Mornington Pensinsula, Doula, Melbourne, Karli Smith, Postpartum Doula, birth support

Hey, I'm Karli

Birth Rights Trailblazer. Birth culture revolution flag bearer.
Curator of indoor plant population (currently numbering 17).

Mother of 2 earthside and 2 angel babies. Wife to husband who regularly does an ice cream run for me at 9pm. Lover of the ocean and planet. Advocator and Agitator. Slightly addicted to wit and fun and deliberately obsessed with embracing What it Means To Be Human. Board Director of Human Rights in Childbirth (AusNZ), 10pm emailer to hospital CEOs demanding reviews of inhumane hospital policies.

Birth Matters.

What you feel matters.

Your Rights in birth matter.

Birth is more than a 'healthy baby' and 'healthy mother'. Health is more than alive-ness.

Birth is transformative, a rite of passage.

 

It is as significant on an evolutionary scale as it is for the life of you and your baby.

After a 10 year career deep in the human rights issues plaguing the international humanitarian sector, I decided to act on the niggling feeling inside that there was something else for me to be doing - something local, that would still have big impact. After the birth of my own two children, it became apparent to me how much further we have to go to in Australia to uphold and address human rights issues in childbirth. Enter a few serendipitous series of a events (I'll tell you all about it over a cuppa), and here I am, now a birth worker.

I had spent years exposed to maternal health systems in developing countries that were a shambles. Improving, but incredibly lacking in so many places. For many reasons, women were encouraged to birth at medical clinics but there were many barriers to that experience. Interestingly, women in Australia face many of the same barriers - and alternative, proven models of care such as home birth or midwifery led continuity of care, are still so inaccessible to so many. In Australia we have 'world class' maternal care, yet 1 in 3 are leaving their birth experience describing what they've been through as 'traumatic'. Combine a strained, industrialised medical complex with a cultural narrative of fear and distrust of birth, and here we have our perfect storm of far too many women walking away from birth wounded instead of transformed.

There has to be a middle ground in this spectrum of care models.

Between the heavily medicalised, institutionalised system that we hand over our power to in the west, and the resource strained approaches in less developed settings. 

There has to be a way for birth to be honoured as the rite of passage that it is, in a way that enables women and birthing people to truly step into their power, entering motherhood and parenthood elated, supported, recognised, nourished.

The alternative is simply not acceptable.

This is where I have turned my attention to, and where the support of a doula during the pregnancy, birth and postpartum period can be so powerful. Offering hardcore support in areas of emotional, physical, personal, spiritual health whilst navigating a maternal health system to deliver the best outcome for you that leaves you feeling empowered, heard and respected. Options and choices that are unique to you. Going with your flow, not the institutional flow. 

I am beyond passionate about every woman's right to respectful maternity care, bodily autonomy, dignity, and to participate in the care she receives. This sh*t is literally law, yet on the daily it is just not being honoured. I am working every day, through my advocacy work, involvement in maternity consumer groups locally here on the Peninsula and nationally, and through my responsibilities as a board member of Human Rights in Childbirth (AusNZ) to shake this system down.

And.. it's no secret that I'm also passionate AF about physiological birth - the process, the design, the intricate order, the micro-step mechanisms that kick in along the way to prime us for immunity, love, bonding, empathy, breathing, feeding, for life itself. I'm fascinated. Full geek level. It is sublime how instinctual babies are. Evolutionary biology fascinates me, and is a big pull for the protection I feel over this unfolding for both mothers and babies.

(Disclaimer! Do I believe a 'natural birth' is the gold standard? No! I think only a woman can decide that for herself, and I support everyone's right to choose freely and without coercion. This is not about our individual choices - it is about the industrialised maternal system that leaves many women with no choices at all.)

Mornington Pensinsula, Doula, Melbourne, Karli Smith, Postpartum Doula, birth support

It has to change so that everyone, everywhere, all the time, has their rights in birth respected, protected and ensured.

Then cue... post partum. After having both of my babies, it was glaringly obvious to me that our culture is all about the baby. I mean babies are cool and cute and cuddly and smell amazing AF, for sure. But it’s like the mother disappears into the background once baby arrives. We visit the baby. We hold the baby. We bring presents for the baby (who doesn’t need a damn thing other than milk and to bond with its primary caregivers. And okay maybe just one adorable outfit from PureBaby Organic).

But what about presence for the mother? There is little meaningful direction from our culture or tradition on how to prepare ourselves for this new life - for motherhood, for parenthood, which happens in the blink of an eye as we birth. We often navigate our own new internal terrain largely unaided - maybe what we feel is too taboo, too good, not good enough, too shameful, too ecstatic. There has to be more to this - this gigantic shift in identity that happens in an instant but unravels over a lifetime. Can we open up more safe spaces to chat about this? I think we can, and I'm here for it.

I hear the call for 'the village', and I echo it. I want to see new (and new again) mothers facilitated to truly rest, be nourished, and land back on the ground after climbing the peaks of labour and birth. To find deep meaning in community that enriches and strengthens, upholds and celebrates this monumental time in our lives.

And, it's so important that we see and build up resilient mothers - motherhood doesn't get magically easier after 40 days. It's... forever. And so even as I navigate my own motherhood (6 years in), and recognise that the challenges keep coming thick and fast, I see that we fail many women in many ways in those early days, with accolades of "it gets easier!" and "you'll bounce back in no time!". The reality is, we have to bounce forward. And I'm here for that too.

So here I am now,

with my babies and my business-baby, busting myths and

bursting with excitement at the potential we have to truly embrace and mark this transformational experience whilst dismantling a system that depends on our pliability. And trying to keep my 17 house-plant-babies alive. And making all the toddler snacks. And looking forward to the mummy-daddy-date-nights. And exhaling at the end of all of it, ready to get cracking again the next day.