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When mum of three, Donah Worsman, 37, spotted an advert for a volunteer doula with the Bradford Doulas, she jumped at the chance. Having had a difficult experience with the birth of her first child and then suffering from post-natal depression, she knew that she wanted to help women have really positive birth experiences.

Donah’s story

When my daughter Isla was born (she is now nine), I had a difficult birth and was still feeling negative about it two years on. I had struggled to breastfeed and had post-natal depression which I didn’t realise at the time. I had returned to work and was at a work event, when I came across an advert for a doula volunteer role and training. This felt like the perfect opportunity - I felt very strongly that if I could help even just one woman feel positive about her birth and experiences in those early weeks then it would be a wonderful opportunity for us both. My employer at the time was really positive about volunteering and my family knew it would be something that I would love – so I had a lot of support.

The training I received to become a volunteer doula was amazing

The training I received to become a volunteer doula was amazing, even though I had already been pregnant and given birth to a baby: I knew so little! I wanted to share my new found knowledge with everyone I met (and still do). I strongly believe that with knowledge comes choice and confidence. I learned so much with my first mum-to-be. I learned that being a doula was far more than I’d ever anticipated. I gave support with housing issues, helped her move house, supported her with benefit applications, helped her apply for a grant for household appliances and got in touch with a number of charities who could provide furniture. And this was all before trying to break down the barriers of mistrust and forming an honest and supportive relationship to enable her to share her fear of giving birth. I learned how important it was to appreciate all of the other things going on in their lives other than an impending birth of a baby. Relationships, health, housing, money and support networks can all have a huge impact on a woman's well-being and can affect her birth experience and her early weeks with a new baby.

I trained my husband to be my doula!

When I was pregnant with my second child, I trained my husband to become my doula! It was that or have one myself.  The knowledge and experience I had and that I could share with him made an immeasurable positive difference to my birth experiences.  I gave birth to my 11lb 5oz son at home without a need for pain relief. It was an empowering and wonderful experience, I went on to breastfeed with much more ease and confidence and I lay all this down to my doula training and the knowledge it gave me. My role as a volunteer doula is generally about building confidence, self-esteem, sharing knowledge, nurturing, and empowering women and I have done this in different ways depending on the specific needs of each woman. I have had a number of challenges from my time being a doula, such as finding it difficult to maintain a supportive distance at times but I think we wouldn’t give up free time to do this role if we were able to stay detached easily.

I always get teary when I meet the baby for the first time

I have not been there for every birth for various reasons, but once I meet the baby for the first time I always get teary. It is hard not to as I am emotionally connected to their mothers. We have been on a journey together and this tiny being is what we have been working towards. There have been a huge amount of special moments, including being with a lady delivering at home before the midwife arrived, seeing the unconditional love on a woman face for her baby no matter how many other things may be happening in her life. The most special moment was being with a lady in a caesarean section who really did not want this to be the way that her baby was to be born and helping her to still make choices. We laughed and joked throughout the procedure and despite the circumstances she still felt empowered.

I wish I’d have had a doula for my first pregnancy

I wish I’d have had a doula for my first pregnancy. Before becoming a volunteer doula I would have imagined that a doula would have taken the place of my husband. I now understand that a doula’s role is very different and very valuable to any birth partner also. I know my personal first pregnancy, birth and post-natal experiences would have been wholly more positive had I had the support of a doula. I would have had more confidence, more knowledge about the way the labour progresses and my choices within that. In addition, I would have had post birth support with breastfeeding, physical recovery and combatting loneliness that can come with becoming a new mother. A doula is a valuable resource for expectant mothers no matter what their circumstances. If you are passionate about empowering women, interested in pregnancy and birth, and have the support of family, then apply to become a volunteer doula. I work and have three children now with a husband who works away frequently so I have less opportunities to support women, but I will always try to find ways to be involved as I feel forever thankful for the opportunities and impact it has made to me as a person and to my life. I have felt a bond with all the women that I have supported. I have shared so many memorable and intimate experiences. I have shared deeply into their lives, if only for a few weeks, and for that I feel extremely thankful and privileged.

About Bradford Doulas

Bradford Doulas offer practical and emotional support to pregnant mums six weeks before the birth, during labour and six weeks after the birth, through trained volunteers. Our Bradford Doulas project supports women to make the best choices for themselves and their babies, helping them to achieve a positive birth experience and building their knowledge to enable them to make informed decisions about childbirth, nutrition and breastfeeding. Support from volunteer doulas can also connect families into network of other support services.