Spiritual Practise | mama bird

Two weeks in quarantine.

First diarrhoea and vomiting and then chicken pox.

I send frustrated messages out to friends and family

Bemoaning the situation.

That I am the only reliable parent.

I am the only parent.

Cancelling commitments and ending screen time restrictions.

At my lowest

I breastfeed while sat in a puddle of sick and as she is heaving she asks for more and more.

Judah starts to feel better and resumes bouncing off the walls.

But we are trapped.

When we are mothers we deny and deny

We wail at the injustice

Sometimes we simply walk away


"I can't do this anymore"

Yet come back to offer the breast again, with a sigh.

This is resignation

This is love

And I am reminded

That most of motherhood

Is a spiritual practise.

When I said "we" I meant "me" | Mama Bird

Being a truly single parent has it's pros and cons, one pro being you get to make all the decisions, one con being you are responsible for every single decision you make. Therefore all the blame or praise lands directly on you.

Scary stuff.

One thing I noticed I did recently at an appointment for the baby, is I said "*we* decided xyz..."

It's a slip of the tongue that I've caught myself doing before, the way I spoke about my pregnancy and birth choices just continued past birth, and it probably comes from this anxiety about being judged as a single mother for possibly making the wrong choices.

Like there is some mysterious man at home in charge validating my decisions, making them legitimate. The seal of approval from a higher authority.

Instead of just me.

It's tough because there is nobody to bounce ideas off, to make mistakes together, to present a united front, to work as a team. I know relationships don't work like that all the time and there can be power struggles, disagreements. If I'm honest the thought of somebody, anybody, telling me what to do with my children makes my spine stiffen, hackles rise.

Why even now do I still do it?

I spoke to some of my single mum friends and they said "oh god I do that too".

It's clearly a conditioned behaviour I need to unlearn.

So if I said "we" I meant "me".

I make my decisions from what I know in my heart to be right. I spend all day every day with my children, I grew them in my body, I birthed them and fed them and sang to them, massaged and rocked and changed them on my own. There is nobody who knows what is best for them more than me.

I am their mother, and this is what I have decided.

Choice | Mama Bird

Choice | Mama Bird

To other people our choices might seem crazy. To one woman an induction for a poorly baby might seem nonsensical, to another waiting for labour to start might seem unimaginable. Who is wrong?

Neither of them are.

Women deserve ALL information. Dismissing valid sources based on personal biases has no place in maternity care. There is no wrong choice. What one person decides is dangerous will be different to another. You have a right to decline care even if it's to the detriment of your health just as you can accept care even if it's to the detriment of your health.

Let us not infantilise women and talk like they need protection from themselves and the big scary internet.

You can make a decision based on top A grade evidence (like only 12% of maternity care guidelines), on the poorest quality study going (bearing in mind some official guidelines don't even have evidence to support them), on the planetary alignments, on what a fortune teller told you, your gut instinct, just how you woke up feeling that day.

It wasn't so long ago delayed cord clamping had a huge evidence base and wasn't standard practice. Current practice is not always best standard. Always research things yourself if it matters to you.

You are intelligent, you are the expert, you are responsible for your body and your baby.

A "Doula" or a "be-la"? | Mama Bird Doula

I've been thinking lately about my approach to doulaing and how it coincides with the article about Megan Markle where doulas were called a professional "hand-holder".

Some people wrote about how we are much more than that, and the amazing benefits that we bring to birth. All these benefits are evidence-based and reported by mothers. It struck me how we often feel the need to justify our worth in this way.

Just hand-holding is enough.

Still amongst doulas there is huge variation to how we work, and I've noticed more and more in the birth world that people seem to want to be seen to be doing and fixing what I would consider to be normal situations.

The specifics I won't go into here as it's not my place to tell others how to work or what skills to use with their clients. I am not even saying one way is right and one way is wrong. But for me, personally, I see so much that mirrors our medical colleagues, in that an intervention is performed in the hopes of achieving a favourable outcome. The implication being that without this intervention the mother could not have birthed her baby.

All this comes from a deep desire to help but also, I believe, from a discomfort with being "just" a doula or 'hand-holder'.

When did we go from being with women to doing things to them?

When a mother comes to us with a concern or a problem, when did we decide to fix it for her instead of filling her with confidence and self belief?

To me, I am a space holder. I am the ear on the end of the phone as she talks through a difficult decision. The one who listens to her hopes and fears and affirms I believe in her and what she is doing. Often it's a reassurance that everything is normal, is simply a variation. Your baby isn't in position at 28 weeks, your body is designed to birth, 41 weeks is a perfectly normal gestation. Taking our modern cultural narrative of birth and redirecting it to the timeless truths and peace and calm.

I am not a mini midwife, albeit using more palatable interventions to achieve outcomes.

In my own work I often really think about the message we are sending women when we have a million tricks up our sleeves.

I don't take anything to a birth because my presence is enough for all those positive associations doulas have.

To all new doulas - you are enough. Just being is enough. And if you really and truly believe this, you are showing your client you believe that she is enough too.

The Higher World | Mama Bird Doula

When we were in the higher world

Two souls who had traversed many lifetimes together

We met one day as we were preparing for another adventure--

You looked me earnestly in the eye and told me you wanted to learn about unconditional love.

I smiled as I had been thinking the same thing. We could always read each other's desires.

We made a deal to meet out there, two humans with pain and so much to learn.

An opportunity to grow.

You hurt me, I didn't fight back, the love and the darkness grew and grew like twin forces struggling for dominance. Who would be stronger, which one would win?

Love and hurt and shame forced from my psyche, making me confront years of suffering I had pushed to the side.

Forced out in me a fierce protector that I never knew existed.

Sacrifice. Darkness.

Then, unexpectedly, light.

I don't know how the story ends yet.

My mirror, my twin, the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

Our futures entwined.

And we'll meet back there.

In the higher world.

When our work for this lifetime is done.

You'll say, that was a trip!

What shall we do when we go around again?

Memories | Mama Bird Doula

Memories come back to me of who I was before I was a mother.

I remarked to a friend recently - all I have left for myself is my body. And even that I have to share.

I was the girl with the ringlets who lived in the top floor flat and used a teapot, who loved cats. Nights out would leave me feeling overwhelmed and you would usually find me in a cupboard or under a table somewhere.

I worked long hours, worked hard, smiled at customers, took long baths. Smoking, drinking, day trips, bike shop, party nights, mattress on the floor, riding my bike down Ninian Road in the cold autumn air.

Maybe you can relate to some of this or maybe your story is different. Maybe you can't identify me in the above description at all.

In just a few years time I was transformed into a single mother of two, a business owner, an abuse survivor and advocate.

I wouldn't change a thing about this journey. I honour the girl that I was. When preparing for birth we often have moments of self doubt - the girl on the bike could never have dreamed that she would birth her baby into her own arms unaided and hold space for other women to find their power.

You are all your incarnations and you are better - motherhood is the ultimate opportunity to discover what you are capable of, that you can achieve what you hardly dare to dream of.

Challenge the notion that it's about what you give up.

It's about what you become.

Coming Home To Yourself | Mama Bird Doula

How is this super moon feeling for everybody? 

It's the culmination of 18 years of energy. What were you doing 18 years ago? 

Without even realising I have been listening to songs that were popular when I was ten years old. I’ve been wistful, daydreaming, despondent.

I had a long conversation with a friend today about what it means to suffer, to grow, to be brave enough to let go of pain.  Yes, brave.  It seems odd to say it that way because nobody wants to suffer, we actively go out of our way to avoid suffering. But I also feel keenly how pain and fear can shape your life and cause you to become somebody you don't want to be. 

Your pain and fear can keep you living small, and not achieving your biggest goals and dreams.  I have worn many badges over the past eighteen years - many relate to victimhood. I have been proud of them in a way. But they are not me, they no longer serve me. I want to know when our pain becomes irrelevant, when the things that hurt us shape us less than the positive steps that we have taken and the changes that we have made to the world. 

I have been on a path of remembering who I was before the things that hurt me.

I am somebody with an open and loving heart who has only ever wanted connection and reciprocation. 

I am in awe and wonder at what it means to be a woman and a lifegiver. 

I believe we are sacred.

I believe in love. 

I believe I am unchanged from the little girl with the big eyes. 

The woman who birthed her baby with faith alone. 

The woman who knew there was something better. 

As my friend said - “did you birth using fear or trust? Trust is who you really are.”

Very wise.

I believe that the biggest gift I bring to my doula role is my deep sense of trust. I will never be the doula who has all the numbers or figures although I put the work in to know them. Or one who suggests many different things you can do to, seeing your body as a problem to be solved. If you want somebody to analyse or fix, I am not what you are looking for.

What I will do is stand by you in the most fundamental trust and faith as your story unfolds, a gentle smile on my face, an "all will be well" that emanates from my soul and is palpable. 

And so I wake this morning with my head foggy but my heart happy. 


Do I Work Well With Midwives? | Mama Bird Doula

 I was asked today - do I work well with midwives? 


I consider it my job to ensure the birth team is working together effectively. Harmony makes for a smooth labour.

Midwives are often curious about what I do and grateful for the extra pair of hands. They are so overworked they cannot be always in the room for the whole of the labour and it is a weight off their minds to know the mother is being cared for.

I am there to be pleasant and helpful and to facilitate communication, especially as labour gets more established and sometimes I'm the only one the mother can really hear. I can sense what is needed at what stage from everybody and am in tune with the mother's rhythm, so all medical needs can be met in alignment with the birth flow (if that is what the mother wants). I have only had problems once with a medical professional that escalated to them verbally abusing me - contrary to popular belief, it's not my role to cause problems. I would only interject if I believed coercion was happening or an assault was about to take place.

I have been told that my calm presence enabled the other parent to speak up clearly for what they wanted, knowing they had my support.

Because if the midwife is happy and the birth partner is happy, this can only be good for the mother 🙌

Informed Consent Is Not Good Enough | Mama Bird Doula

Yes I know I'm changing my tune... the pillar of the birth world that is informed consent.

The idea being that your care providers will offer you something during your pregnancy or birth, tell you why they recommend it, what the possible down sides are, and respect your decision.

I hardly ever see it happen - but it's supposed to.

And really, isn't informed consent, rather than that glowing pinnacle of good care, just a basic legal requirement?

Informed consent is the BARE MINIMUM you should expect.

If there is anything being a survivor of domestic abuse has taught me, it is that as women our standards for how much respect we receive and how much power we should have over our bodies is LOW.

There's a lot being talked about now with regards to sex and consent. It's framed around how women are made to feel in our society, the powerlessness and compliance, the fear, the desire to please. How we should be looking for enthusiastic yeses in the bedroom rather than token ones. Because in birth and during sex we are naked and vulnerable. Figuratively and often literally.

I don't think we should just accept this situation where women are in a position where their consent is extracted from them for the legal protection of the care provider. The idea of it suggests a power imbalance - I have this agenda, I want to do this to you, you need to say it is okay.

We can do better.

We should demand better

I want to have a birth world where women are in total control of their bodies and their autonomy, where they are equal and active participants in their care, where we have moved beyond this tick box exercise that if it even happens at all is a miracle into a world where women feel ABLE to nix SUGGESTIONS made and enthusiastically ask for the things that they want.

I know sometimes things happen fast at a birth. But the majority of the time choices and decisions are not an emergency.

And now we have been manoeuvred into a position where anybody who bothers to even get informed consent is basically a hero.


We shouldn't have to feel grateful for care providers fulfilling their legal obligation.

We should be fighting for a world where we have taken back the power and we know we can do what we want, emotionally as well as logically. It's one thing to know you have choices and another in practice.

Is your yes enthusiastic?

It's More Than Just Milk | Mama Bird Doula

It's so much more

Than milk.

Like I said to auntie Pip

On the phone today.

It's soothing big feelings

And regulating your body.

It's warmth

It's love

It's protection

From all that you have been through

In your little life already.

For tantrums

For disappointments

For homesickness.

A time for growing independence

To curl up in my lap like a puppy

And look at me adoringly.

And when I stop

I'll have to learn how to be your mother

All over again.

Every Person at Your Birth is an Intervention | Mama Bird Doula

I was talking to a woman today about freebirth who just didn't get it.

She couldn't understand why somebody would not want a home birth with a midwife so it would be safe.

I tried to explain no birth is completely safe, how important intuition is and that freebirth has many spiritual and philosophical connotations...

I got called an extremist. Even though risk is relative and giving birth is much like the decision to drive your car down a motorway. Anybody who has been prepared for a caesarean birth will be acutely aware of the associated risks but on balance they are considered worth the probable positive outcome.

I don't think birthing by yourself is extreme. It's just an absence of intervention in the biological process.

We can't say what type of birth is categorically safe. We have studies that show us first time mums are physically "safer" in midwife-led units, second time mums are physically "safer" at home or in birth centres. We know that one to one care from a midwife does phenomenal things for the "safety"... but that tells us nothing of an individual woman's birth attendants and how safe they make a birth.

Or what makes women feel safe. Some women want to be at home with nobody and some women want to be in hospital with every doctor, machine and test available.

Some women want one specific midwife.

We don't need to understand other people's choices to support them. Every person at that birth is an intervention because they are causing the birth to change from its default path in some way.

Everybody brings their own energy to the woman who is like a sponge in labour, soaking up their presence.

As a doula, I am an intervention. One with largely positive associations but I will not pretend that my presence does not change the way a birth goes. That is why it's so important to get the right fit with a client and why I work so hard at showing you who I am so you choose me for good reasons.

So please really consider who you have there. Will a pushy mother in law or a nervous sister positively affect your birth or not? Wanting to feel safe is the bare minimum we should expect as birthing women.

What does that look and feel like to you?

Why Bedshare? | Mama Bird Doula

Why bedshare?

Babies are recommended to sleep in the same room as an adult for a minimum of six months, ideally a year, to reduce risk of Sudden Infant Death.

The presence of a breathing adult stimulates babies to breathe and promotes responsive night time parenting.

Bedsharing gives baby unlimited access to the breast which is so important for establishing and maintaining breastfeeding. Frequent waking to feed is a GOOD thing - it prevents longer sleep cycles associated with SIDS.

Dr James McKenna talks about "breastsleeping" whereby the mother and infant are perfectly in tune throughout the night and mothers have been shown to get higher quality sleep in those intervals between feedings.

It's perfectly normal and practised around the world.

Safety guidance is that the parents are sober, mum sleeps next to baby on a flat surface, no pillows or duvets and mum is breastfeeding.

Do you sleep with your babies?

Is Watching "Friends" Hypnobirthing? | Mama Bird Doula

In my opinion, YES.

When you are in early labour the best thing you can do is get warm and snuggly and naked under the covers and watch something funny.

I was recently asked by a client - what about "Friends"?


We know the series so well. For early labour to progress it's important that mama goes from her neocortex (which is her thinking brain) and into her subconscious... a process that will be triggered and aided by the familiar scripts and jokes of her favourite sitcom. The characters are predictable, they are totally SAFE.

Exactly like hypnobirthing.

Laughter produces oxytocin which will encourage the uterus to contract. Skin to skin in bed with a partner - more oxytocin. Familiarity and comfort- oxytocin.

The episodes roll one after the other, giving a sense of timelessness, which takes the focus away from clock watching which can be unhelpful and inhibit the subconscious process. You could spend a whole day "in labour" not timing contractions or counting the hours but having a duvet day! Conserving energy should be our main goal of early labour.

One of the theories of how hypnosis works is that it produces a response in people based on how they think they should be reacting to the hypnosis. So if society tells us we should be relaxed and switched off during hypnosis, we will act in that way.

Our expected societal response to watching "Friends" is to feel happy, relaxed and amused.

Therefore that is what we will be.

I cannot think of much better ways to spend the early hours of labour.

Just avoid the birth scenes 😉

My Year Ends Today | Mama Bird Doula

For the avoidance of all doubt--

A year ago today.

A year ago I had gone to bed afraid and woken up afraid.

18 months of control and abuse that had reached boiling point.

I had two hours.

I had to get out.

The questions;

Where is he right now?

How many times have you tried to end the relationship?

Does he break things in front of you?

Has he ever hurt a family pet?

Has he ever threatened to kill himself?

What are you afraid of?

Words tumbling from my mouth as I hadn't considered the answers to these questions might paint a picture too horrifying to contemplate.

I will forever be grateful to Women's Aid for telling me they considered me at high risk and needing immediate refuge space.

I only had a few big shopping bags... maybe five. So I shoved as many clothes as I could in them. I used one bag for my son's toys he had gotten for his birthday four weeks prior. I rushed to get it in the car with my newborn baby wriggling on the sofa.

Raced to his school to collect him. Said we had a family emergency.

"Where's Optimus Prime?"

The bag of toys.

I only had twenty minutes. I pulled up outside the house again and ran inside and got it as I couldn't face letting him down again.

We sped down the a470 all the way to Cardiff all the while my phone was going off--

Where are you where are you

I'm not ashamed of having spent six months in a refuge. It's something I haven't necessarily publicised due to ongoing issues.

It's my story, and I have been prohibited from sharing it.

Our first refuge was like a big boarding house with shared bathrooms and kitchen. We slept in a converted office downstairs - my son in the top bunk, me and the baby tucked into a single bed. So many women and children and heavy doors and every task was hard but I did it.

Our second refuge was a top floor self-contained flat which was more bearable. We slept on the bottom bunk and my hair would get stuck in the rungs above and the mattress was so slippery the sheet would fall off in the night.

I simply was not safe anywhere else.

Then I found my house.

When people ask why don't women leave sometimes it's because you don't realise it's abuse. Sometimes you are just very very afraid.

"Aren't you ashamed to be in a refuge with women who have actually experienced abuse, don't you feel like a lying fake? If they knew the truth they would be as ashamed of you as I am." My abuser said to me.

I have told nothing but the truth to all agencies I have been involved with and followed all recommendations to keep myself and my children safe.

It still baffles me that there are people who believe a woman would choose to spend Christmas in a refuge with an 8 week old baby, report herself to social services, take her four year old out of school, make him miss his first Christmas concert, risk the end of her business and income because she was a bit upset about the end of her relationship. But I guess if manipulators weren't believable we wouldn't fall for it in the first place. I know I did.

The lies - I went to refuge to get a council house. I don't have one. I went to refuge to get a free solicitor. I don't have one I self-represent.

He holds no power over me anymore.

Leaving is scary and messy and unknown. It's the first step on a long road. I have been stalked, harassed, bullied and intimidated including at my place of work where I had to hide in the toilet. I was spat at in court, followed to my car. Threats to burn my possessions, to turn my baby against me, harassment of my friends.

Women are FIVE HUNDRED TIMES MORE LIKELY to be killed in the first year after ending the relationship.

My year ends today.

I See You | Mama Bird Doula

I see you.

I want you to know I worry about you every day.

I think about you as an outlet for his dark rage and I tremble as I remember the moods and the blaming and the way nothing was ever good enough. 

Knowing that every time something goes wrong for him, means you will receive punishment in some way. 

I remember feeling like life with him was an endless black hole I thought I could fill with love.

Until I got buried. 

I remember believing the lies, because if they weren't true, why was he still fighting? Being told just enough of the truth to be convinced but being shielded from the horrifying reality.

All the women who had done him wrong. The pressure to never be like that. To never do anything to look after yourself and your well-being. 

It couldn't be abuse because he was the victim in all this, right?

I have been where you are. Wanting to save somebody you love while they pull you under with them. 

I see you, being mocked and shrinking and existing just to be his emotional punching bag.

When you are ready, you will know.

LIVE FEAR FREE 0808 8010 800



My Happy Weight | Mama Bird Doula

I'm the heaviest I've ever been.

At least I think I am - I don't weigh myself, never have. I generally use my clothes as a measure. 

Growing up I had a very unhealthy relationship with food and was so paranoid about my weight. I developed early and used to wear oversized clothes to hide my body, having earned crude nicknames already by age 13. I developed an eating disorder as a teenager, trying to shrink myself out of existence, a problem that came back briefly in my early twenties where I would try to get through an 8 hour shift fuelled by a couple of crackers. This was combined with stomach issues that meant often whatever I ate would go straight through me, due to anxiety and panic attacks.

I've written before about how pregnancy resolved so many of my body issues, that food no longer felt like the enemy, like my body working and growing made it feel purposeful and strong rather than decorative. Breastfeeding my baby made me appreciate food like never before. 

Finding veganism gave me a structure I wanted and a reason for the repugnance I felt with animal products. I am always reluctant to link my eating issues with veganism so as not to give the wrong impression - for me it was a very positive thing. I don't think about food negatively anymore. Adverts almost always aren't relevant to me. It's like the noisy buzz of food consumption has quieted and I can just eat delicious food that nourishes me. 

Two years ago I lost a lot of weight. It was a combination of stress, the copper IUD, sleep deprivation and the relationship that I was in. I remember hardly recognising myself in the mirror. I am on a group for fertility charters and found a post I had made at the time where I was asking about anti depressants. The first photo of me pregnant with Autumn-Violet is a tiny, fragile woman who looks as though she might blow away. It wasn't normal for me.

Post-birth, post-refuge, my body has changed and so have I. I don't need to weigh myself to know that I am the biggest I have ever been. While this does occasionally niggle at me due to societal conditioning and I may have a little moan, it's also the cause for huge celebration. My reaction to sadness in my life was always to restrict my food, I can directly correlate my weight with how I felt at the time. 

So for me being rounder means... 

I can buy all the delicious food that I like and eat whatever meals I like

I sit in the evening with tea and biscuits and revel in the peace and calm

I can treat myself to meals out and takeaways

I am not trying to shrink away to please a man or society

I take up space 

I am not unhappy

I am not stressed

I am soft

I am not rushing

I am nourished

I am feeling good enough

I am feeling loved

Rounder and rosier - what a difference a year makes.

Venus is in Scorpio and I am really feeling all this sensual, feminine, creative, kundalini energy. Generally floating around like a free flowing goddess right now and feeling balanced and happy.

Life is good.

Women Are In An Abusive Relationship With The NHS | Mama Bird Doula

No, #notallhcps, and yes, we are very lucky and grateful to have the NHS.

But I'm starting to feel that this platitude I put before making any comment on the abusive and coercive practices in maternity care is a lot like the excuses women make for their abusive partners. Because we all know we NEED the NHS.

"But he does all these things for me, he looks after me, once he even saved my life!"So what does this relationship look like?

I have used the Power and Control Wheel as a basis.


Women do not feel like they have the ability to make choices. They are guilted and coerced into consenting to things, or even consent because they don't want to "disappoint" the "lovely" HCP. They may even be told they won't be allowed in the pool or access to pain relief. This is not consent! If somebody doesn't feel like saying no is acceptable then their yes is meaningless. This sadly means that many women have been assaulted during their care.


Free pregnancy and freebirth are an option but for the vast majority of women they won't be. Some try and are threatened with social services. We know that one to one care from a midwife is imperative for good birth outcomes. It's the one thing that doesn't happen. So women know that to feel even remotely safe they have to become part of the system. They may not be able to afford an independent midwife. They cannot leave the NHS because they know that they need it.


Although HCPs can be either sex, maternity care is hugely patriarchal and we enact the roles where women are told that the "system" knows what is best for them and they are merely the gestator of the baby.


Women are told they must have a certain type of care, they aren't allowed to home birth, they aren't allowed a caesaerean, they aren't allowed to decline, they're not allowed to leave the hospital, they're not allowed to just walk out with their baby. They are given limited information or statistics tailored to the HCP's agenda. Women are left to languish on induction wards or labour alone, diminishing their morale. They may receive harassing phone calls and letters about their informed decisions.


Women are told that what happened to them was inevitable, or had to happen, or was necessary for their baby's safety. They are told (and I have witnessed this myself) that other women in different parts of the world have it worse and they are lucky! They are told to be grateful they have a healthy baby and not talk about the trauma they have experienced at the hands of the system. And of course the usual #notallhcps.


Being told they are putting their unborn child at risk by requesting individualized care or declining interventions. They may have the threat of that child being removed from them if a social services referral is made.

And of course not mentioned but very relevant...


This is where a women wants non-standard care and has broken some unspoken rule and somebody senior is assigned to promise her the world. Of course you can use the birth pool, of course you can decline VEs, of course you can decline continuous monitoring...

Only to get there in labour to find she can have none of those things that were promised.


I am fed up of women being minimised and gaslit over this. Yes we need the NHS. But that doesn't mean it can just do what it likes to us.

They Want Me To Lie | Mama Bird Doula

The most vulnerable I've ever been is a year ago this week. Just five shopping bags of clothes and toys and nothing else. I forgot one bag full of his birthday things and had to go back. With twenty minutes to spare. Not even a toothbrush or pajamas. Everything lost. His first curl, her pregnancy cast.  

Sharing a house with strangers in a strange part of town. Services, endless services. Some of them shouting down the phone asking you what were you thinking how could you have been so stupid, so blind? 

I've never been able to lie. 

Every person I've been with has commented on that aspect of me, when they're telling me I'm cute, I'm an airhead, I live with my head in the romance clouds. Longing to connect. Unfailingly honest. They like it until that raw openness is no longer theirs to exploit and manipulate but is now shining a light on them without elaboration or fabrication.

Then they want me to lie. 

Will beg, rage, rant. 

With birth. I tell women the truth. I wish I could pretend that every care provider could be trusted and would be respectful and it might make for a nicer conversation but it's just not what I see. It's why I don't fit in anywhere, into the landscape of birth that often wants everything to be fluffy to make a sale.

I'm not interested in just making a sale.  I want a revolution. 

Now there are many people who want to go even further, who want to fit a scold's bridle on me, who admire my passion and my conviction but most of all just want me to shut up when they disagree. Who want me to deny my reality and my beliefs. Not realising I have faced worse than them and won. Their pettiness only souring themselves. Other people whose lives would be infinitely easier if I did decide to stop telling the truth and pretended it didn't matter when there's so much at stake. 

This time last year keeps going round in my head because I lost everything and also nothing. I clung to my work and would not stop serving and speaking, would not let it die.  I built all this up from absolutely nothing at all, five bags, two children and the clothes on our back.  And now I'm fiercely protective and vulnerable all at once. With more to lose.

And I still won't lie. 

Domestic Abuse Myths | Mama Bird Doula

I wrote this series for DomesticAbuse Awareness Month.

Myth #1

Surely a man couldn't be abusive to his partner when she's pregnant? That's the mother of his child!


Sadly studies have shown that domestic abuse increases during pregnancy. Abusive men are much more likely to cause an accidental pregnancy in order to incapacitate a woman and "seal the deal" on the relationship if he fears she may leave him.

When a woman is pregnant she will naturally want to lean on her partner for emotional and physical support, as well as financial, and this need can be exploited by men. They will use her vulnerability, exhaustion and inability to leave to up the ante and perpetrate further abuse.

With things like midwife and hospital appointments and excited relatives an abusive man may feel he has "lost control" of his partner and may step up the abuse in other ways. I know of one man who made his partner secretly record her safeguarding interview with her midwife on her phone!

Some women may fear that people will say "why would you have a baby with him if he is abusive?" and "but you seem so happy and excited for the baby on Facebook!" which may make her worry she won't be believed.

She may not even realise what's going on.

It is much harder to leave an abusive situation while pregnant but there is support available.

Myth #2: Once you leave, you're free forever. Just do it!


Oh if only it was that simple. Did you know that women are most likely to be killed when they end the relationship, and these risks remain higher for that first year following the breakup?

If you have children with your abuser there is no escaping, not really.

For some women the thought of handing their children over to the unknown is worse than just staying and managing the abuse to protect the children as best she can.

Women are experts on their abusers. They know what to say and how to stay safe. The women I have spoken to can even predict their abuser's next move and sense his presence before they see him, their survival instincts have become so fine tuned.

Then if you do manage to leave, there is the aftermath of PTSD, where you can be triggered by the smallest of things, like your child hiding and jumping out at you. Or a smell, or a facial expression, and your heart is pounding and you're zoning out. If you have to interact with your abuser then you will undoubtedly be stuck in some kind of abuse cycle still, albeit in separate residences.

I knew one woman who got to her own house in a safe location finally and couldn't lock the back door one night as it was stiff and she was so frightened she sat there crying and shaking for an hour.

Leaving is not the end - it's the beginning of a scary, long and difficult road to reestaablishing your whole sense of self and navigating your life when in fact you have lost some element of control by no longer being able to "manage" your abuser as best you can.

Myth #3: Abusers look and act a certain way


A man who perpetrates domestic abuse is not always the stereotypical big bloke with a shaved head wearing a vest, drinking beer, and shouting at his wife.

There are many different kinds of abuser, and some are very good at hiding who they really are.

Abusers - particularly narcissistic abusers - crave attention and may be drawn to professions that give them a lot of fame and glory, or heavily invest in "altruistic" activities such as charity, social justice or religious work.

They may have a large group of friends who look up to and admire them, giving them credibility (these are also known as flying monkeys). This is all so they can maintain a good image and get access to vulnerable people. Some abusers use social media to portray a strong positive image, and embroil their victim in a web of deceit.

Acquaintances and friends may express disbelief that the man they know could do something like that.

This is what makes it so hard for victims to come forward, if the person is well-respected and liked, and known for doing good deeds, who would believe them?

It has been described a bit like Jekyll and Hyde, public persona and private persona, and is a form of gaslighting designed to confuse and disorientate the victim and doubt their experience.

Myth #4: If they aren't violent, it's not abusive


In 2017 the law finally recognised "coercive and controlling behaviour" as a form of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is a repeated pattern of belittling and degrading the victim, sometimes culminating in physical violence, oftentimes not.

Abusers can be very clever at knowing their victim's limits and seeing how far they can push the boundary. They enjoy grinding their victim down and eroding their boundaries over time.

Women I have spoken to have said the psychological damage from the emotional abuse has endured long-term far more than any physical violence they may have suffered.

An abuser may break things in front of you to show you how angry they are, they may use their physical size to dominate the space around you, they may make hurtful and degrading comments about you, they may impose limits and curfews on you. All they care about is control. You get to a place where it is just easier to do everything "their way" rather than face the fallout.

I knew one woman whose abuser was obsessed with a certain colour, and would berate her if she chose any other colour for the house, so she followed orders to avoid fallout.

I knew another woman whose abuser shaved a swastika into her head under the pretext of giving her an undercut, and threatened to blackmail her with it.

I knew another woman who wasn't allowed to put anything for the children in the living room and would face anger and sulking if she did.

And sadly another woman whose partner called her boring in bed and would refuse to be affectionate so she would "let" him do things she didn't want to do.

If you speak to any woman who has been abused they can come up with hundreds of examples like this, of how their abuser humiliated and controlled them

Just because somebody doesn't hit you, doesn't make it not abusive.

It is always about power and control.


Myth #5: Why did she not leave him the first time he was abusive?


Nobody is abusive 100% of the time and all abusers go through a phase of wooing their victim and disarming them.

When you first get involved with an abusive man they tend to love bomb you. That includes monopolising your time, showering you with love and attention - narcissistic abusers in particular are predatory and will "mirror" your qualities and personality back to you to convince you they are your soul mate.

Almost every single woman I have spoken to has admitted that at first they were not even attracted to their abuser.

This love bombing of time and attention and physical affection produces the same chemicals in the brain as an addiction to hard drugs. You become dependent on the "high" that only your abuser can give you. They rush the relationship so you move in together quickly, get married or have a baby.

And the abuse starts small.

You'll be driving somewhere and they'll make a hurtful comment. You're so confused but you figure they didn't mean it, it was so out of character.

They start to mock you for your little habits. So you change them to avoid the mocking.

They start to slowly withdraw affection. So you work harder and harder to try and recapture that loving feeling.

You are being conditioned.

I knew of one woman whose abuser would deliberately create crises and drama so that he could "save" her from them. That relief and instant dopamine hit kept her bonded to him and craving that safe feeling she felt with him, even though he was the real threat.

And before you know it you are under their complete control.

There is rarely a definitive "first time".

Myth #6: Just because he is abusive to his partner, it doesn't mean he can't be a good dad.


Any man who exposes his child to him perpetrating domestic abuse is unsafe and a risk. The psychological and emotional damage to that child is devastating.

Any man who abuses the mother of his child does not have that child's best interests at heart and is not a good father. This is the opinion of Lundy Bancroft, an expert in abusive men.

Any man who abuses somebody he considers "inferior" to him or weaker than him is a threat to a child.

Men are much more likely to commit revenge murders, whereby to punish the woman for leaving him he will kill the children.

Abusers love to control and dominate others, ask yourself, why is a child exempt when a woman is not?

A child is a captive audience for the abuser and is at the greatest risk of all. My heart breaks for all the children sent as test subjects into the hands of an abuser after a breakup.

Myth #7: Why does she pick men like that, she must have really low self-esteem!


Nobody goes into a relationship seeking abuse.

Often it's the other way around - they feel sympathy for their abuser for the "hard life" that he has had!

For many abusers - particularly narcissistic abusers - their target is their "trophy" and has something that the abuser wants or needs.

This could be good looks, money, social standing, reputation.

Imagine the thrill for an abusive man of targeting a strong, independent and happy woman and turning her into a ghost of herself, trained to respond to his every whim?

The survivors I have met are all like precious jewels and I have no doubt their abusers targeted them for their kindness, beauty, humour, warmth and generosity.

She didn't choose him, she was targeted so he could keep all those qualities for himself.

And he hated that, and punished her for them.

Myth #8: We need hard evidence before we decide a man is abusive.


The definition of "domestic abuse" is that it occurs within the home, where nobody else can see.

It is under-reported and difficult to prove. You can be found not guilty in criminal court and guilty in family court as there is different criteria to meet.

Once you go to family court with your abuser, you are no longer allowed to discuss the evidence and the case. Family court hearings are secret.

The survivor is essentially given an order of silence and is not allowed to discuss the proceedings.

So those who want evidence will likely never have it and must watch the abusive person move onto the next victim and see the devastating story play out again and again, with even more extreme consequences for that woman.

This is how the cycle continues.

False allegations are rare.

Believe women.


Myth #9: She doesn't act like a victim.


Survivors of abuse are human.

How they live with their trauma is as varied as their individual personalities, coping mechanisms and situation.

There seems to be a myth that survivors must be shy, scared and meek. Those who do not conform to this stereotype are less likely to be believed, studies have shown. And yet those same people are supposed to be brave and calm in court.

We are set up to fail.

The myth of the "perfect victim" is so damaging to survivors and it is a preconception that exists in all kinds of services.

I cried with fury watching Brett Kavanaugh be sworn in on the TV, in a crowded chip shop, with my children.

Survivors can be angry. Really angry.

Survivors can be bold.

Survivors can laugh at their abusers.

Survivors can have a happy life.

Survivors can fight for, and desperately want, justice.

There is no one kind of survivor.

Believe women.

Myth #10: Survivors should facilitate their exes seeing the children or they are just as bad.


Survivors may be so terrified of their abusers just being in their presence would be too much of an ask.

I spoke to one woman whose social worker had told her that if she let her ex see their child they would consider her an unfit mother as she was showing she was making poor decisions for the child. This woman was even advised by a police officer to do whatever social services told her.

I have seen many women who gave into their abuser's demands to see the children even though it felt wrong, and by the time it inevitably got to court they were ripped apart, called inconsistent or a liar, as why would they send the children into the hands of such a terrible person? Are they unfit? Why were they happy to be in his presence to supervise contact if they were afraid?

These women thought they were doing the right thing.

If a survivor perceives her child to be at any risk, she has every right not to expose them to abuse.

Sadly you will hear different things from different agencies through all stages of the process it is ALWAYS the woman who gets the blame for whichever approach she takes regarding child contact. Whether permitting or withholding.

The wider world will blame her too. Survivors may not be able to, or want to, tell their story.

One of the hardest things in the world is to be a survivor and a mother.

Recovering from trauma and perpetually blamed.

Women are experts in their experience and can make their own risk assessment.

Myth #11: There are two sides to every story.


With domestic abuse and sexual violence there is a 2% rate of false accusations, just as any other crime.

98% of accused men are guilty.

Even if they never go to trial. Even if court lets them walk away.

So when you hear an allegation about a friend or somebody you know, you can be almost certain that the survivor is telling the truth.

The stories I have heard from women about their abusive partners couldn't be made up. Their trauma is real.

Believe women.

No matter your personal experience with the abuser.

No matter what you've seen on social media.

Believe her.

Myth #12: If he was really abusive, she would have reported it to the police and he would be locked up


It is rare for abusers to be held accountable through the courts.

Sadly, when you leave an abuser your first instinct is not to contact the police, it is to make your immediate environment as safe as possible. It can be a confusing time. Sometimes a woman may be so in denial she may not realise she has been abused, just that she needs to be safe.

Trauma can cause repressed memories and I have spoken to survivors who are still remembering things years later about their relationships.

This is particularly the case for those who have fallen prey to a narcissistic abuser - the different layers of deceit have produced an alternative reality where that woman has been living, not unlike being in a cult. The shock of that is indescribable.

It is hard to prove domestic abuse even if you do report. The Crown Prosecution Service will often drop a case if they cannot be certain of a conviction.

One woman was told by the police that if she felt at all unsure about attending court, they would not recommend even taking a statement from her about her sexual assault.

The most frightening thing about domestic abuse is how most perpetrators are free to walk among us with no repercussions, just move onto the next victim.

If you are at all suspicious about a new man in your life, you can use the police service Clare's Law to find out if he has any previous reports of domestic abuse or harassment perpetrated towards a partner or ex-partner.

Myth #13: She is making it up because she wants to be a single parent


The survivors I have spoken to are devastated about what has happened to their family.

Every single one of them I would class as a romantic - somebody who believed that their love could fix somebody else, could heal them and make their life better.

Perfect targets for abusers.

In case you wondered, they happen to be fabulous mothers as well.

In our conversations they express one of their deepest wishes for their children is for them to have a healthy, safe father to make happy memories with. It is the thing they cannot give them.

They rehearse difficult conversations in their head about how they are going to explain one day. They miss out on friends' birthdays and fun trips because of no childcare. Many of them are running their own businesses and would give almost anything for a co-parent they could trust to pick up some of the slack.

They care for their children through illness alone, they celebrate birthdays and holidays alone, they sit in the evening alone.

They want somebody to share those special firsts with, to turn to and express shared love for their child.

They wouldn't have chosen this if it wasn't the safest way. The last resort.

I am in awe of all of them.

Myth #14: He was a great guy until he just snapped.


Abusive men do not just snap. This is a narrative we often see in the newspaper and it is grossly unjust. "If only she hadn't left him, if only she hadn't cheated, if only she hadn't taken the children"

She is not responsible for his abusiveness.

A domestic abuse murder is the culmination of years of perfect control over the victim. The murder occurs because the abuser feels his partner is escaping him.

Survivors of abuse will tell you how their perpetrator would change in front of law enforcement, cry, be remorseful. Psychopaths in particular love to deceive others and do their pity routine.

Abusers are often very in control of their actions and emotions, that is how they keep their victim in check.

He wasn't a great guy until he snapped. It was the final step in the domestic abuse pattern.



Myth #15: She should just get over it, why can't she move on?


One of the devastating impacts of abuse is post-traumatic stress disorder. It is very difficult for friends and family of the survivor to understand how much their loved one has changed.

Those with this condition may have nightmares, flashbacks, triggers, obsessive thoughts, an exaggerated startle response and dissociation.

Added to that - her time with her abuser was a cycle, so that her brain not only associated him with pain but with the relief of that pain. We call it trauma bonding, like Stockholm syndrome. So part of her may still "love" him, or feel a strong pull that she can't explain.

There may be ongoing involvement which means she is still living in an abusive cycle, even while in relative safety.

If you know a survivor - don't rush them. One of the things they may feel drawn to do it regain control over their own lives, which can mean many different things for different people. It's okay not to be "over" it, especially when their body still feels in danger.

The most hurtful thing you can do is to minimise their pain.

Let them know that you are there for them, and you believe them.

Myth #16: He had a really hard childhood/hard life, he can't help it


Everybody has a choice to be abusive.

There are many people who have had horrendous childhoods and life experiences and have turned out kind and compassionate.

The abuser sees the effects of his actions, but unless he is directly affected, he does not care.

There is a great quote: "Women are not rehabilitation centres for damaged men." Which I completely agree with.

It is not your job to fix him. It is your job to keep yourself and your children safe, even if that means being as far from your abuser as possible.

He can help it. He chooses to control and abuse.

Myth #17: If I were her, I would leave.


You don't know that.

We have already discussed trauma bonding in this series and how women can feel literally addicted to their abuser.

We have talked about how insidious abuse is and how it gradually creeps into the relationship and distorts the woman's reality.

What about if the perpetrator is threatening suicide if she leaves?

What if leaving involves splitting children up?

What if she has no money, no transport, nowhere to go? Her abuser may have isolated her and whittled away her self-esteem so she feels she can't leave.

What if she feels safer right now just managing the abuse than trying to leave? We discussed before women are more likely to be killed after leaving.

You have no idea what her situation is and what you would do. A woman will try and leave an abusive relationship an average of seven times before succeeding.

Tell her you believe her and you will support her when she is ready. It is imperative then for her to go as low contact as possible in order to detox from the abuse cycle and not get sucked back in.

Myth #18: Why doesn't she hate him?


We have talked about love bombing and how nobody is abusive all the time - for a start it would be exhausting. And counter-productive, as then the survivor would have less reason to stay.

Deciding to leave an abusive relationship is choosing to love yourself and your children more than your abuser. It is a brave and strong thing to do.

As with all relationships, there are good times. And in fact the good times can be very good, to keep the survivor craving that loving feeling.

You can love somebody and accept that they are incapable of change and dangerous.

Survivors are often targeted for their loving, giving and empathetic natures. However they feel about their perpetrator is okay, and valid.

Myth #19: He seems so happy with his new girlfriend, his ex must really be crazy!

Truth: Social media often displays the love bombing/grooming phase of the new victim for everybody to see.

Declarations of love, romantic getaways, you name it.

Survivors who haven't acknowledged the truth may wonder what is wrong with them, and why their perpetrator chose to abuse them and not the new woman. Onlookers may be fooled by the display that is put on for their benefit.

Anecdotally, with each new victim the perpetrator simultaneously becomes more abusive and more sneaky about concealing the abuse. He has not learned to stop abusing but he has learned where he went wrong in pushing his previous victim too far so she left.

Seasoned survivors I have spoken to are worried to death about their abuser's new partner but they often keep quiet, as speaking up will only back the story up of them being "crazy". Abusers don't change. They just get more clever.

The new woman will be the crazy ex one day too.

Remember you can use Clare's Law to check if a man in your life has a history of abuse or harassment of a partner or ex partner.

Myth #20: Women should publicly name their abuser to protect others.


Some people want to get as far away from their abuser as possible.

Some people cope by pretending it never happened, or wasn't as bad as they remember.

Some men don't reveal their true abusiveness until you have children together, so this particular woman may have escaped relatively unscathed.

Some people don't even realise what's happened to them.

Some people are in family court proceedings and can't say what's happening.

Some people have children with their abuser and don't want to be accused of alienation.

My friend spoke to a few different survivors of the same person who were STILL afraid to talk, years later.

Survivors don't "have" to do anything, especially when it puts them and their families at risk.

Myth #21: If you tell family or friends, they will support you to leave.


Not everybody can or will acknowledge domestic abuse.

There is so much shame and confusion about what is or isn't okay in a relationship.

The family may have a vested interest in the couple staying together, for keeping up appearances or keeping a community together, or avoiding being associated with something like domestic abuse.

Maybe family members are in denial about their own abusive relationship and need the survivor to show them it can be "fixed". Studies have shown that survivors will try and talk to family and friends before they will engage in services.

I have heard of family members bribing the survivor to stay, or telling them just one assault is okay. Or that marriage is just hard.

Read this: https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/relationships/2268977-The-Abuser-Profiles

Be aware of them dropping hints. Learn the signs of domestic abuse and show them you can be trusted and you believe survivors.

Myth #22: If she didn't say no, it was consensual.


Humans have different reactions to fear. The two well-known ones are fight and flight, but have you heard of freeze?

Survivors describe this perfectly without even knowing what it is.

They describe freezing in fear, maybe after they've tried to give hints that they're not okay with this, and their partner goes ahead anyway. Their reaction is to go still and possibly even dissociate from the experience. For women particularly this is a survival mechanism.

If you've never been abused you can't fathom how impossible it is to say "no" to your abuser. You just don't. You've been trained.

This freezing and lack of a clear "no" means that in the eyes of the law, very little can be done.

Within the context of a coercive relationship, there is rarely true consent. One must believe that it is okay to say no to be able to say yes.


24-hour National Domestic Violence

Freephone Helpline

0808 2000 247

Cardiff Womens Aid

029 2046 0566

Your Shame Is Not My Shame | Mama Bird Doula

I felt it.

In my skin as it crawled, strapped into wire underwear, as the hair grew on my legs and I hunched my shoulders to hide my body and the baggy jumpers that fell to my knees.

It lived in me.

As a teenager, the guilt, the fear, disposable, sweaty, smelly, sinful, regress back to childhood with your French-braided hair, horses and fairytales.

Thought I killed it.

When I roared my child out of my body and faced oblivion, I saw the shame as separate from me and found strength in calling it by name at last.

I knew it.

When I wed after bed and my breasts were for feeding my child but it was disrespectful, distasteful, don't let the old men see.

Confirmed it. I was forced to confront, I dove deep, lay in the dark of the shame and bathed in it. Pointed my toes to the moonlight, in awe of the tar of it. Felt it hot and sticky where I was coated in it.

I realised it wasn't mine.

When I rose from the darkness only to be batted down.

When their eyes wouldn't make contact with mine.

When the panic grew in my throat and my soul screamed no and I felt the shame try to claw me back, just one last time...


And you're right about one thing, I am easy after all. Easy to love, easy to trust, easy to laugh with, easy to spend time with, I move my body with the ease that it is to be me, to be free. Free of the shame that so long lived in this perfect body.

So you keep throwing shame

And I'll keep being free