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What are you putting up with?

AutumnAutumn has arrived and I have mixed feelings about this new season; I love seeing the leaves change, I get so much pleasure out of picking up conkers, and nothings beats snuggling up under a blanket. But I really don’t enjoy layering up so much, and cycling in the rain ain’t much fun either (and yes, I still haven’t purchased a mudguard).

I feel blessed that mother nature is giving us such a strong message; the lean winter months are coming, it’s time to take stock and prepare. This is the perfect time of year to let go of things which no longer serve you, including the past. It is a time to look forward, what do you want to carry with you through the quieter, darker months? As we move into autumn and winter, our bodies adjust to the new seasons with a natural desire to rest more. The heat and burst of energy of the summer is behind us, now is the time for rest, sleep and renewal.

With that in mind, what do you want to use your energy on or for?

Last year I made a list, it was a long list. It was a list of everything I was putting up with. I went through all the spheres of my life, work, pleasure, relationships, unfinished projects, health issues, living space etc. I wrote down everything I wasn’t happy about and I didn’t hold back. I wrote about the “big” stuff, the relationships that weren’t fulfilling me, the flat I didn’t like, not owning a gorgeous handbag (oh come on, of course that’s important). I also got down to the minutiae of life, the trousers that weren’t hemmed, owning a bike which sat unhappily in the corner of the room with a puncture, not having enough socks …

When I was done, and it did take a while, I went through the list and checked off everything I was prepared to put up with. For instance, I was (and still am) prepared to travel across London to go to an amazing yoga class, I’m happy to travel outside of London to see an amazing therapist, I’m willing to continue to invest in relationships when the other person is too.

All the other stuff? I made changes. Some were instant and easy (buying socks), some took a while and involved tears (ending my marriage). And I’ll be honest, I haven’t made it through the whole list yet, so I’m going to write a new one. As we go into hibernation mode this is what I’m asking myself:

  • What’s missing from my life?
  • Where would I like more clarity?
  • Where can I create space?
  • What and whom do I want to invest my energy / time / love / money in?
  • What’s taking up my time that I don’t enjoy and could in all honesty, stop being involved in?
  • What can I wrap up now whilst my energy is high so that I’m not carrying the weight of unfinished things into the winter?
  • What three things do I want to focus on to ensure they happen?

Your turn: 

What’s on your list? Think big, think small. Connect with what’s important.

Give yourself permission to trim the fat out of your life.

Dear Self, this autumn I promise to …

  • OranginaTake stock of the last year; take a step back and appreciate everything which I’ve worked towards or which has come my way. This is the harvest season after all.
  • Buy a winter coat which will keep me warm and dry for years to come.
  • Be visible, so that those I’m able to help can find me (note to self, make that a bright orange coat —->).
  • Frame the drawings I’ve accumulated, I want to be surrounded by beauty when I’m indoors.
  • Find and book a venue for my February workshop. Sound exciting? Watch this space.
  • Always have some homemade soup on standby. Time to get on the bone broths too.
  • Keep moving; yoga, dancing and cycling. It might be time to take the plunge and invest in a mudguard.
  • Speak the truth about how I’m feeling.
  • Get out and go for a walk in the park when I have phone calls to make or take.
  • Only commit to people and projects I have the passion, energy and time for.
  • Make good use of my Le Creuset pot and share any delicious recipes I come across.
  • Take care of myself by wearing thermal socks when I’m outside, slippers when I’m inside.
  • Book my winter holiday to Mexico; tacos, sunshine and margaritas, here I come!

What do doulas charge?

This post has been brewing for a long time. I’ve ummed and ahed about it, started typing, deleted everything, and the topic still kept niggling away. Then I read Rebecca Wright’s story, A Doula Doesn’t Run a Business over on Corrina Gordon-Barnes’ website, and hey presto, the words just started flowing:

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of what doulas, and more specifically, I charge, I want to ask you about what you would charge for doing whatever it is that you work as, if …

  • You were in contact with each client by phone or email for an average of six months, not constant contact by any means, but it’s a long time to commit to supporting someone for.
  • You spent a minimum of six hours with them in antenatal sessions … and a further five hours during optional treatments.
  • You were on call for each client for roughly a month, and most of the time worked with one client at a time.
  • During that month of being on call you were never more than an hour away from your client, you always had your phone with you and fully charged, and couldn’t drink more than one alcoholic drink at a time in case they called.
  • You knew that they would most likely call you between 1am and 3am.
  • That you would have to cancel or reschedule the rest of your life at the drop of a hat; miss out on gigs or trips to the theatre, cancel appointments, arrange last minute childcare … walk out of a VERY hot date.
  • You might be with your client for ten hours, or 52. Yup, 52. It happens.
  • You had to plan your life six months in advance, which would mean not be able to celebrate your friends 40th birthday party in Paris, your other friends hen do in Norfolk (just as exciting!) because you had already committed to your clients.
  • Finally, what would you charge, knowing that doing this job made it very hard for you to earn money in another way, so it’s likely to be your sole or main form of employment.

I’m curious, what figure resonated for you? Oh and by the way, if you’re not too sure what a doula actually does, you can watch this delightful video which I made for people just like you. You’re welcome.

So, what do we charge?

As far as I’m aware, current prices in the UK range from £200 to £2000. In the interest of transparency, I charge £2000, and I love how that feels. Why? Because it means I can commit to being a doula, 100%, and I *love* being a doula.

Are you ready for some brutal honesty? 

Two years ago, I was charging £850 a birth, I had no shortage of clients and … I was broke.

Was I living a lavish lifestyle? No. I was trying to finish my degree and cover my bills, and I was struggling. What did I do? I spent the last £150 left available in my overdraft on a Clarity Session with Corrina. That was a sound investment. She asked me all sorts of enlightening questions and then walked me through a resonant pricing exercise, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that £2000 was my resonant price. I was also petrified, petrified of what others would think. Oh dear, my critic was looming large. You see, being a doula is a very giving role and usually one that’s about our love of all things birth, not money. We seem to have developed the bad habit of putting our clients’ needs before our own. Not surprisingly, many doulas suffer from burnout, and I didn’t want that to happen to me.

What changed?

In the end it was my clients who told me to charge more. Hiring a doula is a bit tricky because, as a prospective client, I don’t think you know exactly how much you’re getting till you’re out the other side. For years couples had been telling me, “we can’t believe what you’ve done for us, you really don’t charge enough for what you do”. It took one of them tipping me £500 for me to finally take notice, in fact I almost fell over (thank you clients, thank you universe).

Reaching acceptance.

The great thing about resonant pricing is that you simply *know* what the “right” price is for you, which also means trusting that it’s the right price for your clients, so that’s what I do.

I love birth work, but before I raised my fee, I was starting to resent it because I was giving so much but not receiving enough to allow me to do it wholeheartedly. Now, I’m not raking it in by any means, but I don’t have to worry about paying my bills, which means I can be wholly present and committed to supporting my clients. It means I can go to a yoga class every week, which helps me to work through my own shit so that I don’t carry it over into my working life. It means I can eat nutritious food and keep my stress levels low, so that I’m healthy and calm enough to do my job well. It also means that after a birth, I can treat my sleep-deprived body to a soothing massage.

So. Much. Better.

My “oh s@*t ” moment of the week and how I asked for help.

EmailsHow’s work been for you recently; have you been busy?

I’ll be 100% honest with you, my business has been … s l o w.

As in, NO new business. Sure, I’ve been rocking it with my regular clients and I’ve been busy with my existing birth clients, but where have all the newbies gone? It’s unusual for me to hear from nobody new for a whole … THREE WEEKS! So I started wondering what in the hell was going on, did a few test emails and discovered that my contact form had stopped working AND I couldn’t find any trace of the lost emails **hits head on desk**.

I bugged out. 

I spent a few hours tweaking my site, trying to remedy the issue. I hunted my inbox and spam folders, I contacted my website host. No joy. I was relieved that I knew what the issue was, but I couldn’t fix it and the stress of it all was starting to impact my personal life. I ended a phone call with someone very dear to me because I felt unable to listen to what they were saying, I needed help.

All hail the power of Twitter! I tweeted ONE request for WordPress help, in which I asked two people to retweet (muchas gracias, Corrina and Katy). Within fifteen minutes, I had three offers of help. Within 24 hours and thanks to Benny from Michigan (seriously, how amazing is Twitter?), I had a new contact form AND an online booking service!

How do I feel now?

  • I’m pleased that I tried to resolve the problem myself.
  • I’m delighted that I didn’t waste any more time doing the same things when they clearly weren’t working.
  • I’m proud that I asked for help.
  • I’m grateful that someone else could solve my problem within minutes.

margaritaIf I didn’t ask for help, I would’ve remained stressed, struggled to connect and be present with my patients and loved ones, and given less-than-great treatments (boo!)

Clearly, not asking for help would have cost me a lot in both my professional and personal life.

Asking for help left me free to focus on what’s important to me (designing killer treatment plans and catching up with a former client over a spicy margarita, ok, a few), it meant that a friendly person on the other side of the ocean was able to use their skills to relieve my pain, and I ended up with more than I started with, now that I have online scheduling (something I’ve been planning for ages).

Can you relate?

Is there something which you’re struggling with at the moment; something which causes you emotional and/ physical pain? Maybe it’s something which is recent or maybe it’s been bothering you for some time. Either way, I’m imagining that it’s tough for a variety of reasons. I also imagine that this issue is costing you a lot (time, pain, money, relationships etc).

If it’s something which you feel I can help you with, menstrual cycle complaints and fertility issues etc, I’d love to hear from you.

If it’s something you imagine I can’t help you with, I’d still love to hear from you. Sometimes the most important thing is to reach out and ask for help, and if I can’t help, I’m betting I know someone who might be able to.

Your turn:

Are you a magician when it comes to technology? Do you have a talent which can help people in need? Do you know someone who does such incredible work that you just want to share them with the world?

If so, please comment below or head over to my brand spanking new contact form. Go on, you know you want to!


P.S. I never did find any of the missing emails, so if you haven’t heard back from me, my profuse apologies and do try again.

P.P.S. I’m still looking for an illustrator to help me with an exciting new collaboration, can you help me?

But I thought you were a health freak?

Last night I went to my weekly yoga class in Clapham (it’s worth travelling for), and before the class started some of us were talking about Pancake Day; my contribution to the conversation was the revelation that I once ate 23 pancakes in one sitting.

Yes you read correctly; 23.

I can also put an entire pancake in my mouth at once but I didn’t bother sharing this tidbit as someone had already exclaimed, “but I thought you were a health freak!”

Practitioners of the healthy lifestyle variety tend to be viewed as holier-than-thou. Can I let you in on a secret? We’re not. Everyone of us has a vice and mine is cake: A wedge of victoria sponge, my friend Sandee’s carrot cake which is super moist because she uses pineapple juice in it, butterscotch brownies, honey and parsnip cake with pistachio frosting… the list goes on. I love cake so much that my nickname in secondary school was “Fat Lisa”, not because I was overweight but because I was regularly spotted eating two slices of cake for lunch (my given name is Lisa-Mae, so that accounts for why I wasn’t Fat Maisie).

I’m hoping that in reading this you’re feeling a sense of relief, we are all human, we are all programmed to crave and seek food with a high fat content. Back when food was scarce, eating foods which were highly calorific was essential for survival, and when we consumed them we were rewarded with a surge of feel-good hormones to ensure that we continued to seek out these reliable food sources. However, these days most of us live in a culture of abundance, but when we eat high fat foods we still get that feel-good kick.

Recently I bumped into an acupuncture client at a local café and as we were chatting she glanced at what was in front of me; a coffee with one sugar and a chunky slice of ginger and molasses cake. She went on to tell me, “I love that my acupuncturist drinks coffee with sugar in it and eats cake”. She felt relieved that her acupuncturist is “normal”. I felt relieved that she accepted me for being Fat Maisie. Ultimately our connection deepened and I think (hope) that as a result of our interaction, she feels more able to share her vices with me.

I’m not saying that we should continuously indulge our cravings, it’s about figuring out what’s appropriate for you. If I was running around Hackney guzzling coffee and sweet treats all day, I wouldn’t be treating myself kindly or treating my patients responsibly. In fact it’s nigh on impossible for me to hear what someone’s pulse is telling me when all I can hear is my own heart racing after a coffee! Instead, I stick to having one or two coffee and cake sessions a week, and when I say sessions I don’t mean 23 pancakes. The rest of the time I happily stick to herbal teas, savoury snacks or squares of dark chocolate (it’s full of magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and other minerals, honest guv’).

As a practitioner it’s important that my clients feel able to be honest about their lifestyles with me, I like them to know that they won’t be yelled at. I’m not going to roll my eyes, shake my head or laugh at you. It takes a lot for some people to come for a treatment, so I’d rather congratulate you for showing up and being honest about your life. It’s far nicer when we feel acknowledged and accepted, right?

Let’s get real about what’s going on in our lives and remove the fear that if we dare to share what we struggle with, we’re going to be made to feel like we’re crap. Nobody needs that when they’re reaching out for support.

Doulas, midwives, and obstetricians. A recipe for disaster?

One of the big questions that I’m asked when I first meet with prospective clients is, “so what do the midwives and doctors think about doulas? Are there ever any conflicts?”

In my experience, it is VERY rare for there to be any issues with other healthcare professionals. On the whole, I find that my presence is welcomed and appreciated. Whilst my primary role is most definitely to support the mother, followed by the dad or other birth partner, having a doula-supported birth should make it a better experience for everyone involved.

When I transfer into hospital with clients, I cling to them like glue and do all I can to get us past triage and into a room as swiftly as possible. After that, unless something intense is going on and my client ‘needs’ me to be close, I take a step back. This allows the midwife to form a relationship with the mum, and I can’t stress enough how important this is; it is not a doula’s job to hog her client!

So what else do I do? (more…)

Dear Mum…

Thank you for:

  • Never being over-bearing, you only wanted us to be safe and happy. I cannot thank you enough for this, you didn’t place demands upon me, instead, you let me to blossom into ‘me’.
  • Having such a wicked sense of humour.
  • All the delicious birthday cakes you made for us (tractors, pigs, a Nirvana smiley face!)
  • Letting us explore, letting us make mistakes.
  • Raising us to be aware of others; to be polite, helpful, and friendly.
  • Encouraging us to develop our own opinions, and our own dreams.
  • Making us do the dishes.
  • Taking us to work with you, I think this helped to instill a good work ethic in both of us.
  • Wanting us to do well in school, without making it the be-all and end-all.
  • Teaching us to bake and cook.
  • Getting us to walk to school. I always left the house late, and having to walk there turned me into a super-fast walker.
  • Reading to us all the time when we were little, and for always making sure that we had lots of books to choose from as we grew up.
  • Sewing fun placemats, hot-water bottle covers, dressing gowns… knitting jumpers.
  • Letting me go to gigs and rock clubs when I was underage.
  • Being there when I needed you.
  • All the cuddles and “I love you”s.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, love Mais xxxxxx