The Doula Issue 39 Autumn 2020 - Flipbook - Page 26
Amity Reed is a feminist midwife
campaigning for better maternity care
and the wellbeing of NHS workers. Prior
to entering midwifery, she was a doula,
freelance journalist and editor. Her first book,
‘Overdue: Birth, burnout and a blueprint for a
better NHS’ is published in October 2020 by
Pinter & Martin. Amity lives in London with
her husband and two children.
What are you most passionate about?
I am incredibly passionate about the collective power
of women. I think we are finally finding our voices and
our strength and are making such great strides towards
independence and equality. There’s still a long way to
go in many areas, but I believe that women are capable
of creating that change in a way that we’ve never seen
Tell us about a day that changed your life.
The day in 2006 that I picked up Sheila Kitzinger’s ‘Birth
Crisis’ from a library shelf while searching for books about
baby-led weaning. It opened my eyes to what was really
going on in maternity care and set me on the path to
becoming a doula and then a midwife.
You were a Doula UK doula and you became a
midwife. What it was like to make that transition?
I went into midwifery with a pretty clear understanding of
how tough it was going to be. I was under no illusions that
it was going to be easy or without its challenges. What I
learned is that I didn’t have to take my doula hat off entirely,
I just wore it underneath or alongside my midwife hat.
They had to jostle for a place on my head at times, but
being a doula first gave me a solid foundation of being truly
‘with woman’, which I think is missing from many trainee
midwives’ experiences today.
How do you start your day?
Like many people, my phone gets the first five minutes of
my attention while I try to wake up. Then it’s usually some
form of exercise, a shower and a proper breakfast. I’m a
huge breakfast fan and have no idea how people who don’t
eat first thing get through their mornings.
What would be your advice to any doula or midwife
feeling close to burnout?
You must talk about it to others. Don’t try to soldier on or
feel embarrassed if you can’t cope with the demands being
made of you. There’s a lot of buzz around ‘self-care’ and
‘resilience’ at the moment but sometimes falling apart and
doing nothing for a while is self-care. Boundaries are key.
26 The Doula | Autumn 2020 | © Doula UK
How can doulas protect birthing rights during the
Doulas are in a unique position to support women before
they enter the system to give birth, where things might feel
scary and isolating. Building up their self-confidence and
helping them find their voices so they can advocate for
themselves effectively is probably one of the best ways to
protect birthing rights on an individual level right now. On a
wider scale, just keep agitating and making noise.
What would you say to a doula or midwife just
Build a strong support system that you can lean on no
matter what, and value your own time and needs. You can’t
give if you’re not getting in return.
Who do you most admire and why?
I admire any woman who dares to stick her head above
the parapet and say, ‘This is wrong, and I will not stand by
and let it happen.’ Most recently, I’ve become a huge fan of
Chanel Miller for her bravery in writing about being sexually
assaulted and the abhorrent judicial system she had to
navigate through in her amazing book ‘Know My Name’
which is one of the most important, beautiful books I’ve
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our
UK maternity system?
The pervasion of fear at all levels: women’s fear of birth,
their bodies and being judged; midwives’ fear of adverse
outcomes, litigation and not being supported to give
individualised care; and senior management’s fear of
making the radical changes necessary to turn it around.
If we could get rid of fear and start talking to one another
without it as our primary driver, we’d be able to get on with
the work of creating positive change.
Your book ‘Overdue’ is a call to action. If you could
make one single change now what would it be?
Prioritise mental health and emotional well-being as
outcomes equally as important as physical ones. We’ve got
to rid ourselves of the notion that simply surviving birth or
surviving in the system is good enough. We can and must
aim higher and do better.