The Secrets of Birth
My name is Kicki Hansard and was born in Swedish Lapland, the land of the midnight sun and the Northern Lights. I am as Swedish as ABBA but when I look in the mirror, I can see some features of my ancestry, the indigenous Sami people of Lapland. I do not speak Sami nor do I practice any of the Sami customs but I can sing Baa Baa Black Sheep in Sami. Growing up in Lapland and its harsh environment taught me patience and acceptance of any situation as it is. Living through winters lasting for eight months with temperatures below -30 degrees Celsius, with no more than four hours of daylight shapes you as a person and builds stamina and resilience. These are skills that I cherish and apply to all areas of my life.
I’ve been living in the UK since I was 19 years old, moving here for a gap year as I had met, what I thought was and turned out to be, the love of my life. I live in Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire with my husband and we have two teenage daughters, one who is off to University in September and one who is busy doing her GCSEs.
Both my daughters were born here in the UK at Watford General Hospital and becoming a mother was probably the hardest and also most rewarding thing that has ever happened to me. Being away from my own mother and family made the whole experience quite a struggle and this combined with a high maintenance baby saw me shedding many tears in what felt like a never-ending tunnel. I was so lucky to have a wonderful health visitor, Mary, who would turn up at my house, once a week and reassure me that things would get better and that what I was feeling was ok.
I came across the word ‘doula’ in a Sunday magazine in 2002 and was amazed that there were woman out there providing this much needed emotional and practical support. I know that what I had wanted was someone to tell me that I was a good mum and that I was doing well. If I’d known about doulas, I would have hired one on the spot! So I looked into becoming a doula myself so that I could offer this wonderful support to other women. I attended a course in London, joined Doula UK and I’ve been a doula ever since and supported many couples through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. I love what I do and it’s so rewarding to see how a new mum grows in strength and confidence and to see how women positively glow with joy and love as they birth their babies.
Over the years, I was noticing the same kind of challenges for women, the fact that they didn’t always get comprehensive antenatal information, thinking that they were not allowed to do certain things or even knowing that they had choices. In addition to this, the confusing land postnatally with women getting so many different pieces of advice about everything under the sun, during a time when they are often overwhelmed with simply becoming mothers.
It frustrated me and led me to start writing down bits and pieces as I wanted to leave something behind for my two daughters. I wanted them to be able to read a straight forward account of birth physiology, what it looks and feels like to give birth and also include evidence based research for them to consider their choices carefully. It wasn’t meant to be advice or an instruction manual, simply a book for them to read when they were expecting their own babies sometime in the future.
One of my friends saw me writing and spending time on this book for my daughters and she said “Don’t you think this information would be valuable for all pregnant women? You should publish it as a book.” So, a year later, in November 2015, I published my book The Secrets of Birth: what every woman should know about birth and motherhood. My wish is that my book will inspire and enable women to make powerful choices for themselves around childbirth and motherhood. I trust that every woman will make the safest and best choices for herself and her baby as long as she is given all the information available.
Apart from working as a birth and postnatal doula, I have also been a doula course facilitator since 2006. I ran courses for many years for another company until I left in 2013 and set up my own doula course. It has been approved by Doula UK and I run it between five to six times a year in London and Hertfordshire. I estimate I have kindled over 600 doulas on their journey and I’m humbled by the wonderful work they all do out there in the world.
I was so excited when Francoise contacted me to see if I would be interested in working with her as Birthlight has been getting requests to run a doula course in China. This part of the world has seen some extreme changes in the last 20 years or so. A law bans any doctor or midwife to support births at home so even though homebirths are not illegal, women can’t get medical support in their homes. China wants all births to take place in hospital and it seems as though as a result of this, China now has one of the highest caesarean birth rates in the world. It’s wonderful that through Birthlight, women are starting to take back some control around their pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. I feel it is a great blessing as well as a challenge to be given the opportunity to work with Birthlight to start providing doula courses in Shanghai. I very much look forward to working with everyone at Birthlight and for contributing towards a new chapter in the Birthlight history of becoming a doula course provider.