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Compassion is our name: Birmingham doula charity supports vulnerable women

By Crystal Horner | Elayos doula and freelance writer

In 2018, two friends put their dreams into action. Hope Plumb, a doula and personal trainer/fitness instructor, and Amelia Sommers, a doula and dance movement psychotherapist, had been dreaming up a way to support isolated and vulnerable women in Birmingham through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. After months of work and planning, the charity Elayos was founded.

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Compassion is our name
The name comes from a Greek term for compassion, Eleos. Compassion and care are at the core of what Elayos does as a charity in the heart of England.

 

Most Elayos clients are walking through the most difficult time of their lives. Many have escaped domestic violence and are rebuilding their lives in a new city. Some have been forced to flee their home countries and are searching for safety and stability in the UK. Others have been victims of trafficking or homelessness. No matter the circumstance, every client has one thing in common: they’re about to welcome a new life into this world.

That’s where Elayos steps in. Nearly all referrals come from specialist midwives who see the opportunity for a trained doula to come alongside these expecting mothers to offer support and continuity of care through all four trimesters. (Some clients are referred as early as the first trimester, while others are closer to labour.) Elayos doulas work alongside involved professionals to ensure safeguarding and informed care. All team members have been DBS-checked, have completed safeguarding training and hold professional qualifications as doulas and breastfeeding peer supporters. Trained volunteers are also available to support clients.

Practical help and dignity in a time of need
Clients’ needs are the top priority for Elayos doulas. The charity has its own baby bank of donated items like Moses baskets, baby clothing, breast pumps, bottles, prams and bouncer chairs, plus maternity care items such as pads and toiletries. But the first step with new clients is to get to know them, hear their stories, listen to their hopes and concerns and start building a strong rapport. Many clients feel that their choices have been stripped away from them due to their difficult circumstances, so Elayos doulas work with them to rebuild their agency and protect their dignity. Providing high-quality information and resources on common questions surrounding pregnancy, birth and newborn care and discussing birth preferences helps to empower the client.

Within this professional relationship based on trust and care, Elayos doulas also offer advocacy to clients who request it due to barriers such as cultural or language differences or a fear of speaking up. Elayos doulas can also accompany them to appointments, which can reduce the likelihood of absences when transportation is a concern.

“It’s time!” The call in the middle of the night
From 38 weeks onward, Elayos doulas are on call around the clock for when labour begins. From giving lifts to the hospital (pending the hospital’s instructions to come in) to that long-awaited tray of tea and toast, the doula is present through every stage – encouraging, advocating and cheering the client on.

While the birth is the event everyone has been waiting for, it is only the beginning. The relationship built with clients has led to this moment, but Elayos doulas recognise that the subsequent weeks are just as pivotal for both the mother and the baby.

 

Navigating the fourth trimester
For up to three months following the birth, Elayos doulas continue to support clients and their babies as they bond, work through feeding issues, find safe sleep routines and adjust to a new rhythm of life. In addition to offering practical help such as meals or light housework, Elayos doulas also check in with mums to see how they are doing emotionally and to signpost to midwives, GPs or other organisations as needed.

Since many clients are new to their area and have no support, Elayos doulas also aim to link them to their local community through baby groups, children’s centres, etc.

The final client sign-off is never easy – but to see an empowered mother and her baby settled into their new life together is a joy not easily forgotten.


As a small UK charity, Elayos relies entirely on fundraising and donations to continue its work in deprived communities throughout Birmingham. You can learn more about the organisation here. And if you’re interested in becoming a donor, please visit the charity’s support page here.

1 comment

Amanda Hutcherson 19 July 2022 at 18:58

What a fabulous project Elayos.
I’m a midwife who has worked with a similar project in London , and s also researching the developmental effects on the duolas themselves . I m hoping to get some funding for further exploration.

I am also very interested in self caring ans knitting to that aim. Plus adding crochet ckasses soon
I really would like to help and support you in any way that I can.

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