At Alf, we are committed to supporting our community in all aspects of parenthood. That includes asking those burning questions about pregnancy and birth you might not know to ask, or bringing you information about the vast world of birth that you may not know about.
This week we’re chatting to Jessie McGarry, owner of The Bright Birth Co and a mother of three. She is a doula who works with birthing people throughout Perth and Australia.
“I am a pregnancy, birth, postpartum doula, so I support women and families through their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum” Jessie explains. “A doula isn’t a medically trained person. We’re there to emotionally support women as they navigate the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. We’re there to help inform and support them in their choices, and want to make sure these women are feeling safe and supported.”
Jessie became a doula after searching for a meaningful way to help women and seeing a friend engage the services of another doula. “I started following this doula and from that the whole birth world opened itself up to me. I just knew that's where I wanted to be. That's what I wanted to do.”
Birth support has existed since the dawn of time. Doulas as we know them now have been around since the 1960s, as more birthing people search for non-medical support during the birthing and postpartum process. Jessie is happy to dispel myths about her field.
“We’re all different energies. People think doulas are dancing around in their flowy dresses and flower crowns, whereas I wear ripped jeans, Vans and a T-shirt. The basis of what I do is to help (the birthing person) get clear on what they want, and then to go for what they want and to feel safe and supported. Sometimes that might mean doing a little ceremony or a ritual but for other women, it's just talking about things, it's a holistic approach. We individualise care around the woman and her interests, her beliefs, and what she wants. We then create an experience for her that allows her to feel really strong, safe, capable, excited, all of those feelings.”
Jessie’s immense passion for women and birthing people experiencing the birth they want is clear. Recently, she created the Make it Make Sense campaign in Perth to lobby the state government in Western Australia to allow more support personnel in the birthing room in hospital and expand visitation for partners during periods of lockdown.
Jessie explained those in the medical field are very supportive of doula involvement. “Midwives really love working with doulas because there's an extra person in the support team and we all play an individual role. The partner is there as the grounding anchor, the oxytocin supplier, the lover, and I can't replace that. I’m there for emotional support and navigating the space. I can translate things the care providers might be saying. I can see where things are going and I can make sure the birthing person’s wishes are being met and advocated for, and also that they are aware and informed of what's going on. I've had no problems. I've been really well received and welcomed into part of the team. When we understand we all have our own unique roles, we're all working together towards that common goal, then we're unstoppable.”
Who needs a doula?
“The woman who is ready to take charge of her experience,” says Jessie. “And I say take charge, not be in control because there's a difference. To take charge of their experience, to be willing to take charge, to use their voice. The woman who wants to create an experience that aligns with what she wants. I ask, what do you want? And then we can figure out how we can work together to get there so that you leave your birth feeling physically, emotionally and mentally safe. That looks different for every single woman and I'm there to help them navigate that journey with my experience and my knowledge of the birth scene because you shouldn't do it alone.”
Finally, we couldn’t leave our chat with Jessie without learning what she packs in her birth bag.
“There are so many things in my doula bag and I might not use everything, but I need everything in there.” Jessie likens her doula bag to one that might be packed by a birthing person for their hospital stay, with a few key additions. ‘Honey sticks, which are little honey straws for an energy boost. Essential oils to make the room smell nice and calming, and sometimes I have energising ones too. Spare clothes for me because sometimes I get wet if I'm helping them in the shower. Hair ties and a hairbrush, if mum needs her hair up, and a phone charger. I always have affirmations in there that sometimes I'll stick up if they don’t have their own, and always my birthing scarf (rebozo).”
Currently, Jessie’s doula services are booked out for 2021, which definitely shows that the extra support for birthing people outside of the medical fraternity is in high demand. If you want to learn more or to explore Jessie’s resources, you can go to her website www.thebrightbirthco.com.au or follow her on Instagram @jessie.thebrightbirthco.