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Siobhán Ridley: Recognised Doula

Siobhan Ridley

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In early 2017 I embarked upon one of the most life changing weekends of my life. As I stepped into the doula circle, I had no idea how this experience would affect me. How could I fathom the ways in which my new doula mother Maddie McMahon would guide me gently, lovingly and protectively through the noise of my own ego, the shadows of my own experiences and eggshell layers of my own protective barriers. I cried, I laughed, I reflected, I connected deeply. And I learnt so much about pregnancy, birth, motherhood and so much about what it is to travel that path as a birthing person and as a companion.

Doula training is pretty unique and it certainly doesn’t end as soon as you’ve left the ‘learning days’ and completed the coursework. You continue to learn with every client, every interaction with mothers and every time you engage in discussion with other birth workers.

There are several routes to becoming a doula, but my personal choice was to follow a path leading me to Doula UK. This is organisation is a not-for-profit membership association of some 700+ doulas around the UK and they have a list of ‘approved’ doula trainers and a mentorship programme. Upon completing my course I set about finding a Doula UK mentor and began the mentorship process, which essentially provided me with an experienced doula who would walk with me through my first few births. She encouraged my reflective practice and personal and professional growth. She signposted me to knowledge and additional training, and was there to lift me up when I felt that the task was too heavy for me or the obstacles were too great.

I am proud to share that on April 1st 2019 I graduated from ‘Mentored doula’ to ‘Recognised doula’. But what exactly does that mean?

What is the difference between a mentored doula and a recognised doula?

Mentored Doulas

A mentored doula has completed their training course with an approved provider, been taken on by a mentor and is working through gaining sufficient experience to become recognised. A mentored birth doula needs to have supported, documented and debriefed a minimum of four births before they are able to become registered. However, they may well have more experience than this as they may have doula’d prior to embarking upon the mentorship process or they may be only submitting some of the births they support (this is what I did as I loved having my amazing mentor in my life and cheekily wanted to prolong that support!).

Recognised Doulas

A Recognised Doula has been evaluated by a Doula UK Doula Mentor as having sufficient experience to practise without on-going mentoring. They will continue to be supported by Doula UK and must adhere to the codes of conduct and agree to continuing professional development.

I am excited to have received my Recognition status and am hugely grateful to the families I have supported thus far but particularly to those who have taken the time and effort to submit valuable feedback to my doula mentor. I am also so grateful to my mentor and the doula community who continue to inspire me every day and from whom I have learnt so much.

This year I have also become the Doula UK representative for Norfolk - a voluntary post to promote doulas within Norfolk and provide support to my wonderful local doula sisters. I am super proud to become a more active member of Doula UK and to be part of the change I wish to see in the birthing world.

Click HERE to learn more about my doula services.

Click HERE for more information about Doula UK and hiring a doula.

Click HERE to discover Norfolk’s cuddle of doulas.

Emma and Jack: Why we chose a doula for our first birth

Siobhan Ridley

You can’t get too much support, care and love when it comes to birth.

GUEST POST from Emma and Jack
It’s day 4 of World Doula Week and to celebrate, first time parents Emma and Jack share why they chose to a doula and what that extra support brought to their birthing experience.

As Phoebe was our first child, we just assumed that a home birth couldn’t possibly be an option. After meeting our wonderful hypnobirthing instructor, Siobhán, she made us aware of our options and gave us the confidence to birth from home.

My environment is so important to me, so the idea that we would be able to birth at home using the hypnobirthing skills we had learnt was amazing. We formed a very close attachment to Siobhan through the hypnobirthing sessions and when we found out that she also offered doula services, we couldn’t believe our luck!

She was there every time we needed her but was never over-bearing

Having Siobhán at the birth was amazing. She was the perfect blend between an experienced birthing professional and a caring, calming friend. She was there every time we needed her but was never over-bearing. She was brilliant at ensuring our birth plan was followed, creating a calm space and letting us know important information from the midwives in a way that we felt was gentle.

At the start of our pregnancy, we never thought it would be possible to have such a wonderful home birth but we know that we couldn’t have done it without our amazing doula. Having Siobhán there to look after whatever we needed whilst Jack focussed on supporting me was absolutely invaluable. No job was too big or too small for her and it just felt like having a friend or family member there who you trusted implicitly but without the emotional distraction.

We wouldn’t hesitate to use a doula again and would strongly recommend anyone who is thinking about using one. You can’t get too much support, care and love when it comes to birth.

To find out more about my doula services click here: PREGNANCY DOULA, BIRTH DOULA

Visit my profile on Doula UK HERE

Check out NORFOLK DOULAS to meet the cuddle of local doulas

Chatting About Doulas on BBC Radio Norfolk

Siobhan Ridley


Last night (Friday 22nd March) , on the first day of World Doula Week, I was lucky enough to be invited onto the new evening show with Sophie Little for BBC Radio Norfolk. It’s the first time I’ve ever spoken so publicly or on the radio and to say I was nervous is a bit of an understatement. Imposter syndrome is a b*tch!
However, when I arrived, I was SO warmly welcomed by the producer and team that my nerves slowly melted away. The show presenter, Sophie, could not have been more lovely! I haven’t a clue how on earth she manages to chat into a mic, manage the music, interview people, keep to a time schedule and pay attention to what people are saying. It’s all a bit mind boggling. I am in awe of her mega multi-tasking skills!

The interview went smoothly, I think, although embarrassingly I got emotional talking about my first birth experience (totally blaming my pregnancy hormones for that one!). It was really important to me that I got across what doulas do as we’re such a misunderstood profession. I’m not too sure I managed that in the interview but hopefully I gave enough of a flavour that will pique interest. There’s so much I could have said and so much that I wished I had remember to say, but that would take a whole podcast series!!! (Maybe one day!).

It was such a privilege to be on the radio representing a profession about which I am fiercely passionate. I hope BBC Radio Norfolk liked me enough to invite me to return.

To listen to the interview, follow this link: BBC Radio Norfolk. If you’d like to forward to my piece, skip to 21:44.

Here is a transcript of the interview:

Sophie -

Everyone's experience of pregnancy and childbirth is obviously going to be different but the one thing we all need before, after and during is support and a bit of practical help at times as well. Actually lots of practical help at all times I think. And this applies to partners as well as mum of course. Partners, families and friends can play a big part in this but sometimes you might need a little extra support, a little bit of expertise as well and this is when you might turn to a doula for help. And if you don't know what a doula is, and what they do then my next guest is going to be able to tell you all about because she is one herself. So welcome Siobhán Ridley.


Siobhán -

Hello! Thank you for having me,

Sophie -
I feel I should mention it that you are quite heavily pregnant at the moment so we do appreciate you giving up your time on a Friday night to talk to us.

Siobhán -

It's nice to be out of the house and not doing bedtime.

Sophie -

Tell me, at the start, straight upfront, what is a doula?

Siobhán -

So a doula is essentially someone who mothers the mother. In a nice snap shot phrase. So a doula is more often a woman, (just because that's the way it is), there are some male doulas … but [a doula is] someone who provides emotional, physical, informational support throughout the perinatal period. So that's essentially bump to world and beyond.

Sophie -

And how long have doulas existed or been around because a lot of people won't ever have heard the word before, does it have a long history?

Siobhán -

It's a really ancient tradition actually that we've kind of lost in the west, sadly. But we're bringing it back, slowly but surely.

Sophie -

So a doula is someone you hire, they're not services provided by the NHS or anything like that at the minute, it's something that people are choosing to go and do. Tell me a little bit about your parenting experience, if you don't mind. This is your third child and have you ever had a doula before?

Siobhán -

I haven't!

My first baby I didn't know that a doula was a thing, I didn't know that they existed. And my second baby, I kind of knew they existed but I fell into a lot of the myths and misconceptions trap about what a doula is and what they do and I thought, ugh, it's not for me.

Sophie -

What are the misconceptions do you think?

Siobhán -

Firstly that they are just for wealthy people, which is not the case at all. Secondly that they only their to support a certain kind of birth, so, a home birth for example. And although I did plan a home birth for my second baby I sort of thought, if things changed, whether a doula would be appropriate for that. But of course, actually doulas,...we need them for all kinds of birthing journeys really.

Sophie -
So it doesn't matter how a baby arrives, it's all about the journey getting to that point.

Siobhán -

Yeah, the support. I mean, I've supported parents who've opted for an elective C-Section so, you just need the support no matter what birth you have.

Sophie -
For people who aren't parents or are potentially planning to be or expecting to be first time parents soon, what do you think are the points at which you need the most support or the most expertise when you give birth?

What a doula really brings to the table?

Siobhán -

It's a really tricky one to answer. Primarily because the longer I do this work the more I realise that every birthing person and their family is a completely unique setup and every situation is completely different so I might support a woman, for example, who has had a previous birth trauma with a completely different set of skills that I would bring to that situation. Or a first time mum, first time family, but then that also depends on the dynamics of they have. There are too many variables really. I would say that what is a really valuable part of the service that I provide, I think, obviously being there for the birth and supporting them through that and being their friendly face that they've chosen to be there. But it's also walking with them through the pregnancy as well. So I will spend minimum of 6 hours face to face time with my clients supporting them, signposting them to information, helping them to understand their physiology of birth, managing their expectations, helping them build their birth plan and their postnatal plan. But then I'll also be there for phone contact, email contact at the drop of a hat so if my client has a wobble one day or she doesn't feel comfortable or she's got a crazy idea that she wants to bring to her birth, or anything she wants to discuss, you know, pregnancy is a bit of a rollercoaster and sometimes things can bubble to the surface that you wouldn't anticipate would. She [my client] can just pick up the phone to talk her through it or be a listening ear. And I think that level of reassurance can't be overplayed really, it's so important. I'm having a doula with this pregnancy and I've already found that that part of the relationship has been really valuable to me.

Sophie -

Was it strange or difficult to choose a doula for yourself knowing what you do about the whole profession?

Siobhán -

Only in so much as there are so many doulas that I really know and love that it was really hard. You become sisters really, it's a really close bond, we're certainly not in competition in any way so, so yeah, that was difficult. But I kind of knew who would be my doula, right from the get go, really, if I'm honest. And lost of people say that actually that when the meet the person that they really connect with and they feel safe with then they know that that's their doula and that's a really important thing that you have that bond and that you feel so safe with that other person that you can share your deepest fears and hopes and wishes with them.

Sophie -

What about women that perhaps would benefit from having that person there but can't fathom the idea of having another person in the room that isn't family, do you ever find that with women or any kind of struggles like that?

It's such an intimate time.

Siobhán - It is yeah.

And like you mention that trust is so important, but how do you...and you've obviously done the face to face contact but is it difficult to built that trust with people that have perhaps had trauma or are nervous?

Siobhán -

It's definitely a skill. It's not a pre-requisite of the fact that you're their doula, you know, you do spend time building that and I think part of the fact that they way doulas manage themselves when they're not with clients, in terms of we really heavily debrief our own birthing experiences and offload any baggage we might have so we don't bring any of that to our client relationships, we don't come with judgements or anything like that, so the way that support is quite unique and holistic in that sense. And I think that often certainly, the feedback that I've had is that women feel that having a doula is like having your best friend, your sister, someone knowledgable about birth and your mum all rolled up in one sort of bundle that is then there. And actually sometimes for women who don't have another female in their life that they're really close to, so they might have lost their mum, or they've got a sister that they're really close to but their sister can't be there, actually having a doula fills a woman's need to have another woman with them when they feel vulnerable.

Sophie -

What do you get out of it yourself, why did you go into it in the first place?

Siobhán -

What do I get out of it? SO MUCH! I love my job, I don't really view it as a job. I went into it primarily because when I had my first birth, I had these two amazing midwives. One was a student for whom I was her case study so I got that lovely continuity of carer throughout which was really really important for me and then she was there at the birth, and then another really amazing woman. Both at the N&N/NNUH. And I experienced for the first time what it was like to be supported by women who just sat with me and trusted in me to do what I needed to do and I'd never had that before – it's making me feel a bit emotional just thinking about's the pregnancy – but it was so special and such a unique experience, it was something that I didn't realise that I needed in my life and I thought, there must be other women out there who need that as well. So it kind of inspired me to be that space holder for other women.

Sophie -

That's incredible and the fact that you get to go and do that with client after client and come back to that experience but from the other side of it must be so rewarding.

Siobhán -

Yeah, it's a really really special thing and every time I support a birth I learn something completely knew about myself, about women in general and how amazing we are, about the dynamics of families, about the human condition...I feel like I'm constantly learning from my clients, so selfishly

I think I kind of get more out of it than they do?

Sophie -

You see new life coming into the world as well which is something that I've always thought about midwives, a really difficult job and obviously very very challenging at times, but seeing a baby being born over and over it must just be beautiful.

Siobhán -

And you're not just seeing a baby being born, you're also seeing a family being born, or be reborn, you are at the absolute pinnacle of human transition. And it really is a sacred moment, special moment, important moment and it's really lovely to be able to be there and to be present and feel so emotionally connected to whom it's happening as well.

Sophie -

I want to ask one last question, I know you specialise in being a birth doula but you do get post birth supporters as well, and I know that you trained in that, so very quickly, what can they offer to families?

Siobhán -

So if anyone has had a baby before, they'll know what it's like to be in the wake of new motherhood. I think it's the time when women are at the most risk of mental health problems, when we're at our most vulnerable and actually when society generally kind of leaves us to it, really in a way that is not helpful at all. We need more support. So a postnatal doula will come and provide that support. She'll still provide that listening ear and the gentle safety and the reassurance and guidance. She might also provide breastfeeding support. She will have a fantastic network of local specialists and local professionals that she'll know so that she can signpost women on to get specific help for anything they might need. You know, even just holding the baby so that a mother can have a bath, it doesn't sound like a big thing but it is isn't it? Until you've had a child you don't know how valuable that is. So yeah, essentially anything the family needs, the postnatal doula will support them in that way.

Sophie -

Siobhán, thank you so much for talking to me tonight. Could you tell us a your website so that people can get into contact with you but also so that they can find out more about you and doulas.

Siobhán -

My business is called You Tiny Human,

And I'm also part of the Norfolk cuddle of doulas,, so you can find some lovely local doulas on there who are all fab.

And Doula UK is a great organisation and you can also find local doulas on there to provide you with wonderful support and love and nurture.