CREATING A SUPPORT SYSTEM DURING PREGNANCY
I met Laurélène Chambovet a few years ago during a gathering with friends of mine and I instantly loved her aura and her loving energy. Laurélène is a Water Doula and works closely with women, mothers-to-be and parents to guide them on the initiation journey to giving birth. Her capacity to hold space for others and her dedication to other women is very inspiring.
What is your role as a Doula?
“We are professionally trained in childbirth and provide care for the mother, the father, and sometimes other members of the family, with emotional and practical support. This prepares and welcomes the arrival of a new child. We are open and sensitive to the various needs of the mother, the father and the child during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Many studies show that with the support of doulas, mother and child are more likely to have a positive birth and postnatal experience. It's important to understand that we will never replace midwives as we do not support with medical care or diagnose conditions, but our aim is also to support midwives the best we can to reinforce the mother’s support system. Doulas can specialize in various areas such as birth support, hypno-natal, postnatal care, prenatal yoga, massages, rebozo, or, like myself, deep relaxation in water which some people would say helps to prepare for a natural birth (stretching muscles and hip joints, connecting with the child, releasing emotions, and developing a feeling of wellness before going into the birth).”
To be involved in such an important part of a woman’s journey must be very special. What made you decide to embody this beautiful mission?
“I was working in London in a private members club running a residency program focused on emerging talent. I really loved my job but was searching for more. Therefore, I attended and organized many women circles during my free time. I have thoroughly followed the teachings of Diane Monette (Bhatki) who clearly helped me to open and cultivate my connection with Mother Nature. Bhatki teaches that infinite possibilities of creation exist in our uterus. I have always found that deeply inspiring. In 2012 after a long trip in the sacred valley in Peru I decided to change career to follow my purpose. Pursuing the magical threads of life I ended up learning water relaxation. I then discovered the work of doulas and felt the calling, especially when I read the sentence of Michel Oden: ‘in order to change the world, we must change the way babies are born’. I now focus my energy on supporting women during pregnancy using Water Relaxation and Kundalini Yoga.”
It seems to me that part of our healing journey as woman is to surround our self with other women to seek support and share experiences, especially in moments of deep transformation like pregnancy. How can women find this supportive system?
“In many cultures women used to gather regularly to pray and connect with one another. Women were taking time to listen to Nature and ‘feeling’ what rituals were needed to help heal the wounds and support transformation (for one person or the entire community). We are remembering that we are stronger together. It’s together that we create our support systems, we shall consciously get closer to the women we feel most connected to and inspired by. Personally, I often look for ways to co-create with my friends or simply gather for quality time. During pregnancy, it’s always great to find a good prenatal yoga class, search for interesting lectures and workshops, choose a women’s retreat or special events to attend in order to connect with like-minded women. Of course, it is also essential to find a brilliant midwife and, if possible, a doula with whom we feel ‘at home’. There is a lot of information online, I recommend to do a good amount of research to find the right places and people.”
“In many cultures women used to gather regularly to pray and connect with one another.We are remembering that we are stronger together. It’s together that we create our support systems, we shall consciously get closer to the women we feel most connected to and inspired by.”
A lot of women feel very disoriented and clueless regarding their own pregnancy, looking for answers and help outside of themselves. In your personal opinion, how can women regain their power during motherhood?
“It all starts by accepting that being pregnant and giving birth is a rite of passage. We are going to feel especially sensitive, vulnerable and lost at times. Whatever we have been facing on our journey will be multiplied by the process. Therefore, it is a great time to heal because we are connected to the divine (or call it nature if you want) more than ever. We need to remember that women have given birth since the beginning of time. We must trust that WE KNOW and trust the process. It’s necessary to do research, to take the time to read books and articles, listen to podcasts, watch beautiful movies about birth. We have to carefully choose the professionals we want to share our pregnancy with, find the people we trust and feel comfortable with. With the help of our intuition, we will each walk our unique path.”
What advice would you give women to prepare themselves and their bodies to pregnancy and childbirth?
“My first advice would be to relax and breathe. I feel it’s important to do things that we enjoy, surround ourselves with beauty, avoid big noisy crowds, focus on welcoming the pregnancy state. I would recommend to spend time in nature. To complement the important midwife's pregnancy courses, it’s a great idea to choose a class that will awaken body awareness, sensuality, movement, dance… concentrate on sensations, connection to oneself and the baby. Walking and eating healthy is a necessity. Continue to do sport and enjoyable activities. I would look into hypnobirthing, haptonomy, sophrology, water relaxation, meditation, prenatal massage and all the tools that help to calm the mind. If possible, I also recommend to find interesting events or wellness propositions to attend as a couple (if there is partner).”
“It all starts by accepting that being pregnant and giving birth is a rite of passage.”
Part of our western culture cultivates this idea of “superwoman” balancing her life with perfection between motherhood, work and social life, returning to work just a few days after having given birth. However, pregnancy is a rite of passage that needs to be integrated on many different levels. What is your advice to a woman that cultivates the wish and has the possibility to evolve in this transition at a slower pace?
“Pregnancy is life changing, there is no other choice than going at a slower pace. Our body balance is changing, our gravity center moves, hormones, emotions, the reality of life comes in… with extreme sensibility. Finding time to be calm, to breathe and relax is the priority above work or any other relationship. We are becoming mothers as soon as we start to even think about having a baby. Once the embryo is in inside of us, we should remember that everything we do will affect its presence. The growing baby needs its mother to rest, to take time to be inspired by nature and beautiful conversations, loving people and surroundings. Doing several things is fine as long as we can eliminate stress as much as possible. It is also essential to seriously take enough time to recover during the postnatal period.”
You talk about the 40 days after the birth as an essential time both for the mother and the baby. Why is that time so crucial?
“This postnatal period is essential for bounding. The baby needs its mother to look him or her in the eye; it nourishes its soul. The child is feeling the heartbeat and love of its mother (or close family) will help him develop confidence and grow peacefully. In addition, the mother needs to recover from the birth. Her body can feel very “empty”, her body temperature is dropping and she needs a lot of energy to feed the child and adapt to her new self. This takes time! We need to learn to care for the mother as if she were a goddess because she gave life. Family and friends shall cook for her (warm and easily digestible meals), massage her and help her to rest so that the connection with the child flourishes naturally. It will prevent depression and support the entire ecosystem of the family for years onwards. The rebozo ritual is a beautiful healing work that can be offered as a gift to the mother as well as postnatal massages. In many cultures the postnatal period is seen as a very sacred time.”
“We need to learn to care for the mother as if she were a goddess because she gave life. Family and friends shall cook for her (warm and easily digestible meals), massage her and help her to rest so that the connection with the child flourishes naturally.”
Your work is dedicated to pregnancy but it also include a deep connection to the water element as a tool for healing. What is your personal relationship to water?
“Water is life. The embryo is growing in water, we are mainly made of water. When I am in this space of movement and healing, I feel the power of the element, it holds memories and helps shape us. I am a fan of the famous work of Emoto Masaru, showing how water responds to emotions and intentions. Water is my partner, it shows me how to relax, how to detach myself from my mind and dive deep into myself. I had the chance to experience several rebirths working with my colleagues in the water, and each time was a life changing release. During pregnancy, water relaxation helps women and couples to connect with the baby and womb memories. I have tried to bring the qualities of the doula and the power of the water relaxation together in order to support women’s journeys connection to sensations and care.”
And how do you feel it supports your practice and the women you work with? Many women write to me after birth telling me that during the hard times, they remembered the depth of the relaxation stage they were in during our sessions and it truly helped them surrender. For me this is the most beautiful contribution I could dream to offer. Water releases memories and fears, it’s our mother element, the womb of creation.
“Pregnancy is a time to expand into the universe and dance with the cosmos while being extremely grounded, feeling the support of our communities.”
Anything you want to add before closing this interview?
We are in a time now where we have to stand for ourselves, as women and support each other, not against men or society but for reconciliation. We are all one, part of a big picture and we shall try to play our role with the most honesty and care of ourselves and for others. Pregnancy is a time to expand into the universe and dance with the cosmos while being extremely grounded, feeling the support of our communities. Let’s all make the effort.
Laurélène is a water doula who lives and works in Paris. Inspired by her work as a doula and her several trainings in yoga and aquatic bodywork, contact dance in water and embryology, she has developed her own practice: Aquaserena, a water relaxation practice during pregnancy. Laurélène runs regular classes in Paris and women and pregnancy retreats in France & Portugal. She organises journeys in the deep sea with her dear friend Leina Sato in Egypt. She is also very much engaged in the Yoga-doula school and the Postnatal Support Network. She is currently developing the water doula practice co-creating with devotion with her friend Marjorie Sa and other great like-minded therapists. Laurélène is always willing to explore new collaborations, trying in her own way to show the importance of the doula qualities and care.
Some Offerings for 2019:
Water Relaxation, Individual, couple & groupe session from July 1st in Paris
Wellness Retreat for Pregnant Woman in Portugal from the 19th to the 22th of July.
Water Babies and Postnatal Care in Portugal from the 25 to the 30th of July.
Pregnancy in Water training in a forest house, near Paris from the 1st to the 4th of October.
On her website, you can find out more about her future events and offerings.
ONE MINUTE INSPIRATION WITH LAURELENE
1. Rituals for self-love? Self-massage with sesame oil for 5 minutes (should be rather 20-30 but I never do it fully) before taking a shower. Carefully choosing which glass or mug or plate I use. It’s silly but really nice to choose beautiful things to eat and drink from.
2. First thing you do in the morning? Breathe deeply and wait until I smile (unless I am really upset, which happens sometimes!). I also go crazy sometimes and clean my entire flat before having had a cup of tea.
3. Favorite self-care routine? I try to meditate, even if only for a few minutes. I also take care of my plants at home, it’s home self-care. I always light a candle on my altar at home.
4. Rituals to rest and regenerate? Taking the time to lay down for a few minutes and close my eyes whenever I get a chance.
5. Tools for self-healing? Keeping an open mind, dancing with my nose clip in warm water.
6. One limiting belief or body imbalance you are still working on? Digestion!
7. Favorite place to cultivate inspiration? In the arms of my partner and near waterfalls.
8. Your Guardians of Vision ? I feel the presence of beings (or maybe it’s what some people call higher self) that takes care of me making sure I walk on the right path. I make sure to say thank you often, I look behind me or I look up.
Interview: Laura Vendescoeur
Photos: Laura Vendescoeur
Editorial Assistant: Jeanne Diesteldorf
Practical content to expand your vision
The Rebozo ritual is a four-hand treatment: Two women enter into a precise and intimate ritual with the solid intention of caring for the woman as the most beautiful gem in the universe.
The treatment lasts about four hours when received in France but it can last an entire day in the Mexican culture from where it comes from originally. You will need a set of blankets worthy of Japanese rituals, an oil massage, a hot bath with herbs or a homemade version of an hammam, and finally an envelopment and tightening of the body with the rebozo fabric in seven key points of the body. A specially adapted herbal tea is served throughout the session to accompany the body's rise in heat.
This treatment is for all women, to celebrate a joyful event in life or to close the door on a finished chapter. It is widespread during the postnatal period. A woman who gave birth is in need of warmth, rest and an energy lift. This care is also offered to women who have experienced bereavement, miscarriage, abortion or simply need refocusing to welcome a new life chapter. It can be offered at the time of the first moons (periods), before a marriage or before starting a new job. The rebozo ritual is part of the life of Mexican women and is passed on from generation to generation.
The rebozo is the name of the fabric, it can also be used in prenatal care and during birth and it is a very efficient pain relief when the midwife or doula knows how to use it.