Younique Postnatal


Welcome to Younique Postnatal's blog


Follow the writings of Victoria Greenly, one of Younique Postnatal's founding members and course provider.  Here you will find musings on all things postnatal.  We look forward to publishing articles by the doulas we have trained and YP's other founding members.

By Victoria Greenly, Feb 21 2018 12:00PM

Amurtel is a centre in Athens run by professionals and volunteers. It is a place where refugees, immigrants and the homeless, with young families can come for support. There are many interpreters available for every encounter/ appointment where they are sensitively listened to. There is a midwife for antenatal checks and a scanning facility. There is a room for a session with a lactation counsellor where mothers will be given advice on feeding and weaning. I spent some days in here assisting, weighing the babies, filing etc and my favourite thing… cuddling the gorgeous babies!!! Another room provides a comfortable place for feeding babies and chatting, as well as a lovely playroom for the children. Mothers can bring their babies to be weighed and assessed. Once they have this assessment they will mostly be accepted on the programme that allows them free provisions: 10 nappies per week until the baby weighs 9 kgs, underwear for those pregnant and breastfeeding, baby carriers, a free baby kit (newborn clothes, blanket etc) and food: 1 bag (400grams) of rice, chickpeas, lentils and raisins. It seems this is one of the main reason mothers initially attend, for these provisions.

My initial reaction was how can a large family survive on such meagre provisions for a month? It was later explained that there are many centres around Athens where similar provisions can be also collected. Amurtel hopes that by bringing these families in they can feel part of a women led supportive community where they can receive vital antenatal and postnatal support and meet with other mothers.The majority I saw were formula feeding. This may be due to cultural reasons or mainly because “the midwife in the hospital told me I didn't have enough milk, my milk was watery” ( which was highly unlikely!)

It can take time and often dedicated experienced support is needed to encourage mothers to breastfeed in the early days. It can take up to 8 weeks for breastfeeding to be established so without the professionals in the hospitals to encourage them many mothers will give up and “agree” that the bottle would be easier! I felt frustrated and exasperated that by the time they came to Amurtel, it was usually too late for educating mothers in the benefits of breastfeeding. It was also usually way too late to encourage them to try to re lactate. If only they could get the essential support and positive encouragement as soon as the the babies are born. Or indeed better through antenatal education. They would then have all the health benefits from breastfeeding and not be forced to formula feed in situations where it is least

favourable. Some have no kitchens and do not understand about the importance of sterilising, etc. Of course the cost of baby milk adds a huge financial strain.

The day at Amurtel would start with a 30 minute meditation (led by Didi, an Ananda Marga nun (socio-spiritual) who runs the centre) and positive visualisation for the day. Being with like minded women is so very unique and felt very warm and loving.

Some days I was in the distribution room where the parents present their card saying what they would be entitled to. Some were shy and embarrassed, particularly those who were well educated and had left their comfortable lives. To accept charity can only be with mixed feelings. Many were grateful and expressive, others just kept their heads down. Some “tried it on”, trying to demand more than we could give and would become aggressive. Some young mothers looked traumatised with so much pain and darkness behind their eyes. I could not begin to imagine what they and their families had suffered. Some, on inspection of their birthdates looked way over their young age…. Many on their 5th or 6th child. One mother explained she could not take the food stuff as she had no access to a kitchen as she was sleeping in a corridor with her baby in a squat. Another mother’s situation was heartbreaking, she was pregnant and sleeping in the park in the freezing cold.

My initial reaction on seeing some of the refugees was one of surprise. My concept was that the refugees would be thin and wearing threadbare clothes. On the contrary many had fancy trainers and nearly all had mobiles. As time went on and I spoke more with staff and volunteers, I began to understand why. These are the “lucky” ones that had the money to flee the dreadful violence and conflicts, arriving traumatised from their escapes from war torn countries. Many arrived on treacherously dangerous dinghies having paid extortionate amounts to smugglers for their “safe” passage. As it is well known many refugees have and are still drowning on their journey. They were forced to leave absolutely everything and flee for their safety. They now live in containers in camps or apartments that they have waited up to 2 years for!! So by the time they arrive at Amurtel some may appear okay but what we are seeing is often the end of their relentless suffering as they have waited for their asylum. They are clearly still compromised in their situations and some have only just begun the wait for a new life.

Sadly although given handouts thousands are living in what they see as a worse standard in the overcrowded camps. The camps that they arrive at are squalid and have inhuman living conditions. I have heard that some say they have left hell (in their own countries) and are now existing in an even worse one. These camps, that initially received huge news coverage and some humanitarian aid are now being gradually lost on the radar. Thankfully there are still many volunteers who work tirelessly to keep the refugees fed and sheltered despite the appalling conditions. My friend in Athens told me of seeing children and young women being locked in cages for their own safety from abuse and rape!!!!!

As well as learning about the plight of the refugees I have also had my eyes opened (by Greek locals and volunteers) to understanding the deep rooted anger of the local VERY poor Greeks. The government gives them absolutely no financial support and many are hungry and homeless. They are understandably angry that the refugees are given food, provisions, financial support and roofs over their heads.

I also particularly wanted to see where all the donations that come from all over the world are kept, sorted and distributed from. So I volunteered one day at the place where it all takes place. The old Athens airport has a HUGE hangar which was used during the Olympics.

On entering all you can see are endless miles and ceiling high boxes of donations. Everything from nappies, kitchenware, bedding, winter clothes, food etc. It is run by tireless, committed volunteers. Everything is packed, labelled and sent to all the various camps and squats around Athens. It was very heartening to see so many countries and big name companies donating. I weighed and bagged up many sacks of rice… it was freezing cold but fun!

There were times at Amurtel when we were rushed off our feet, other times there would be a lull. As in my postnatal doula work, it's not always about what you do, it can sometimes be your “presence” and availability that can make the difference. “Being and not doing” is a phrase often used in the doula world.

These mothers did not “need” me, they are like most mothers who are instinctively programmed to protect their young and are fiercely protective for their safety.

Yes, my presence helped many and, of course, it was rewarding. Ultimately, mothers have infinite inner resources, but they do need practical, emotional and informational support coupled, in this situation, with financial help and volunteers willing to go out to Greece.

If you think you would like to support refugees in Greece as a volunteer, please follow the links below.

By Victoria Greenly, Nov 23 2017 12:23PM

Why might I need a Postnatal Doula?

In my experience it is hard to make the decision to pre-book a Postnatal Doula. It is hard to

imagine exactly what sort of support, if any, you might want or need after the birth of a baby.

So much time in pregnancy is spent preparing for birth that it becomes a challenge to see that

birth is only the beginning.

In all other cultures around the world following a birth families, and in particular the birth

mother, are encouraged to have an intense period of rest and recuperation as they adjust to

their new post-birth life. During this time mothers are supported so they can bond with their

new babies and heal from birth. Over a period of roughly 40 days women in traditional

communities may be given special foods, massages and looked after by close family and

friends and are expected to temporarily stop their chores. Those societies recognise that in life

there is no ‘back’ only forward and to move forward as positively and healthily as possible

after birth, human beings need support. In Western society we have lost our traditions and

now the focus is on ‘bouncing-back’, leaving new mothers to heal and learn about parenting

totally on their own.

The emotional and physiological changes a woman goes through when she has a baby are

immense and should not be underestimated. Everyone’s journey is unique and uncharted and

therefore demands unique support. And yes, in the UK a midwife will pop in to see you for a

couple of weeks and there’s a six week check up at the GP. But how many people really want

to go into how they are really doing with a GP, in 5 minutes, who they have never met

before? Or a rushed midwife who you know is doing her best but has a list of other mums to

visit today and you’re sure they all need her more than you do….

I hope that this blog may give a little insight into what a day with a Postnatal Doula might

look like and why finding Postnatal Doula support might be the best decision you ever make!

I met my last client over a cuppa at her house one evening when she was around seven

months pregnant, we connected straight away and I was thrilled she asked me to support her

and her partner postnatally. Initially they booked 8 postnatal visits. The following month we

met up for their ‘4th trimester planning session’ where we went through all their hopes and

dreams for what the first few months with their new baby might look like. We discussed

everything from baby essentials to local postnatal support services. I also held her Mothers

Blessing. Afterwards we kept in touch over text and email and she let me know when the

baby arrived. For the first two weeks her partner was on paternity leave and her family were

around, but after that her partner had to go back to work and her family headed home, so we

arranged my first visit.

I arrived at 10am to find a very tired looking Mama still in her PJs with a fresh baby in the

crook of her arm. She showed me in and I made her a cuppa and we chatted. She told me her

birth story, and how the first two weeks had been. I tidied her kitchen whilst we chatted more.

While she had a shower, I watched the baby and unpacked the lunch I’d brought for her. After

her shower, she fed the baby and we chatted about some breastfeeding challenges she’d been

having. I suggested that she might like to go to a local breastfeeding support group, but she

was understandably nervous, so we arranged to go to the next one together. I left her eating

lunch, dressed, with a sleeping baby and plan to go to the breastfeeding group.

As the visits went on and we became more relaxed with each other we chatted about

everything from breastfeeding to bottles, from stiches to parent groups. Normally I’d stay

around 3 hours at her house and a few times we met out. A couple of times she opened the

door looking so tired, I simply held the baby while she napped. I accompanied her on their

first solo trip to the supermarket and a trip to the GP. We also did a tour of local breastfeeding

friendly cafes and I introduced her to a nearby Postnatal group which she began to go to

independently. After a while I noticed that she seemed much more confident, she no longer

opened the door in her Pyjamas and our chats where full of all the things she was doing with

her baby and who she was meeting. I knew it was time for me to move on. Her baby was by

now 3 months old and we arranged our last meeting. I brought extra cake and left her with

my number and my sincerest hope that she would feel free to contact me if she needed

anything. I caught up with her a few months later and was so happy to see how the family

was and how confident they now were, finding their own path through all the challenges and

joys of parenthood.

I hope that this serves to give some idea of what employing a Postnatal Doula might be like.

No one knows what support you might need better than you do, but finding, staying in touch

with and booking a Postnatal Doula will guarantee you as many support options as possible.

For more information about Lucy's services, please take a look at

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