Who am I during COVID-19?

Over the last year I have been considering the concept of identity as I have been moving away from my role as a midwife into new roles as a Celebrant and Yoga teacher. Taking on different roles can cause a blurring of boundaries and it was only when I spent time on a Celebrant retreat that I could dive deep and look at what I needed for internal shifts to take place and see that these three roles were not separate but connected and aligned together through my passion for relationships, human connection and spirituality.
This move was something I had planned and worked towards over two to three years and when I arrived and recognised I had achieved my aim, instead of patting myself on the back and acknowledging I had followed the path I had set out for myself I began to feel somewhat lost as this change took me from a world of familiarity and confidence with a strong identity into a time of transition, fear and lack of self belief.
It was good to have some clarity after the retreat, it was an alignment of moments, and it gave me the confidence and freedom to begin to be creative and stand in my strength in all three roles.

Tree Pose

Then along came the COVID-19 pandemic and like many of us my identity has changed again. Everyone’s world has changed, and even if roles stay the same, the responsibilities and actions within these roles have changed. Parents have become teachers, everyone is online, people becoming temporarily or permanently unemployed, couples remain engaged instead of married, retired NHS workers return to roles they said farewell to and families change enormously, losing loved ones without saying I love you and goodbye.

I was just beginning to build up my funeral celebrancy practice when social distancing measures were put in place and pregnant women were included in the high risk category and so I decided at that time, weeks before lockdown, to pause my funeral celebrancy practice and step back into my midwifery practice and also teach my yoga for pregnancy classes online. It did not seem right to be moving between the two roles due to the increasing risks.
The way funerals are being conducted now has changed dramatically and the situation is evolving on a daily basis.

Before donning PPE

As our roles and identities are turned around and upside down we may choose to take a little time to reflect on who we want to be during this time, recognising that we have had little choice in the decisions and the changes that we have had to make. On the whole we are choosing to comply with the decisions and changes for the greater good but we can still be angry, depressed and find difficulty in accepting the situation we find ourselves in. As David Kessler states here, this is a time of ‘different griefs’ and great discomfort.
I came across this info graphic, based on the comfort zone – growth zone model, recently that reminded me of models or cycles of reflection. To me these are layers of overlapping circles without a linear trajectory, we do not move in one way from fear to growth or action. We move back and forward between the zones hourly, daily, weekly just like Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Loss …. and that’s ok, that’s very normal right now.

As Kessler reminds us ‘this is a temporary state’ which we may go on to find ‘meaning’ in. He discusses this sixth stage of grief after he experienced grief for himself and did not want to stop at acceptance.

I don’t know about you but I am not even at acceptance right now. It’s just one day at a time for me, trying to be patient, holding space for others and acknowledging I am surviving, maybe even thriving in some ways, but not in others. I may feel I know who I want to be but who knows who I will be after Covid-19.

Stay safe and well x

Language – is what we do more important than what we say?

If you’ve been following my blog you will know that I am a midwife and a celebrant. Over the last few years, while weaving the threads of both practices through my life, I have discovered so many parallels. One of the comparable areas, that I couldn’t help noticing quite quickly, is language and specifically the use of the word my.

In early 2018 the British Medical Journal published a blog which explored language used in maternity care. The authors put together an alternative language guide for midwives and medical staff and, of course, the media picked up on this with headlines in UK newspapers stating that midwives were “BANNED” (sic) from using certain terms because they could be disrespectful to women.
Well, as you know you can’t ban people from using certain words and language but you can inspire people to reflect on their communication and the words and language they use.
This discussion is not new to the maternity services. Midwifery language and communication has been researched and written about repeatedly. There is still one specific area we can’t quite agree on though – what we call the women we care for:

with kind permission: Instagram.com/paintedbyswang

Patients – could be disempowering, the majority of pregnant women are not sick but well and healthy, they just happen to be pregnant. Ladies – is thought of as patronising. Clients – more suited to hairdressers and therapists. I have even heard midwives call women ‘birds’, or sometimes just ‘Room 8’ or whatever room/bed number the midwife is assigned to.

Personally, I call a woman I care for by her name.

For me what is even more irksome is when midwives talk about ‘my lady’ or ‘my woman’. The woman doesn’t belong to anyone and this kind of language is paternalistic. How we frame things, how we say things influences how we practice, what we do and ultimately how we treat people.

Detail from The Great Tapestry of Scotland

I have noticed a similarity in the ceremony sector with celebrants, photographers and suppliers often talking about ‘my couple’. Even though this is very likely unconscious and well intended it is the kind of language that has the ability to disempower and can influence a relationship. The individuals that make up a couple don’t belong to anyone. No one owns the two people who, may function socially as a unit but, are individual autonomous adults and decision makers.

In our work and practice as celebrants we must promote working in partnership and recognise we are not owners but facilitators. Our language should regard and respect the current social norms, expectations and rights of the people we work with.

📷 Laura Kate Maclean

I know that in the past I have slipped into the negative terminology that dominates the culture I work in & failed to appreciate the impact my words have had, but after many years working with women, couples and families I feel I know I have made a shift and on the whole I am now mindful of the language I use. That shift came with self-awareness, reflection and a fundamental belief in respecting individuals, choice and equality.

Start reflecting on the language you use, the words you utter and type and make a shift if need be. It is not difficult to make the language we use about, and around, couples and families appropriate and respectful.

Changing the way we think can change our words and changing our words can change our way of thinking.

Say my name ….and every colour illuminates

I was baptised. I find it hard to understand why or how this came about as my family were, and are, not religious in any way but I suppose it just came down to tradition. That was the 1960’s and by the time my own daughters were born it was something we didn’t even consider. We had family gatherings and parties instead. We celebrated. A blend of the traditional baptism and secular celebration is happening today in the form of naming ceremonies.

Naming ceremonies could be seen as the modern day version of christening or baptism. They can be carried out by a Registrar or Celebrant. Secular, family focussed and personalised, naming ceremonies are a celebration, a meaningful celebration which can have as much or as little tradition, culture and symbolism as the family want. The family are in control of the content and wording of the readings which are underpinned by the love, hope, wishes and promises for their child’s, or children’s, future. Friends may be asked to become a Sparent or Odd Parent and take on the role of supporting adult for the growing child. Celebrations such as this are a way of making an announcement or a statement of intent for the child but in a beautifully creative, relevant way that suits a wide range of families.

Jonas Bendiksen

As a midwife I have been privileged to be present at the most amazing naming ceremonies. The birth. The ceremony of birth and the beautiful moments of a mother meeting her baby for the first time. Holding space for the parents to fall in love with their baby, begin their new relationships and give the baby a name.

When I facilitated ante natal classes we would discuss names and naming, I would ask everyone present to share their names, nicknames and a little of the story behind their name. It was a great ice breaker. We would discuss the fading traditions around naming. In regard to their own babies, most couples would have lists of names but some couldn’t agree. Some knew the sex of the baby and had already given he or she a name but didn’t want to share the name, some were happy to share and some even had the name tattooed. Saying that, sexing scans can be wrong. I, and many of my colleagues have been at births where the expected gender has been the opposite. No scans are 100% accurate. There are lots of things to consider when choosing a name but you’ll know if it’s right when you meet your baby. I had three names for a girl and one for a boy when my first daughter was born. My first words as I met her were ‘It’s Innes!!’

The Midwife
Loren Entz

In Scotland you have 3 weeks from the date of birth to register the birth, so plenty time for choosing names. Just make sure the Registrar spells your chosen name correctly. My brother says his daughter Poppy almost ended up having Poopy on her birth certificate.



Hospital Birth or Home Birth? Hospital Death or Home Death?

‘June in bed’ Patrick George 1955

After recent discussions around burials and cremation, funeral directors and woodland burial sites I began to feel the considerations were not dissimilar to that of the choices and options made around birth. Today I watched short films about both woodland burial and funeral services at crematorium and I couldn’t help but consider the comparison to home birth and hospital birth.

Then while reading about the community group in Todmorden, Pushing up Daises, I came across a wonderful film where observations were made about the history of death in our culture and again this reminded me of the historical changes to how we birth. Currently 98% of women give birth in hospital. Hermione Elliot who is a death Doula suggests that in our culture, since the 1970’s, if not earlier, we have handed death over to health professionals and funeral directors and as a result we are not equipped emotionally, and practically, to know what to do when someone is dying and death occurs.

Whether it’s for birth or death what underpins our decisions is choice. Unbiased and evidence based therefore informed choice. As midwives we encourage couples to use the mnemonic BRAIN when making decisions in regard to birthing choices and care:

consider the Benefits,

consider the Risks,

what are the Alternatives,

what is your Instinct

if you can’t decide right now and you are safe then do Nothing for the moment

Of course not everyone will have complete choice due to a variety of reasons but in birth, and death, knowing you have some choices can be empowering. We want to give birth where we feel safe and I think this can be the same with dying and death. For some of us that will be at home, for some in a hospice or hospital.

As Hermoine points out data shows over 70% of people say they’d like to die at home but less than 20% actually do. What is it that makes this unattainable for many people? Off to see Rehana Rose’s Dead Good Film on Tuesday at the Glasgow Film Festival for more insights.




Weaving together the art of midwifery & the art of celebrancy

Welcome, welcome to my celebrant blog. Today I was encouraged to reflect about why I became a celebrant. Not just a celebrant but an independent celebrant. As a an NHS midwife of 20 years, working closely with women, couples and families at a transformative time in their lives I started to think of all the other life events that can transform or change us and the direction of our lives. I began to see that many of my midwifery skills were transferable in a way I had never considered before. Being a midwife is a strong part of my identity. Moving on from midwifery into celebrancy feels a very natural shift, I feel I am my authentic, grounded self in these roles. One area that is very different is regulation & I will discuss that in another post.  I have a strong grounding in equality & diversity, maybe due to working in the NHS, maybe it’s inherent in me but due to this the independent celebrancy route is right for me. I want to take it and make it my own. To be true to myself, my norms beliefs & values, to weave myself into my role as a celebrant just as I have in my roles as a mother, as a midwife, as a yoga for pregnancy teacher – indeed in all the things I do.