The decision

The decision

On Friday 5th  May 2017  I formally retired from Acas (most widely known for its workplace dispute resolution) where I was a senior manager. Over the previous 1-2 years it had become clear to me that I did not want to finish my working life as a civil servant. I had lost my enthusiasm for managing others. I was finding it hard to lead some of the changes facing the public sector. I wanted to do something valuable myself rather than tell others what to do. And I had seen too many colleagues in their late 50s and 60s hanging on to jobs they had come to hate because they could not see an alternative. So I decided that if I wanted to do something different I had better start sooner rather than later.

The most amazing events in my late 20s and 30s were the births of my own children and involvement in the labour of a friend – humbling; awe-inspiring. I wanted for a while to try to retrain as a midwife, but chickened out. Probably the right decision at the time, but one I frequently revisited and wondered about. In my late 50s I had far fewer responsibilities but less energy than a 30-year old. I doubt I could have got on a midwifery training programme at this stage of my life, but anyway had had enough of being part of a large organisation and the workload and bureaucratic burden of midwifery did not appeal.

Then my daughter introduced me to the idea of being a doula. I had never heard of them. It turned out that a doula is a woman who gives support, help and advice to other women and their partners during pregnancy, birth and in early parenthood. They don’t take the place of birth professionals. Instead they act as supporter, friend, advocate, information source – whatever the mother needs. I rejected the idea initially – but it kept coming back to me as an opportunity at last to be involved in childbirth.

In early 2016 I attended an introductory workshop organised by Doula UK and facilitated by Michelle Every; and knew straightaway that that was what I wanted to do. In some ways my interest in providing massage therapy started at that point as well: I have always enjoyed receiving massage and like many parents used massage techniques to calm and sooth my children when they were young. One of the other women on the workshop described how the doula involved in her birth had massaged her hands after the birth and I thought then how complementary the roles of doula and massage therapist could be. So this was what I wanted to try to do.