Want to know what a doula does? We chat with local Bondi doula and birth assistant, pre/post natal Pilates specialist Tori Clapham

Where do you work?

I own a boutique Pilates studio – Peaches – on Bondi Road, directly opposite the Waverley Oval. I teach all kinds of group and private classes; from advanced Pilates or mums’n’bubs groups, to Barre or Boxilates. I also work as a doula! I have a large pregnancy and post natal client base, and I love helping women throughout their pregnancy, birth, and post natal period.

What was your motivation to become a doula?

I have always been passionate about supporting and working with women, and have an innate love of babies and children. Being in a caring, hands on role is something that has always come naturally to me, and I had been told by several people that I really should look into becoming a doula, so I began to look in to it when I was furthering my Pilates studies for pre and postnatal clients. At one stage I considered going back to university to become a midwife, but being a doula is a better fit for me right now. I love that I am able to be there for my clients from the very beginning, the entire way through their birth and also during the postnatal period, where I believe many women can fall in to a very vulnerable space.

Where did you complete your doula studies?

I graduated from the Australian Doula College – the ADC has a wonderfully comprehensive course that has left me with invaluable knowledge and experience.

How would you describe your work as a doula?

While every doula provides her own unique type of care, the general role of a doula is one of unwavering support. I meet with mothers and their partners (if they have one) while they are pregnant, and offer information and helpful preparation and coping techniques for their upcoming birth. This includes pregnancy pilates classes (should they wish) – strengthening muscles that will aid their labour and reduce the risk of pregnancy symptoms such as lower back pain and poor posture, as well as creating a birth plan, and discussing any hopes and fears they may have.

Some parents are heading towards their birth feeling like they are in the dark about what their options are, and some may be feeling completely overwhelmed with the conflicting information coming at them from all angles. I try to educate my clients on what to expect, what their options are, and how they can prepare for the wonderfully momentous experience that is the birth of their child.

In terms of the birth, I am there from the moment a mother wants me there (this can range from during their pre labour, to meeting them at the hospital, to waiting until their labour is established), until after the birth of their child.

The role of a doula includes, but is not limited to-

– Emotional support

– Physical support

– Preparation for birth and baby – aiding in creating a birth plan, and educating new parents about hospital procedures, what to expect, and what their
rights are.

– Comfort measures: breathing, relaxation, meditation, movement, positioning, massage and aromatherapy.

– Continuous reassurance and comfort for the mother (the key word is continuous—a doula never leaves a mother’s side)

– Advocate for mothers and partners – helps facilitate communication between parent(s) and care providers

– Support for partners – this is not to be underestimated as labour is a very long and emotional journey for all involved.

– Post natal care – help with breast feeding, settling baby, and emotional/debriefing support post birth. Sometimes this also means merely watching bub
– providing mum the chance to shower/rest/eat.

Generally I don’t hang around for too long after baby is born, as this is a very special time for parents – one that is private and sacred. I will usually see women through their third stage of labour (when the placenta is birthed), as well as any post birth procedures like stitches etc – then head on my way when things are settled. All mothers and couples are different however, and I usually judge when to leave by assessing the situation and having an open conversation about when they’d like me to leave. It’s impossible to offend your doula – they’ve seen and heard it all, so never worry about needing your privacy and special time with your new family unit – a good doula will want this for you!

In the post natal period, I visit new mums and bubs shortly after the birth – usually the very next day, to see how they are going and offer the chance to debrief on their birth. As mentioned, my role here is very varied – things like helping to establish breast feeding, bringing a nice home cooked meal, and watching bub while mum does anything she needs to do are all on offer. I love helping women during this incredibly joyful – yet intense and sometimes terrifying time. Once the mother is up to it, post natal or mums’n’bubs Pilates also falls into my offerings.

What are the benefits of practising Pilates before, during or after your pregnancy?

While we can all agree that exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, there are specific ways that practicing Pilates can help you during and after your pregnancy. Pilates is not only highly modifiable but also a targeted approach to exercise, which means it’s one of the best methods for maintaining your fitness while pregnant – the right class can reduce the chances of physical complications, improve injuries and assist with general well-being and mobility.

Pregnancy and birth will have a huge impact on your body internally and externally – it’s important to remember that after childbirth, you’re in a state of recovery. However, if you can respect your limitations and dedicate yourself to a tailored exercise regime, Pilates can enable a swift return to physical function.

There are many benefits of pregnancy Pilates, these include:

– Reducing the physical effects of pregnancy

– Injury prevention and management

– Safe strength building

– Minimising postural changes

– Maintaining mobility and independence

– A speedier and improved recovery post-baby

What is the best part of your job?

Nothing can quite compare to the moment a baby is brought into this world – I haven’t managed to hold back shedding a tear during any of my client’s births so far! Seeing the complete relief, coupled with the overwhelming and profound sense of love and pride wash over a new mothers face is, to be honest, simply indescribable. I also adore seeing fathers and partners fall in love with their new baby – the first skin to skin contact for partners is such a beautiful moment to witness, it makes all of the hard work worth while. And… I suppose I’d be lying if I didn’t include having cuddles with babies myself in this answer! Whether it’s the new born child of a doula client or a chubby bub in my pilates studio, holding babies is certainly a forte of mine and something I am VERY pleased to include in my job description!

insta: @peachespilates