World Doula Week: a Lithuanian doula in North London
It's World Doula Week so it feels a very appropriate timing for my first blog post. So here I am - a new doula during my first Doula Week having to explain to every other person that I am not a jeweller. I am not frustrated though, I am happy telling people about what I do in the same way I am happy clarifying where my native Lithuania is at least a couple of times a day, even if both doulas and my country have been around for quite a while. Doulas in Lithuania, however, are a very new phenomenon - one I am very pleased about. Birthing in Lithuania has been going through some sort of mild revolution during the past few years with more and more women wanting to take control and make their own choices. It still has a long way to go, however, as for most women the only option to give birth is still at the hospital under the care of obstetricians. Assisted home birth is not only unavailable - it is illegal! Assisting a home birth is treated as a criminal offence. The fact that many women would still choose to give birth on their own rather than go in to the hostile hospital environment does not soften the Health Minster's heart and no changes are going to be made for the time being. I hear my friends' stories of horrid births where they were given an enema, had to stay in bed without eating or drinking for hours, had doctors acting superior and always knowing better: no questions to be asked, no choices to be made. Home birth in Lithuania is portrayed by the medical professionals as something ridiculous, medieval and very very dangerous. They seem to ignore the research or examples from Europe, saying that "those countries are richer therefore can afford an ambulance waiting in front of every birthing woman's window". With hospital birth being THE ONLY option (there is only one midwife-led birth centre in the whole of Lithuania) no wonder that many women choose epidurals and C-sections as a result of feeling scared, disempowered and out of control. Birth here is not being widely promoted as something natural and normal.
And that's where the Lithuanian doulas come in. How truly wonderful for these lovely women to see the need for this, get together, look at foreign practise and evidence, organise training and spread the word! They started attending their first births in 2014 and people are becoming more and more aware of them. With that also comes spreading the knowledge of birth rights, women's rights, a desire for change and belief in themselves and their bodies. Thank you, my doula sisters, for spreading kindness, support, information and seeds of such needed change. Because every woman deserves a beautiful, empowering and dignified birth. I sincerely believe that your gentle ways will work wonders and make a path to the kind of care where no woman feels let down. Happy World Doula Week!
Lots of love to all the doulas of the universe,