Birthworker Excellence Marie Maytreearch

In life you and another person may cross paths for one or more reasons. You could both be approaching a cross road or be travelling in the opposite directions where you eventually meet midway only to continue past one another. My life is full of those moments. I’ve had moments where I have met many many people who were friends for a season and those friendships served us well during that time. Others have stood the test of time and tribulation. Much like companion planting, if you put two plants that like the same soil conditions they will both grow and thrive. Some are perennials and others not. Whatever the case, whatever the season you will go out to the garden of Life and see beauty and a thriving eco system. I remember meeting Marie at a course last year. Instantly we got along. My son who was with me at the time took to her and he’d fall asleep cradled in the sling. We maintained some contact after the week ended and Marie is always only a message or call away if I need. There was a moment during the course where I mentioned not wanting to fall pregnant again which is a serious concern of mine. Without going into too much detail, Marie immediately showed genuine understanding and empathy for my concerns. Today I’d like to feature Marie Maytreearch on Eden’s Script. This series is about the women who have personally impacted me whether it has been frequently, infrequently, or simply in fleeting moments during my time as a doula. My experience of Marie is that of a calm, measured and gentle soul. Here is a little bit about Marie 

What was the child Marie like? 

I recently had reason to request my medical notes and smiled as my Mother was quoted by our GP when I was 4 in a letter to the hospital. She referred to me as “a very sensible child” and insisted on using family herbal remedies. So I guess I was a sensible child! I do remember gathering plants to make “medicine”, making notes and I still have my childhood books with the library referencing system I invented! I remember being a thoughtful, studious and helpful child. Loved my roller skates and singing! 

Tell me about the special matriarchs in your life?   
I was brought up in a matriarchal family with my Irish Gran as the head. My own Mother passed away unexpectedly at home when I was 5 following a brain aneurysm, she was almost full term with my youngest brother Christopher. I have memories of a gentle, fun, devout, beautiful and petit lady who was a talented seamstress and loved her garden. She passed away then Christopher followed after her leaving behind my younger brother Barry, myself and my devastated Father. 

My Gran came every day and as she would say “trained” me. My Gran grew up in a huge Dublin family leaving school at 14 and after against all odds recovering from TB she emigrated to England. She was met with signs everywhere that read “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish”. They were hard times. She was a tiny glamorous holy woman who you would never dare to cross. God help you if you even thought of it! She inspired many people and when I looked out from the pulpit at her funeral the place was packed. 
We had a Scottish next door neighbour called Rose who would look out for us and then as time went on I would look after her. I saw her every day. She had been born in the 19th century and was very wise. I loved listening to her stories and she had a beautiful south facing old fashioned walled garden. Rose taught me the art of old fashioned listening and conversation. 
I miss them all daily. My maternal aunts and Grandma had warm hearts and hugs so when I saw them they enabled me to maintain my connection to my Mother. 

In their absence, what impact has this had on you? How has your own mothering experience been?  

I grew up very quickly indeed gaining skills beyond my years. I won’t pretend that it wasn’t hard. Were it not for the strong women who sustained me I wouldn’t have survived. My own experience of being a mother with no support, well there are lots of ways to view it but i prefer to think of it with a pioneering spirit. 
My Gran begged me not to settle in Scotland, she was so worried that I would go through the isolation and prejudice that she did. I have not had one day of regret, Scotland has become home and has on the whole a very inclusive culture. Ok at 39 I’m the oldest surviving matriarch in my own direct line, they’ve all gone but they’ve left me with a legacy of strength that I carry for my children and for women who want to feel the support of being keyed into the link of women stretching back through time. We are all family.

What has changed since becoming a mother?  
Gosh I was Mrs career woman before marriage, so much changed with children. When I had my eldest I also became a foster carer as I had the spare room and time. I realised after that everything in life had been aligned to me supporting other women. It took a series of chats with Sheila Kitzinger after my oldest child’s birth to realise. She told me I needed to see what I was doing was actually a very suitable career for me and that I needed to go more deeply into it. So I did, debriefing the first few with Sheila. 

What made you decide to begin Birthwork? 
I’ve always been doing birth work, even at 17 with family! I didn’t decide, it was always my vocation. I had a different career in between because I was desperate to get out into the world and travel but even then I found myself learning with other women who support women! It’s never felt like a decision 

You’re very knowledgeable about natural contraceptive methods and holistic approaches generally. What drew you to this?
It is my culture and goes very deep into my hereditary line. I had a natural aptitude and was like a sponge for gathering knowledge, still am! I was taught about natural family planning at convent school, it is part of our religious and cultural tradition. Most modern natural family planning has a foundation on the research of two Catholic Drs called Billings. They led and worked with others to develop huge reliable cohort studies that led to the traditional approach being brought up to date with science that lead to a method that, when done properly, is between 97-99% effective. My first degree is in science so I actually love working with charts and figures to support women to their own body literacy.

What do you see as the biggest challenges in birth as a whole? What would you like to see improve? How do you think this can be achieved?
Politics. Seriously. Evidenced based woman centred care is what we should have as a society and it really isn’t always the case in reality. 
How exciting to get to write a wish list! I’d love the majority of midwifery care to go over to antenatal, birth and postnatal case loading. I’d like there to be a paid service available to babysit children of midwives and mothers-to-be at short notice. For there to be a free service that helped with domestic duties on day 3, 9 and 15, as a minimum. I’d love every area to have an NHS Homebirth dedicated team, something that late last year was achieved in Fife. It’s a breath of fresh air! It would be wonderful if insurance issues could get ironed out, so when there is strong evidence that policy recommendations respond quickly. I think in an ideal world Midwives would develop their own regulator outside of the NMC, one that provides insurance cover for IMs. At the moment there is a gap in the valuable space that Supervisor of Midwives provided. It would be wonderful to build that area, it’s valuable support for both mothers and birth workers. 
When I am at the interviews for applicants of Midwifery and meet new Doulas coming forward for mentoring I’m quite excited to see the faces of those who will likely give decades of service to the shape of the birth culture of tomorrow. 

What has been your biggest achievement in life? What words of wisdom would you like to share?  
Oh goodness, getting through the instances in life that developed resilience and courage in one piece I guess. Facing those who have hurt me with love. It sounds woolly but it’s true, it’s not for me to punish. I’m too busy doing what I’m doing! Words of wisdom? You have a job to do whilst you’re here, just like all the plants have each their own role in the ecosystem and that vocation is embedded in your very being. If you’re not sure what it is yet maybe you’re already doing it as second nature, so start small and do each task in your life with great love, perhaps if you give space for the silence in between the movements of life then it will be more clear what the next step is. 

What’s in your doula bag? 
This has changed so much over the years. I have two comfy dresses and underwear including 6 changes of menstrual wear in a bag for me ready. I don’t like to over complicate things or be caught out. I carry oils, dried herbs, fabric, food, fresh herbs and flowers pick up on the way out if available in my garden, water bottle, vital phone numbers written on paper, phone charger and full battery pack. I separately have a birth pool kit, birthing chair and a cub for women to use if they would like. 

Oh please also tell me about why roses are special to you? I love your roses. It inspired me to buy some for my garden. I have yellow, purple, white and pink (the latter were here when I moved here)
Rose, the lady next door, was special to me and she grew old fashioned climbing roses on the tall brick wall surrounding her garden. Roses, the flower, were special to inspirational ladies in my life. My Gran told me that she was told a story that Mother Mary (a very Holy mother and woman in our tradition) liked yellow roses, so my Gran grew yellow roses in her memory, to encourage this beauty and peace that they promote. 
As a result I had a vast choice of roses for my concoctions when growing up! 
When I bought my first house I already had a good knowledge of the plant variations and it’s uses but delved further into collecting and so in all places I have lived since I’ve left a collection of old fashioned scented roses behind in the gardens. Today I use the roses from my own quarter acre garden to provide tea, beautiful gifts as focus point to a meditation of the cervix ripening for expectant mothers and I make some nourishing food for women with them too. Gardening is very much linked to taking care of women, we are not machines but we have such clever bodily balances that need mindful nurturing support. 

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