FF 05: ‘Thoughts on Birth’ with Newcastle doula She Births educator Nichola Kinnane

Discover the magical benefits of a natural birth with local doula, Nichola Kinnane, and our very own Newcastle baby’s chiropractor, Dr. Dorte Bladt.

Nichola talks with us about supporting couples with knowledge and skills for birth.

Intro: Flourishing Families with Dr. Dorte Bladt, the Switched-On Kids chiropractor and her passionate friends sharing the secret of inspiring wellness to help your families thrive.

Dorte Bladt: I’d like to welcome Nichola Kinnane to our podcast today. It’s lovely for you to travel down and have a chat with us today. Welcome.

Nichola Kinnane: Thank you for having me, Dorte. It’s lovely to sit down and have a conversation.

Dorte Bladt: Excellent. So tell me, who are you, Nichola?

Nichola Kinnane: I am a doula and also a childbirth educator. At the moment, I’m offering the She Births course which is a holistic, evidence-based childbirth education course in the Newcastle and mid-north coast areas.

Dorte Bladt: Excellent. So just for our listeners, just tell me what is a doula?

Nichola Kinnane: A doula is an independent, professional childbirth support person. Generally, a couple or a single mother might employ me at some stage during her pregnancy and then you are on call for the pregnancy two weeks before the due date, two weeks after the due date, and you give support during that time and then attend the birth and just offer tools and techniques and support in whatever way that looks to be for the couple or for the mother.

Dorte Bladt: So what’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?

Nichola Kinnane: A midwife has been trained and is a nurse and a doula is an extra set of hands. We offer all those things that you might need, where there’s someone to hold the bucket while you vomit, will give massage, acupressure and even emotional support, and support for the dads as well so they can really be involved in the birth and help to facilitate a beautiful experience for all of you there.

Dorte Bladt: Excellent and how does that then fit in with the She Births experience that you offer?

Nichola Kinnane: Yes. Well, I trained as a doula about 10 years ago and since then I’ve had two children of my own. I was kind of dipping my toe back into the birth world and wanted to find something else. I had a diploma in counselling as well and I wanted to find something else that I could incorporate into that work that was still in birth and I found the She Births course which was developed by Nadine Richardson in Sydney, and it seemed the perfect addition to what I was already doing and I’ve really enjoyed sharing with couples so far.

The thing that I love about it is that in my experience training as a doula, I heard so many birth stories and listened to women, what they planned on using the birth they hoped to have and then I was able to also hear their experiences afterwards. In my training, I was going to birth classes with the women and going to mothers’ groups as well.

What I heard during that time for the year that I was doing my training is that women have really diverse experiences and you never know exactly what you need on the day of your labour, and with all the things that you think you want, you want the candles and you want the massage and then suddenly you’re in labour and it’s, “don’t touch me, don’t come near me!” You just want to be in that corner by yourself birthing but have the right team around you to support you and She Births is a fabulous course because it offers an opportunity to explore all of the tools and techniques that you might need. It also exposes your birth partner, whether it’s a dad or a partner or even a doula that you might bring if you’re a solo Mum, it exposes them to the tools and gets them very comfortable with what might be required of them and kind of demystifies birth, if you like.

They’re tools that we offer and that we teach, many of them evidence-based or just even anecdotally-based. We know that they work and then the more tools that you have, the more knowledge you have, the more confident you are on the day to take what you need and leave behind whatever you don’t.

Dorte Bladt: So just to clarify for me because it’s 500 years since I had kids, give or take. The She Births is set up as a certain amount of time that you spend going through techniques, like you said, “I would like massage and candles” but I end up in the corner. So are you going through the different scenarios into this may be what you’re thinking now and this could be another option, or this is also something you could look at? Is that how it’s set up?

Nichola Kinnane: Yes. So over the weekend, we look at three main pillars or components. We look at knowledge and the idea that knowledge is a powerful force and it helps to eliminate fear. So the more you’re prepared with the actual understanding of the body, the better prepared you are when you’re in that process to bear where you really let go and to trust in what’s happening and trust in your team.

The next area that we focus on is your inner knowledge or inner strength and that’s what women have been using since the beginning of time, the breathing and the movement, meditation, visualisations, more relaxation-based methods as well as active birth principles. So how you move, the positions you might be in, your yoga, etcetera, and then you have your other resources that you draw on and the biggest one is going to be your partner and your team, the midwives or doctors that you have or your doulas. But then also creating a lovely environment and then you come in with the massage tools and techniques or acupressure, and learning all of those components is really important to facilitating a really beautiful birth no matter what unfolds, no matter what kind of corners you come in with or what happens, the changes in plans that happen along the way.

The more prepared you are – and you can use those tools at any point in time – the more prepared you are, hopefully, the better that you’ll feel, the more empowered you’ll be because you’ll be an active part of the process.

Dorte Bladt: Right, that sounds good. So you said that you became a doula 10 years ago and then you’ve had a bit of time off with your children. What is your experience getting back into it now? I mean, we hear so much that we’re becoming more technological and there’s more intervention and there’s more fear, maybe as time goes on. What is your experience in that, like from a birth point of view, in the trends over the last 10 years, if any?

Nichola Kinnane: I think there’s a lot of different trends going on and I feel that for me and my experience, what I thought birth was before I had attended a birth as a doula was very different to what I saw in the room and I think that there’s a lot of fear, like you said, based on birth stories that we might be hearing, or media, how it’s portrayed. Often, it’s really funny to see someone rushed in a cab to a hospital in the movies but it’s not necessarily like that. It can be extremely spacious. It can be days and if I hadn’t had the experience of being trained as a doula before I had my own children, I probably would have just done a very – not a conventional route – but I might not have been empowered in my choices because I would have been doing what I thought everyone was doing.

But as a doula, I had explored the avenues. I’ve heard stories of women who had explored other avenues themselves and it created possibility for myself that I could have something that looked different. My birth could be different. My experience of parenting could be different. That was really exciting and I’m really glad that I had done that training.

Dorte Bladt: You mentioned before when we were talking before we started the podcast that you look a lot at the mind-body connection. What’s your experience with that?

Nichola Kinnane: Yes. In my early 20s, my mother had taken me to a chiropractor who worked with kinesiology. I remember being very sceptical of this process, not really understanding why I was talking about feelings and thoughts that I had been having when I was eight years old, but after a period of time, I realised that my body felt much better and my mind also felt much better from working with the two together, so I became very curious about this mind-body connection.

It’s something that really excited me in the She Births courses that we look at mind-body connection and how you process your thoughts and feelings and how that can translate into the room and start to uncover, and really it is a self-reflective weekend as much as it is a birth course. It encourages couples to look at their own beliefs and attitudes and work from there to be active in the process for themselves.

Dr. Dorte Bladt: Fantastic… and you mentioned that it’s evidence-based?

Nichola Kinnane: Yes, it is evidence-based, so a lot of the tools and the techniques we have the corresponding research that backs up why we would be recommending that. Then it is also the only course in the world that’s been scientifically verified to lower epidural by 65% and the caesarean section rates by 44% and it has a resuscitation reduction rate for babies at 53%. So it really improves outcomes for mothers and babies as well, and that research paper was published in the British Medical Journal in 2016, so if anyone is interested they would see it on the shebirths.com website or could probably search for it in Google.

Dorte Bladt: So what’s your actual background? What did you do before you became a doula?

Nichola Kinnane: Before I became a doula – well, coming off the experience with the chiropractor and the kinesiologist, I ended up training as a holistic kinesiologist. I felt very passionate about the mind-body process and working with the body to relieve stress and to help the body function a little bit better. Then I worked as a kinesiologist and then I started hearing this word ‘doula’ which was quite surprising for me because I had no friends with babies, I have no nieces or nephews and then suddenly I was thinking, yes, I’m going to be a birth support. I’m going to sit with women and hold babies.

I thought about the process… It was beautiful and it was such an eye-opening experience, something that I had never experienced before, but the kinesiology and then working as a doula and then doing my training as a counsellor and then, now, the childbirth education all works in together and all that knowledge is the foundations building up to where I am now.

Dorte Bladt: So you mentioned that you potentially go to birth classes with people, or used to, anyway. What’s the difference between the normal antenatal classes that I think most of us do going through and preparing for birth and the She Births Program? Is there a difference?

Nichola Kinnane: Every course is definitely different. There’s a difference between the independent childbirth classes and the hospital classes. I haven’t been to every single class available so I can’t really speak as to what the specific differences are between that, the She Births class in my experience and in the classes I was doing as well about 10 years ago, so that was when I was training as a doula, and I think that there are more tools and techniques that have been incorporated since then, but a lot of them are the eastern wisdom and tools and techniques along with the western medicine have been combined pretty well.

I did go to one class when I was having my second child just as a refresher but I went through the hospital. My experience and this is definitely not everyone else’s experience, it’s just simply my experience, was that I didn’t feel a connection to the process of the birth which was what I was really looking for, I guess, to reconnect to the baby.  You’re about to give life to something and you’re with your partner and your family is going to change, the dynamics are going to change. I was really looking for that connection from the class which is something that I didn’t get… but that’s not to say that women and couples don’t get that.

Dorte Bladt: Yeah. You also mentioned I think that you do some following-up. Is that with the doula? I can’t remember now, but the following-up after the birth, so when there is that change in family dynamics. How does that fit into what you’re doing?

Nichola Kinnane: As a doula, what I would do to postnatal visits and just check in. There are some great antenatal doulas as well. So for anyone that doesn’t know what that is, you employ a doula who would be coming in post-birth, as opposed to a birth doula, and supporting you during that time.

In the She Births course, we look at settling. We also look at breastfeeding and conscious parenting too, so the choices that you make in the birth are really about the three of you and those choices can then laid on when you take the baby home and how you want to live your life and recreating your life in that sense.

Dorte Bladt: It is recreating it, isn’t it?

Nichola Kinnane: It is! It is a process and it is a lot of change. I think going slowly and just doing the best that you can be doing. Then if something is not really working, just being curious as to why it’s not working and knowing that you can make decisions and it’s your baby, it’s your relationship with your partner and that’s possible.

Something that down the track I’ll be looking at doing in Newcastle is Soul Mama Circles which is mothers’ groups for women. The women mostly will be coming from the She Births Groups that I’ll be running, but then if other people are interested in joining it or are like-minded – of course, we talk about settling and sleep and poo and all those sorts of things – but we really want to focus more on transitions and talk about the meatier stuff in there too.

Dorte Bladt: Do you find it, I’m probably incredibly cynical when I say this, but does that whole change in the western lifestyle where we keep talking about Mum and Dad and baby or Mum and Dad and children, do you feel that there has been an increase in the need for people like a doula or a support person or She Births because we don’t have aunties, we don’t have cousins, we don’t have grandparents? We don’t have that exchange of wisdom through our wider community. We do sort of end up on our own, as in, “oh my goodness, now I’m a Mum, how the heck do we do this?”

I remember feeling that.  Again, it’s a long time since I had kids but what are your thoughts on that?

Nichola Kinnane: I think that there definitely has been a change to being the nuclear family and not having as much community. Also, people have been moving from other areas and so they might not have family close. There are services out there, for sure, that you can call on to support, but often people don’t even know where to begin.

So it’s the middle of the night and your baby is screaming and you’re not too sure what’s going on, but you feel like the breastfeeding is not really coming together. A lot of them might not know that there’s a breastfeeding association hotline that you can use 24/7 and it’s free, or that you can have doulas come to your home or you can have someone to come and help settle your baby so you can go to sleep early, and that the community centres have nurses that have lots of wisdom there, too.

So I think that it’s a balance of having Doctor Google at your fingertips where you can find out everything or be overwhelmed by that then also be isolated, but just because you have more access to knowledge doesn’t mean that you’re more connected in that sense.

Dorte Bladt: No, you’re probably getting less connected because you get overwhelmed or it could also be and then suddenly you start thinking that this is really bad.

Nichola Kinnane: Yeah. So I think that having a few great practitioners, whether it be a chiropractor or anything that works for you, someone you connected with before you have children and then you continue that relationship afterwards just so you have resources at your fingertips, it’s better to have that sooner rather than later for sure.

Dorte Bladt: That makes sense, doesn’t it? It is about using your community, using your friends and being able to be vulnerable enough to reach out and say, “oh, my goodness. I feel a little bit out of my depth,” and reach out.

Nichola Kinnane: Yes and also friends and family or anyone just knowing that giving someone time with their baby is really, really important but also it doesn’t take much to text and check in and say, “we’ll drop a home-cooked meal at the door,” or anything like that.

Dorte Bladt: That sounds all right. Can I have one of those?

Nichola Kinnane: Yes, me too.

Dorte Bladt: So just to keep this a bit light-hearted, is there a particularly funny experience that sticks out in your mind that you may have had in your years either as a She Births facilitator or as a doula?

Nichola Kinnane: Yes. I think that something that I think about and I share with my couples is the first She Births Course that I did with Nadine when I was just sitting there and teaching with my training. She was teaching and it was… you go around and you have your introductions. One of the couples – it was their turn to share who they were and why they were there and everything, and it got to the dad and he said, “well, this morning I thought I was going to Bunnings and I was brought to She Births and I found out that I’m spending two days in a childbirth education class.”

But he did it! He stayed the whole weekend and he was right into it doing all the massage and everything else. I just love that story because, often, the women, they’re having this experience. They’re growing the baby, they’re online, they would have read the website ten times and then checked my profile as a She Births educator. So things like, “what has she done,” da-da-da. The dad’s kind of might have some form of… you know, they’re right there with their partners. Other times, they sort of don’t know what they’re going into, but any guy that goes to a course called She Births has to be a kind of pretty cool guy.

Dorte Bladt: Nothing wrong with Bunnings.

Nichola Kinnane: Nothing wrong with Bunnings. I just thought, okay, just…

Dorte Bladt: You can stop there on the way back.

Nichola Kinnane: Yes, you can definitely stop there on the Sunday night.

Dorte Bladt: Do you have any advice for some of the Mums that may be listening to this on our podcast?  Something that you feel makes a big difference in that whole getting ready to create life.

Nichola Kinnane: I think the biggest piece of advice that rings true for me at the moment is to be curious and to be open to the possibility of things being different and to trust your intuition around that. So don’t be afraid to question the care that you’re getting because you want to build a solid team with all your caregivers, doctors, midwives, doulas and partners. Make sure everyone is on the same page and be open to the possibility that you can have a beautiful birth no matter what that looks like. It can be very different for everybody and the women that come to She Births and do the courses, they might be wanting a totally natural birth with no intervention at all. They might be electing to have an epidural, even elective caesareans – you can still do the course and use all the tools and techniques. A beautiful birth is one where you feel empowered in yourself and as a couple and as a family. So be open and curious about the possibilities out there.

Dorte Bladt: Perfect. Thank you so much for your time today. Just to clear this up so people know – tell me again, who are you? Where are you from? Where can people find you?

Nichola Kinnane: So my name is Nichola Kinnane and if you want any more information about the She Births Course, you can look at https://shebirths.com. At the moment, I’m offering the courses in Newcastle, in Charlestown, and as a doula, the doula directory has lots of great doulas in the area and my details are up there too.

Dorte Bladt: Excellent. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you coming down today.

Nichola Kinnane: Thank you, Dorte.

Outro: The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Family Chiropractic or the host. Brought to you by Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown, serving the families in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Charlestown.