On the 4th May this year I set off on an adventure.
I had no idea what this adventure would entail, or where it would lead me, and I wasn't even sure that I wanted to go on the adventure! Over the previous few weeks I kept coming up with reasons not to go-it was too much money, it was extravagant, it was selfish, I couldn't justify spending that amount of money on just me, I was doing this on my own-I should be doing things with my husband/family.
All of these thoughts kept up a constant soundtrack in my mind making me more and more doubtful about what I was doing the nearer the adventure came. However something kept me from cancelling, and so on 4th May I stepped off a plane into Barcelona airport to meet 7 other women (all baby/birth business owners) who I had never met before to go on retreat in the countryside just outside the city.
Arriving at our retreat villa-I couldn't believe that I was actually doing this! We were met by our host Suzy Ashworth and shown around our home for the next 4 days-beautiful tropical gardens, pool, huge living areas with the biggest dining table I've ever seen and our very own chef-the lovely Katherine who would amaze us all with her skills. Opulence and beauty all around us and a real sense of anticipation in our little group of women ready for all that retreat had to offer.
Our first meal included Suzy asking us to think about where we saw ourselves in 5 years time. I found this a very difficult question to answer-and kept coming up with ideas about my hypnobirthing business and not really coming up with any answers.
And then Suzy asked me the question that was to change everything;
"Susan, if money was no object and you had a million in the bank, where do you see yourself in 5 years time?"
What came out of my mouth was a surprise to me!
Out of nowhere, and without hesitation I then relayed the dream of having a smallholding in the country with a purpose-built studio where I run courses and workshops for midwives and student midwives nurturing them, teaching them self-care, resilience, healing wounds and rediscovering their love for this amazing profession. I did add a couple of other things like alpacas and travelling to Africa once a year to volunteer as a midwife in a maternity hospital!
After relaying all of these dreams I looked at Suzy and said " Where did THAT come from??!!
Throughout the rest of those 4 amazing days, days where I learned that I love doing an hour and a half of yoga at 7am every morning (who knew?!I had never done yoga before!) , where I conquered my fear and with the support of the amazing yoga teacher and my new friends did a handstand, where we learned to use our voices in amazing ways, learned to sit in quietness, played games such as making elephant noises whilst doing the conga, where I discovered that I love vegan food, where I made lifelong bonds with the beautiful women I shared the experience with and who are now some of my closest friends, where we shared our deepest fears and hurts and hopes and dreams, throughout all of this time, that idea that had been voiced on our first evening kept bubbling away under the surface.
Our final task was to revisit our one year and five year dreams, and once again my subconscious mind surprised me at how busy it had been!
Again the idea of a nurturing space for midwives and student midwives came up, nurturing and developing self-care, self-compassion which would then spill out into compassionate midwifery, and other ideas such as running courses, getting into universities and teaching self-care and developing resilience in midwifery and a book! My turn to tell the rest of the group about my ideas came and I couldn't stop! I received cheers, a round of applause and.. I even made our mentor Suzy cry!
Coming home to real life did concern me somewhat, not that I didn't want to come home, but I was worried that the momentum I had achieved on retreat would somehow be slowed down and diluted by life in the real world and that I would allow fear to stop me from moving forwards with my ideas. After all-who was I to think I could write a book, or change the world?
However, having spoken to my colleagues since coming home I realise that there is a great need and thirst for ways of looking after ourselves as midwives and students. Life in midwifery is becoming progressively more challenging and support networks are not always there for those who are struggling. Having developed a self-care routine myself over the past two years I see what a huge difference it can make in life and work, and I want to help others to learn to love and care for themselves.
Yes, I believe that as self-compassionate, compassionate midwives we can change the world of birth for women, families and ourselves.
You don't have to go on retreat to Barcelona, do a yoga retreat or start eating vegan food to start this journey of self-care. There are so many different things you can do in your everyday life to build up your own self-resilience. It all starts with putting YOU first and realising that you matter.
On my flight home, I paid particular attention during the safety demonstration. I realised why they say to always fit your own oxygen mask before fitting your children's-if you don't fit your own first, you won't be able to fit your chidren's and you will all suffer.
Self-care is YOUR oxygen mask.