Meet Olivia, a business mum supporting other mums across the North East as a doula. She recently visited our Sunderland studio for a professional head shot session and a chat about her business. Her work in itself is fascinating and her ability to find balance between her business and family life is truly inspiring!

Can you tell me a few words about your work and what inspired you to start your own business?

I’m a doula and radical birth-educator. I work with people who know that birth can be powerful and life-changing in the best of ways. People who want to question and challenge, what they’ve been told and give birth in a way that’s right for them that may not correspond with the rigid guidelines and policies of the maternity system. I help them to feel really
confident in their choices through a combination of quite deep inner work alongside helping them unpack the evidence-based information so they feel able to stand up for their choices and not be pushed down a route of risk-adverse obstetric management, giving them the greatest possible chance of having the birth they want. Since having my second
baby in 2018 I’ve not been attending births, but will be back on-call from the start of 2020.

I used to work in community-arts but after having my first baby 4.5 years ago I was shocked at how many people I knew had very difficult traumatic births as a result of pressure and guidelines to accept unnecessary interventions which put them on the rollercoaster of interventions. I saw the knock-on effects this had as they began motherhood. I’d been lucky enough to have doula-friends at my birth and the difference they made was enormous. So not long after ending my maternity leave I trained as a doula and the rest is history!

In your experience, what are the ups and downs of being self-employed and an active parent?

It’s meant I’ve been able to be around a lot for my children, as I’ve been able to work around them which I’m so grateful for. Though stepping back from attending births since my littlest was born has been a hard decision to make. Knowing that I’m doing something I really care about is very important to me, and I feel so motivated by what I do that it really re-energises me in going back to my kids and feeling very present and fulfilled around them.

The tricky parts have been not just being able to step back into work after maternity leave. Adjusting to life with two small children was a much bigger challenge than I anticipated and it meant I just wasn’t able to put much energy into my business for the first 10-11 months after my son was born so it’s felt like I’ve had to put a lot of time and energy into building things back up. My husband is also self-employed and has gone through an incredibly busy past year, so it’s meant that until the last couple of months I haven’t been able to give my business the attention and focus I’d hoped to. It’s both a plus and a challenge that as a self-employed mother I’m totally responsible for the direction of my business - which is great when things are going well, and harder when life is getting in the way!

What are your business goals, where would you like to see yourself in a few years?

I view what I do as part of a much bigger picture in challenging the current status-quo that isn’t serving women and babies. This includes helping people re-connect with pregnancy and birth as so much more than the medical event it’s currently treated as and to reclaim their voice in the process. One of my goals is to have a big online presence in order to help people realise that the maternity system needs to work for them, not the other way around. This includes creating some amazing facilitated on-line courses supporting women through this process and journey wherever they are in the world to take up space and demand more from their maternity care. I also want to revolutionise what good pregnancy support looks like - I think this starts in early pregnancy, ideally even before, and I want to be working alongside people from the earliest point possible so that they can really dive deep into strengthening their voice, self-belief and inner confidence to have a pregnancy and birth on their terms. I think there is so much personal self-development and inner-work that needs doing when it comes to feeling confident to have the birth that feels right for you - a lot of ‘unlearning’ all the ways we’ve been taught we need to behave.

At the moment, I work one-to-one with clients. But I’m going to be developing more group-courses and widening my offering. This is about shifting people’s perceptions of what pregnancy and birth can be, altering the landscape of birth. At the moment while I’ve still got my youngest at home a few days a week I’m only working part-time, but in a few years once he’s started school I feel like I’m going to be firing on all cylinders with such a huge scope. I see myself doing this work with even greater passion, knowledge and ability. And I’m open to all the ways this evolves.

Do you have any words of encouragement for other mums considering starting their own business?

If it energises you, and gives you purpose and passion then it’s so absolutely worth it. Starting my own business has been very confronting but nothing has revolutionised my life, the way I mother, how I see myself and all the inner work it’s prompted in the same way. It’s been life-changing and not in the way I expected.

Olivia recently partnered up with Sarah, an owner at the Indie Midwife and their joined project The Rebel Birth Podcast is bringing the much needed wealth of knowledge and support for birthing mamas. It’s a woman-centred initiative, offering women an invaluable support at all stages of their birthing journey, covering both a medical perspective and a natural ‘intuitive’ approach to birth and pregnancy. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. 

To follow Olivia’s work, check: