Nicola Mahdiyyah Goodall
Doula, mother and birth keeper living in Edinburgh
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Why do you love all things pregnancy, birth and baby?
I love to talk birth, families, health, babies, bodies, witches and women and once i get going it’s very hard to get me to stop. I came to this work in a very round about way – as a young woman I was a staunch feminist sworn off babies and families as I believed this was cheating my potential as a woman. Then I fell in love and oxytocin took over with a vengeance – four babies later I’m converted.
What brought you to this line of work?
I came from a community where babies were abundant. Going through my own birth journeys and walking with others on theirs I became addicted to the Godly aspect of the power of birth. As a woman becomes that vessel for creation I am blown away – still to this day many, many moons after beginning to support families organically – it never gets old. Recently while leading a workshop a beautiful couple of Italian midwives asked me what the best thing has been about doing this work serving women and their families. Until this point I would always answer what a privilege it is to serve and witness this incredible process at such a beautiful part of the family dynamic. This time it was very clear to me. The best part is what it has done for me as a woman. How it has developed me… how it has grown me…. the magic it has shown me… the strength it has given me… the patience it has taught me….the angelic energy i have experienced time after time….the great love i have witnessed….the faith i have been instilled with….the witches i have been blessed to meet and love….the list is endless!
I truly believe I was always coming to this path. My mother was named after her midwife – she is Olga which was a very unusual name for a baby girl in 1930’s Yorkshire! That must have been quite a midwife! My sister is a birthkeeper and so is her daughter and I am named after the maternity ward I was born on. There are many many threads that brought me to the space I inhabit as a birthkeeper in this world now. I had my own babies and we all supported each other through this. I worked as a massage therapist and increasingly worked with pregnant women, new mums and babies. I went to the library pregnant with my first and the two books that were there speaking to me were the Active Birth book and the Water Birth book – this is almost 20 years ago ….it was a small miracle. My sister gave me the best advice that a pregnant woman could hear and I still stand by that. I attended prenatal yoga at a centre that had a poster for a weekend with Michel Odent (I had no idea what it was but wanted to check him out after reading his work and merrily walked over with my post-dated cheques because I was so broke I couldn’t afford it) it was one of the first doula training courses for Paramana. My midwife with two and three was incredible and gave me a stern talking to about getting all this magic out to women I didn’t know. When I arrived in scotland I took heed of her words and began to work with families I had never met before. It was incredible – I literally get to fall in love over and over again with family after family and some of my most beloved friends have come to me by my birth work.
What does your work involve and why do you feel it’s so important?
Someone asked me recently what my work involves. It’s such a huge question. A true birthkeeper works with a woman through her journey and that journey could involve so many different things … perhaps with her relationship….perhaps with her voice being heard…perhaps with her choices being supported… perhaps soaking your trousers in her amniotic fluid because holding on to her as she rides a wave is more important than jumping out of the way… maybe advocating when noone is listening to her…perhaps gathering her tears and her joy… exploring hypnosis for relaxation…. witnessing her….I’ve loved babies who’s mums were off in postbirth surgery and the dad wasn’t there… I’ve helped women find accommodation….I have a friend coming to stay with me in Scotland to birth her baby….I’ve been on the phone….I’ve been on the web…I’ve travelled halfway around the world to join a circle of love that will radiate out onto our planet in the strength and integrity of the birthkeepers who were present…I’ve mentored some incredible women…I’ve written blogs….I’ve talked on womens rights….I’ve sat on NHS panels… made breasts out of fimo…made a birthing woman cake and a blessingway crown…. supported breastfeeding…sat in on a c-section while mum listened to 80’s tunes….I’ve run red tents….prepared doulas and midwives…. taught birth prep sessions and yoga….I have seen extraordinary sharing of love between men and women, women and babies, midwives and women, midwives and midwives…. cooked soup and copious amounts of cake…not judged while mum has a fag…gathered abuse stories…. knit hats and smiled at the system with love when it was driving me to madness
The community birthkeeper or witch is crucial to the structure of our societies and much has faltered since we burned 9 million women over 300 years to all but wipe them out. As I watched a very special witch burn sage with a sacred owl wing to waft it over the circle of birthkeepers she was blessing I realised that all that cruelty and wickedness didn’t work – this magic is stronger than their hatred. There are still many many birthkeepers out there restoring that fabric of society and restoring the God-given magic. This woman knows what’s going on in her community, she is the confidant, the wisdom, the healer, the safe space, the story gatherer, the mother, the place you can go and spill all your beans without judgement or advice.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give a pregnant woman?
My sister gave me the best advice that a pregnant woman could hear and I still stand by that – you get babies out the way they got in (I have never forgotten this and it served me well!) if you have love and privacy and the freedom to really let go you get to have a good time having your baby and leave the experience beautiful and empowered – who doesn’t want to begin motherhood like that!
What is the most important piece of advice you would give a new mum?
My words for a new mum would be to get in your bed and light a nice fire with all your parenting books. Enjoy your baby like a cat with kittens – rest!!! Find someone to take care of your daily business – all over the world women rest for 40 days after birth. These women are well nourished, have little postnatal depression in their societies, their pelvic floors are stronger, their breastfeeding problems are less and the rates higher and they are ready for being a mama at the end of it – no mean feat!
Do you have any great tips for childbirth or a ‘must have?’
My must have for childbirth is to have people around you who love you and have faith in this process with no fear. I truly believe this is the key – whoever they are – let no one in your birthspace that doesn’t fit this model and all will be very well.
What is your personal birth philosophy?
My personal birth philosophy is just that mine! I can’t put my ideas about birth onto families or birthkeepers. The world is full of gurus and experts – we don’t need any more! I like to give the families I work with the space to discover for themselves what they want and what is right for them. I’m a great believer in instinct leading you to just where you want but we need to room to discover that instinct.
What are your thoughts on preparing for childbirth?
Preparing for childbirth is a huge topic! From what I’ve learnt so far is that finding something that gets you in touch with your physicality is super important – find a yoga group, walk, swim, dance, paint your tummy, scream, have lots of sex (the kind that you never had before), get a massage. The other string needs to be getting in touch with your heart – find a positive birth group or yoga for pregnancy with a birth educator, heal your mother wound, draw, journal, talk to people, think about what you really want for your birth and early days and why you want it – is it culture? is it your mum? is it your partner? or is it truly what you want deep down?
Your top tips for getting back to work after birth and working around your family?
My top tip for getting back to work is making sure you actually go back when you want and need to at a time that is right for you all. I say this in relation to fathers as well as mothers. I see much pain and discomfort in all directions over this. I’ve seen many varying situations work for women.I saw a mum visit her lab on the way home from hospital and I’ve seen high powered women dump the six figure salary to become birthkeepers. I’ve also seen men and women weep at leaving their babies before they are ready – anything goes with no judgement from me as long as everyone is happy. It is really okay to be broke with a baby and get back on the conveyor belt when you’re ready. Money will come back into your world at some point in the future – the time with your baby (if you want it) won’t!
Find Nicola on any of her websites below