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Hello! If you're reading this you're probably pregnant....so, CONGRATULATIONS!

I hope you’re feeling well and excited... and you might also be feeling a bit nervous and under-prepared.

If you're here, you’re probably thinking about the types of preparation and support you want during your pregnancy and birth. It’s possible you’re not quite sure what you want and need yet, so here’s some info about me, what I do and how I can support you.

 

If you read this and want to chat, you can email me at charlie@thegoodbirthpractice.co.uk

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Charlotte Tonkin Edun doula
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I trained with Dany Griffith and Tamara Cianfini as a Wise Hippo hypnobirthing practitioner in 2013. In 2018 I became a doula with Kicki Hansard. In that 11 yrs I’ve supported over 70 families during their pregnancies and had the privilege of being invited to over 40 births (often being invited back for second and subsequent births, which truly is a very special invitation).

 

Some people come to birth work after troublesome or traumatic experiences. I come from the opposite direction, I was incredibly fortunate to have three wonderful (but very different) home births, supported by the same two wonderful midwives (eternal gratitude to the Mrs Ws). That means I know exactly how good birth can be (even though it’s always hard work), and how important it is to women as mothers and as whole humans.

 

What started me on this path in practise was being invited to speak at a hypnobirthing conference when my first son was about 6 months old. He was sick on my shoes, and someone suggested I train to teach hypnobirthing. This seemed wild to me. Until my maternity leave I’d worked as a Group Account Director in marketing agencies, disparagingly known by the creative and strategic types as ‘A Suit’. I was all about being on time, on budget and on brief. Efficiency, order and control. I loved (and honestly still love) a spreadsheet. Even though I’d relied it so much to get me through my own 'Good Birth', Hypnobirthing still just seemed very ‘woo’. Even so, given my pregnancy about turn from ‘abject terror’ to ‘happy home birth’, I felt teaching hypnobirthing to other trepidatious parents-to-be was a Good Thing to do. ‘Just’ learning hypnobirthing seemed too superficial though, so in 2011/12 I trained as a hypnotherapist, in 2013 I qualified with the Wise Hippo and began teaching private one-to-one sessions and in groups. In Spring 2018 I began to facilitate The Positive Birth Movement in Sevenoaks and in 2019 I moved to The Calm Birth School

Charlotte Tonkin Edun Birth Doula

But something wasn’t right. Hypnobirthing ‘worked’ for some and not for others, and I couldn’t see what the correlating factors were. I heard more and more women tell me that despite all they’d learned with me about the hormones and processes of birth, decision-making and emotional control, in the last weeks, days and hours of pregnancy they had lost confidence, felt coerced and accepted interventions that they hadn’t fully understood and hadn’t wanted. At the same time, I knew from midwife friends that the picture was complicated. They too were unhappy with the state of maternity services, increasing interventions and dwindling number of physiological births... and happy, confident, comfortable new Mums & partners. I wanted to know more, to see and understand what was happening in the birth room so I could prepare my clients more comprehensively.

 

In 2018 I trained with Kicki Hansard, and later that year attended my first birth. That birth will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I continue to carry feelings of responsibility for the trauma that unfolded. It taught me a lot, though (as did the Mum I supported, who is grace and perseverence personified). I began to see how factors disconnected with labouring women influenced the mood, dynamics and outcomes in the birth room and how this frames midwifery practice and a woman’s experience of her birth. I also began to understand why it’s so hard for women and their partners to make sense and meaning of this, and how myths and misunderstandings about birth begin and are fuelled.

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At the births that followed, and through working with my utterly excellent colleagues Ruth and Laura, I have learnt a lot

 

  • I learnt that there is a very significant difference between rational and emotional decision-making, and that it is very, very hard to be completely rational and pragmatic right at the very end of your pregnancy

  • I learnt antenatal education cannot happen adequately in four sessions and that you cannot make decisions until you are in the moment

  • I learnt how important it is not to allow your birth planning to paint yourself into a corner – flexibility and openness is where it’s really at

  • I learnt that how the baby comes out of your body is not as important as how well supported you feel and how deeply you trust the people around you

  • I learnt quite how many and varied are the factors that influence how birth happens, and that most of these things are not just out of your control, but often even beyond your awareness.

 

Watching what happened to pregnant women during Covid really clarified how limited and conditional pregnant women's choice really is. In those early days of the pandemic - when women’s maternity rights were scaled back to basics and then forgotten about, while the rest of the country returned to pubs and football games - there really was no option but to reflect long and hard on what the local and national strategies of maternity choice and personalisation really meant, and how deep they really ran in maternity service development and delivery. There’s so, so much on this I won’t attempt to cover it here (check our Blogs for more). With a nudge from Laura and Ruth I committed to write an MA and in October 2020 took a deep breath, put on my Big Girl Pants, and got cracking at the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of York.

 

The thesis I submitted in the Autumn of 2021 covered feminist theory of the body, materiality of the body, the impact of neo-liberal logic of choice, hierarchies in medicine and the value differential between the ‘academised’ knowledge of medics and the ‘tacit, embodied knowledge of pregnant women’. All that reading, analysis and synthesis prompted a lot more writing, and further research, this time at Coventry University. I don’t feel that I’m finished yet, and I’m a co-investigator on an NIHR funding application looking at the implications of language change on health literacy and engagement in reproductive health care.

 

In November 2022 I began work as the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) Maternity and Neonatal Voices Partnership (MNVP) Lead (and the first thing I learnt here is that the NHS LOVES a meaty acronym!). My role here is to get out and about to collect the experiences of women and families in maternity care and share this with the Trust, so that we can improve aspects of the service that need improving and protect those areas that work well and are important to mothers and their families. The themes we hear in this work are rarely new, and often support what we already know; mothers value continuity of care from a known and trusted supporter; mothers value the things that optimise the chances of a physiological birth but they aren’t resistant to intervention when they trust it is necessary; breastfeeding support is vital; knowledge is power.

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The support I can offer you

No-one can promise you which path your birth will follow, or how you will feel about it afterwards. However, I can promise you this: having someone you can rely on, that you trust and who trusts you, who is available to listen to you, and encourage you to consider a breadth of options, and who can support you in a truly personal and connected way really increases your chances of being well-prepared for the birth that is right for you on the day. 

I am here to offer you all the support you need as you do the discovery work during your pregnancy in preparation for your birth. I genuinely have no preference for how and where you have your baby – other than that you are able to make the decision well informed and confidently.

 

The lion’s share of the work we’ll do together is antenatal. I’ll make sure you’ve got credible, up-to-date information and resources, and encourage you to consider your preconceptions, expectations, aspirations and anxieties so your plans are realistic and uniquely appropriate to you.

 

If you invite me to your birth I will be present to reassure and support. This looks different for every woman, and sometimes I’m up close and applying pressure to your sacrum and cool flannels to your neck and forehead. Other times I’m sitting quietly in the corner while you disappear into your birth to collect your baby. I can’t speak on your behalf, but I’ll be there to make sure you’re given all the information and time you need, if you need to make decisions.

 

I hate to talk about ‘packages’ because realistically the support I offer to you will be unique to you, but loosely these are the ways I can support you;

 

  • Birth planning sessions

  • Hypnobirthing

  • Pocket doula support

  • Birth doula suport

  • Postnatal support

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Last thing. My Why. 

I was bought up by a smart, determined, resourceful, resilient, gentle, loving mother. I was surrounded by women who worked hard and loved harder. I saw how their lives had been shaped and often compromised by the fact of their motherhood (and non-motherhood, but femaleness). By my teens, though, despite all this, the thought of motherhood repulsed me. I was terrified by the prospect of the agonies of birth. The notion of what my body might do in birth (without the consent or control of my mind) gave me the heebie-jeebies. By the time I was trotting about London in high heels and drinking cocktails on my clients account I had formulated the idea that mothers were soppy and vacuous and frankly I wanted not a bar of it. And then I got pregnant and I had to face up to it (after all, the body keeps the score).

 

I discovered is that women have been sold a bit of lie. Motherhood has been re-branded and de-valued. Women’s bodies have been maligned and misunderstood. Older women (and their stories) are silenced, patronised and monstered. All of which clears the path for young women to be love-bombed by a patriarchal culture that whispers sweet nothings in our adolescent ears, gas-lights us when we peer behind the veil to glimpse the dirty reality, and then drops us like so many hot potatoes when we fall in love, fall pregnant and then, inevitably, fall short and fall behind our male counterparts.

 

I do this work because it is not available to you via the NHS (even though 84% of women will become mothers by the time they're 45, and 100% of us are born, and therefore it is by no means a niche issue)

I do it because it is not taught in schools, and there is no adequate framework for young women to begin thinking about what pregnancy, birth and motherhood means before we’re already up the duff and on the path.

I do it because mothers are just left alone to sort themselves out. To learn about how birth works, what babies do, what’s ‘normal’ and what’s cause for concern. The phrase ‘…it takes a village to raise a child…’ isn’t just a cute little phrase. It reflects that humans are inherently social animals. We learn from observing each other, and interacting – all of which has been taken away from mothers, who are now secreted away and separated.

 

I could write much, much more on how this has happened, how it isn’t an active conspiracy but an unintended consequence of believing that men – and men’s business – matters more. I hope that my time with you will give you renewed faith in your body, and connect you with your baby and your family and your future.

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Doula UK
Birth Bliss Academy doula training with Kicki Hansard
The Calm Birth School
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