremony. We were accepted, with great honour, as members to the Russian Povitukha Association. Sauna is an ancient place of rebirth and so it will have a very important role during our retreats.
After I started to do healing work and rituals in sauna, the whole spectrum of life has became more clear to me. Life isn’t just about wonderful new babies being born. Life isn’t all about shiny happiness and love. It is also about loss, grief, death, divorce, disappointments and missed dreams that didn’t come true, no matter how much you tried to manifest or make dream maps. Our life is all about transitions. I am so blessed to walk this path at this time as I find more clarity in myself as I help others find clarity in theirs.
What made you become a doula?
Birth matters. Postpartum matters. How you are treated matters. My first child was born on a sunny Sunday summer evening in 2010. My midwife had a double shift, so she was there for me for the whole time I was in hospital. I was having a particularly painful contraction, when she opened the door of the birth unit for us. She looked at me, smiled and said: “Hey, you look like you are in labour!” and we both started to laugh. I could trust her 100 percent, even though this was the first time I’d ever seen her. I had a really positive birthing experience, but some things about the birth just wouldn’t let me be. One day we went back to thank her and she looked at me and said: “We need to talk”. So a couple of weeks later she was standing on my door with a bunch of tulips in her hand. We talked through the birth, we cried and we laughed together. I felt completely heard. My birth story was heard. It probably doesn’t need mentioning, but she was also my midwife and doula with my second child, who was born in 2012. Birth matters. Fellow travellers matter. And I wanted to become one.
A little more about my background
In 2013 I attended a 32 hour basic doula training with Doulakka and then another training through the Finnish/Swedish Health organisation Folkhälsan in 2014 after which I offered my services through them as a volunteer doula for a year. Midwifery Today came to St. Petersburg in 2015 so of course this was a huge opportunity for me to spend time with my Russian sisters and engage in my favourite topics. In this year I also met Penny Simkin in Helsinki when she came to do her 2 day seminar. I was quite busy in 2015 and completed several other workshops amongst which Acupressure & Hilkka-Liisa Vuori’s BirthSound childbirth singing, Homeopathy in childbirth with Reeta Pohjonen and Mammae – Lactation consultant (WHO/Unicef) in Turku.
In 2016 I attended Cornelia Enning’s Water Birth Seminar in Espoo, and the following year I attended the DONA Birth Doula course in Helsinki with Marjaana Siivola, I was also the chairperson for the Finnish Doula association Suomen Doulat and I was helping to coordinate the 2017 Midwifery Today conference in Suomenlinna, where I also did the rebozo course with Mirjam de Keijzer and Thea van Tuyl.
I travelled to Germany to attend the Midwifery Today conference in Bad Wildbad as a monitor in 2018 and followed that with returning to the
Ruki i serdtsa (Hands and Hearts) conference in Yaroslavl, Russia where I have been a lecturer about Finnish sauna traditions and a participant between the years of 2015 and 2018. I also completed another Mammae – Complementary education course followed by a lactation workshop with my long time idolCatherine Watson-Genna Seminar in Vantaa.
This year I am ready to share my knowledge as well as grow from the wisdom that I will surely receive as I venture into the new territory of creating new doulas to unfold. I look forward to travelling on this path with you…
My love to you all