Celebrate International Women's Day with us as we interview inspiring women from all walks of life.
When I came across Nathalie on Instagram to say I was intrigued was an understatement, but what I didn't realise was how inspired and beautiful this interview would become. Nathalie's views on birth and how she can support women is so inspiring, but most intriguing is her conversation about support in motherhood, and how western society has shaped a new normal for women.
It was an absolute privilege to interview Nathalie for our 'At Home with' series this International Women's Day and a must read for anyone navigating pregnancy or motherhood, with some much welcomed advice we all need to remind ourselves to follow.
Tell us a bit about you? Where are you from? Who’s in your family?
I grew up between Germany, Spain and Guatemala and later on went to work in the U.S. I met my Australian partner André, 15 years ago, when I moved back to Germany. We have two beautiful sons: Pablo, 9, and Dei, 2. We spent many years living between Berlin and Byron Bay until Pablo started school here. André’s parents have been living here for many decades so it was an easy decision for us to base ourselves here rather than in Berlin. I really wanted my kids to grow up in nature and not in the city. We feel very lucky to call this place our home!
What is your background and how did you get to where you are today?
I have a Masters in Cultural Anthropology and used to work in Arts and Culture organising international symposiums, dance/literature festivals and art exhibitions. When I moved to Byron Bay I worked in Fashion as a manager for Spell. After I gave birth to Pablo I decided to follow my calling and become a full-time Birth Doula.
When did you decide to become a doula and what was the journey like?
Like for so many of us my life changed and transformed in big ways when I became a mum and I simply couldn’t go back to my former career. I wanted to do something more meaningful, something that makes a real difference in people’s lives. When I went through my own ‘Matrescence’ (the process of becoming a Mother) I realised how little holistic support there was available for new mums so I became certified as a birth professional and sought out the best in the field to do my training with. I was lucky enough to study with luminaries such as Dr. Michel Odent, Liliana Lammers, Gail Tully (Spinning Babies), Debra Pascali Bonaro (Orgasmic Birth), Nadine Richardson (SheBirths) and many others. After seven years of working in private practice both in Berlin and Byron Bay, I started working for Cleo as a virtual doula and parent coach. Cleo is a family benefits platform / tech start-up based in San Francisco. Through Cleo I currently support hundreds of parents in over ten countries from pre-conception, pregnancy, postpartum into parenthood.
Can you tell us a little about what a Doula is and how they support women through pregnancy and postpartum?
A doula is a birth professional who supports parents through pregnancy, birth and postpartum. As a doula I provide emotional, informational and practical support so that parents feel informed, empowered and can find confidence in their own parenting decisions. I offer antenatal education, inform parents about their rights in pregnancy and childbirth, help them find a care provider that matches their needs, support them in creating a birth/ postpartum plan and prepare them for life with a newborn baby. My aim is to ensure that the pregnant mum has the safest, healthiest and most positive birth and postpartum experience. I go on call at 38 weeks until mum goes into labour and then support the parents throughout labour and birth until a few hours after. From then on I help the new family adjust to life with a newborn baby. I support mum’s physical and emotional recovery, help her process the birth, provide guidance around breastfeeding and newborn care, as well as infant sleep and settling. I also connect parents to other perinatal health care providers and community resources when needed.
What do you find the hardest part about motherhood/ motherhood in business?
The hardest part about motherhood is not having enough support. When we look at most traditional cultures around the world they raise their children communally with the help of sisters, aunties, and elders. New mums are never alone and there is always other caring family members around to lend a helping hand. In Western society however, we live in nuclear families and spend a lot of time alone at home with our babies. Biologically though we are wired to expect support and community around us during pregnancy and motherhood. So the lack of it has implications on our mental health and emotional wellbeing. Parenting is a 24/7 job so it’s vital we have enough support around us.
This of course also translates to work and business. As parents we are juggling a lot - often with such little support. On one hand, we are very privileged to be in a position where we can create our ‘dream business’. On the other hand, we are still coming up against the limitations that are inherent in the way our culture and society operates. Its values are largely based on industrial, capitalist and patriarchal ideas which do not center around the wellbeing of mothers, children and families or that of our communities and planet. So how can working families thrive in a system that is not focused on people but profit? Supporting families should be at the forefront of our political agendas as parents are the ones raising our future society. What could be more important?
What inspires you?
I derive a lot of inspiration from connecting with people. I listen to the struggles, hopes, dreams, aspirations and challenges of mums and dads every single day. I am always inspired by how resilient we are as parents and how we have so much in common. We all just want the best for our children while having our own needs met too. Everyone wants to feel seen and heard, and have their feelings validated. Feeling safe and connected is essential in any relationship whether within the parent-child dyad or between partners. I care deeply about the families I work with and I feel honoured to be asked to walk some of this path alongside them. So in this way my work inspires me every day.
Outside of work I derive inspiration from nature, the ocean, my children, my partner - who is an endless well of creativity and ideas! My friends inspire me too. They all care deeply about humanity and our planet and we are all trying to do our part in contributing to something greater than us. That inspires me.
Women inspire me too. Seeing how strong, powerful and wise our bodies are. Everyone who has ever witnessed a birth has so much more reverence for mothers and babies and the courageous journey they go through to bring life earth-side.
If you could offer new mamas one piece of advice it would be…?
Don’t feel like you need to do any of this alone or have this all worked out. You’re not meant to. Ask for support, surround yourself with a tribe of people who care about you and see the best in you.
Don’t compare your children to other people’s children, don’t listen to all of the ‘noise’ out there. Tune into your inner voice, your parenting instinct, and always always always listen to your intuition. This is your inner parenting compass. You know your child best, just like you know your body best. A doctor might be a medical expert but YOU are the expert on your body, birth and baby.
"Don’t feel like you need to do any of this alone or have this all worked out. You’re not meant to."
What advice would you give to another woman thinking about becoming a doula and what is involved?
I mentor a lot of emerging doulas and they all share the same passion to serve and support families. During our mentoring sessions we chat a lot about the realities of on-call life, how to make this work with their unique family situation and how to turn this passion into a viable career. Just like amongst midwives, the burnout rates are also high for doulas so it’s vital to have a realistic understanding of what this work actually entails because it’s not just about holding hands and smelling newborn babies’ heads. As birth professionals we all work within a system that is essentially broken. Many people don’t know how challenging it can be to navigate this.
What are four things you can’t live without?
What do you want your kids to learn about the world?
I am lucky to have two boys who are naturally kind, compassionate and have a deep connection with nature. So I feel these are three big boxes ticked already. As they become older I enjoy having conversations with them about their own family history and ancestry so they know where they are coming from. This will pave the path to help them understand other people’s histories too which is an important part of parenting I believe - especially in this day and age and especially living here in Australia.
Over the next few years I also look forward to traveling more with them again and raising them in the same way I was raised: to become citizens of the world.
What’s on your manifest board?
A holiday house in Hydra, Greece :-) Since I was a young child I have always had a strong connection with the Mediterranean and my partner shares this passion with me. Ever since we went on a family holiday to Hydra we fell in love with the idea of having a holiday house there and use this as a hub for friends, family and artists to come together. I like to think that every day we are inching ourselves towards this dream - one step at a time. Having this shared dream really fuels us.