Homemade Mother of the Week: Alice O’Connor, Doula

This post is the 12th in the series “Homemade Mother of the Week.” If you know a woman who is thoughtfully sharing her passion for the planet, families or the well-being of others, please nominate her for this special recognition.  Send an email with all the details to maureen@homemademothering.com

This week I am so happy to introduce you to Alice O’Connor.  Alice is a fellow Chicago mama who is making a difference one birth at a time working as a doula and birth instructor. She is compassionate, caring and knowledgeable.  I wish all new mothers had a resource like her!

Check out Alice’s website at www.happybirthdoula.com to learn more about Alice’s birth classes.

Homemade Mothering: Welcome to Homemade Mothering, Alice!  To start off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Alice O’Connor: I’m originally from mid-Wales, a beautiful part of the UK which I miss a lot (and annoyingly never really appreciated when I was growing up there!) where I had a very happy childhood, despite being a bit of a tearaway in my teens.
I went to University (twice over!) in Manchester (UK) and moved down to London after getting engaged to my wonderful husband, Oliver. We’ve moved back and forth between London and Chicago over the past 18 months with Oliver’s career but are finally settled in the windy city! We have a 2.5 year old daughter called Mary who is wonderful – but oh so stubborn at the moment – and the apple of our eyes…
HM: Why did you decide to become a doula?
AO: The birth of my daughter in 2010. It was actually Oliver who suggested I should become a doula, so I owe my entire career as a birth worker to him really! Mary’s birth, the actual act itself, was life-changing. Tough going for sure but something shifted in me during the process and I found out that I could actually accomplish something I set out to do (I have a tendency to get easily distracted!) and that me and my body alone were going to do this…I felt powerful…and although it was painful, I enjoyed the experience. It felt a bit like the buzz you get when you’ve done a really REALLY hard workout. After the birth and when I started considering my return to work, I realized that I couldn’t go back to my old job (in psychology, working with people who had severe and enduring mental health needs) – because now all I wanted to do was talk and think and talk and think and talk and talk and think a bit more about birthing and babies and how I might make a career out of this talking and thinking. I was considering midwifery but then Oliver casually said “you should just become a doula” and it was a lightbulb moment for me. Of course. I should become a doula. So I quit my job and did the course!
HM: What kind of training have you completed?
AO: My initial birth and post-natal doula training was with a UK-based doula training company, Nurturing Birth (a Doula UK approved training company) who I am certifying through. I’ve since taken continuing education courses on Breastfeeding, VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean), Inductions, PPH (Post-Partum Hemorrhage) Pre-eclampsia, Birth Physiology, Anatomy and most recently have completed the BOLD Method Birth Facilitators training course.
HM: Tell us a about the birth classes you host.
AO: At the risk of sounding cheesy I’m really excited about these classes! They are truly unique to the current birth preparation classes being offered in Chicago. I’m not just saying that to plug my business –  I promise they are based on the BOLD Method for Birth syllabus – I’m currently the only certified teacher of these methods in Chicago (and Illinois) so it’s a new addition to the fantastic array of childbirth preparation classes currently being offered to moms. They explore the emotional aspects of birthing and work on getting moms to really express their feelings, beliefs, attitudes and fears towards their birth so that it sets them free to have a positive, fear free and therefore safer and healthier birth. A happy birth! And that birth can be whatever they want it to be – these classes aren’t only for moms who want a natural birth. The last two students in my most recent class for example were planning to have an epidural. They are about empowering pregnant moms, helping moms to realize how brilliant they are and what they are capable of. They build birth confidence. The classes themselves are powerful and can act as a real eye-opener for moms. We do breathing techniques to calm our bodies and center ourselves, movement techniques such as qi-gong, to de-stress, and various therapeutic techniques to focus on issues which concern moms and then we use empowerment techniques to conquer these fears and liberate them! It sounds like a lot but its very easy going! Every class ends with a Yoga Nidra nap which is like a tonic to most pregnant mommas! I’m also doing classes for post-partum moms who need to take time to process their births or re-charge their batteries with a nap and have plans in place about doing a breastfeeding confidence class. I run all of my classes from my home (Lincoln Square) so moms come into a nurturing, safe, comfortable environment where anything goes. I really believe in the ability of these classes to help a mom stop dreading and fearing her birth and to start to appreciate her strength and beauty and brilliance.

HM: What is one piece of advice you would offer to a nervous first-time mom?
AO: Your body knows what to do. You know deep down what to do. If you are confident and comfortable and powerful in your day to day decisions and life choices, then you can be and will be in your birth too. Believe it. Oh and read a birth book by Ina May Gaskin!

HM: What is one piece of advice you would offer to a woman thinking about becoming a doula?
AO: Do it. But be aware that it becomes your life! So you will likely be either thinking/talking/researching about birthing or actually be at a birth most of the time! So make a bit of space in your life for doing non-birthing things once in a while.

HM: What do you like to do in your free time?

AO: Eat out! Food in the US is incredible! I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered tamales!! Watch The Office/Smash/Revenge/Once Upon a Time – you know, the classics! Play on the beach with Oliver and Mary. Visit the Field Museum and eat pancakes. Make and eat cakes, or versions of them with Mary. Laugh with and at friends!
HM: My readers love trying new recipes.  Can you share one of your favorites?

AO: One of my favorite recipes isn’t really a recipe and is actually just a cheat. Bake some regular chocolate cupcakes. When they’ve cooled a bit from cooking, gently scoop a chunk out of the top of them or cut a fairly big hole out. It has to be a good sized hole but not so big that the cake will fall apart wen you pick it up. Then, fill the hole to about 2/3 up with nutella and fill the remaining bit of the hole with the cut out cake. Dust with icing sugar to hide any unsightly bits et voila! extra yummy hiden chocolate cupcakes! It makes even the worst tasting cupcakes taste amazing!
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