Not Merely a Leader, but a Light…

Feeling very blessed to have completed the requirements to certify as a perinatal emotional health counsellor. The 18-month intensive certification program is led by Alex Health at the College of Perinatal Emotional Health in England and was an in-depth experience that has challenged me to go so much farther as a practitioner and a human being.

While much of the global focus is currently on leadership skills, what I feel very strongly about is how much we need to develop our listening skills and empathy, especially when it comes to healthcare. A different direction perhaps, a road less travelled, yet ever so powerful.

As I work in supporting women in the perinatal period (during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum), I consider why we do what we do. I believe it is to help others, to support them, to be with them while they work their way through these moments, the good, the bad and the ugly…to let them know that though it may feel in that instant like it’s the end of the world, that they’re not alone, that they’re being cared for, that they’re being held. To use our feelings and access our humanity in these spaces is imperative to nourish and nurture and make them feel safe. To ensure they feel heard and understood. To offer them that space they need in that moment, the support, and the time. To not patronize or gaslight or rush them into necessarily fixing, or to overcome, but to guide and encourage…to let them cry if they need to, to listen, to walk with them, sit with them on the floor, holding, waiting, breathing, staying…until they’re ready to face what’s next…to shine that gentle light to help them understand, to find their focus and their way through, to make their choices for themselves and feel good about them, whatever they may be.

It is an honour and a privilege to support husbands and wives, learning what it means to become mothers and fathers, to prepare for, start and grow their families, navigating the journey through pregnancy with its ups and downs, challenges and changes, worries and concerns, dealing with the shocks and the surprises, big or small, coming to terms with the realness and the raw, eviscerating nature of becoming, experiencing the joy in welcoming new life into the world…and sometimes in the heartbreak of saying impossible goodbyes.

The skills I have acquired from this training program are truly invaluable. From learning how to gently debrief difficult or traumatic perinatal stories (from abuse to injury), to support healing and encouraging safe and gentle experiences for parents, developing strategies to acknowledge these issues and using techniques to manage anxiety, depression or trauma, understanding the interplay between them and their manifestations, to appreciate and allow for the depth and the impact of the experiences of fertility challenges, miscarriage, stillbirth and baby loss, to incorporating the practice of hypnosis, mindfulness and meditation to facilitate wellness, it has been enlightening.

I am also now better equipped to coach and train other professionals who work in maternity care and the birth space (doctors, nurses, midwives and doulas) and support them in managing the impact of the vicarious trauma, moral injury or compassion fatigue and burnout that they may face as part of their daily work and building their skills in how to support their patients and provide more meaningful and empathetic care in dealing with all of these complex perinatal emotional health issues and enhancing their abilities for self-reflection and the emotional overflow into their lives.

Healthcare provision can no longer be limited to treating or curing physical illness. It is about empowering people to live better, healthier lives and have satisfactory experiences when interacting with the healthcare service. It is about appreciating their vulnerability and raw needs when they’re with us and not just rushing them through or ticking boxes on checklists or inputting data from behind screens. It’s not just about their physical safety and our statistics, it’s so much more than that. It matters how they were made to feel when they were going through these experiences. I encourage my fellow practitioners to listen to their hearts more deeply and be the light that we all need in these spaces.

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