Melbourne Doula

Welcome to 'Melbourne Doula', the place where I share what birth work is teaching is me, and what I am learning from the wonderful families who have invited me to share this most special season of their lives. Here you will find information about me and the doula services I provide, birth stories from remarkable women and their loved ones, as well as all kinds of resources to enrich your own journey of discovery. And welcome also to BLISSFUL HERBS, the home of beautiful herbal teas and bath herbs to support wellness through every season of life.

How to Make Love Soup

I see her face so clearly. Her straight black hair in a simple bob, her kind, open expression, the sprinkle of freckles – yes, Chinese people do have freckles.

In her hands was a simple ceramic bowl containing a soup wafting a delicious fragrance. Her little boy snuggled against her as she offered it to me.

Did she know how tired I was? Could she see how lonely I was?

My neighbour, her little son, and one of my girls, in the alley just outside our front door

I spoke only passable Mandarin, and barely any Cantonese. She spoke no English and only Cantonese. But she was fluent in the language that transcends all barriers.

I sat right down and ate every drop of that amazing soup. There was chicken on the bone, a whole egg, Chinese greens, shallots, Reishi mushroom and Dong Quai root.

It nourished me to my bones and to the depths of my soul.

She cooked it in the little slate-roofed, brick hut in the 700 year old walled village where we lived, in the far north of Hong Kong, in sight of the Chinese border. Her house used to be the goat shed and hungry ghosts whispered through the gaps in the ancient stone wall that her dwelling leaned against. She and her little son lived in two rooms – one for sleeping, one for cooking. I never saw a husband, or any other relative. We shared the heat, the humidity, the rats, mosquitos and cockroaches of our environment, our houses on opposite sides of a sewer covered only by a metal grate. I could peek in her open doorway and see her tossing food in her iron wok, with a serenity I rarely had.

My girls, with our neighbour's home, right behind them.
I never found a way to thank her.

It’s only with the clarity of hindsight that I can finally admit that I was trudging through a fog of post-natal depression, induced by sleep-deprivation, isolation and impossible burdens. We were based in Hong Kong as volunteer workers with a Christian aid organization. I was pregnant with my third, my older girls were just 4 and 2, and my husband was in ICU following an assault in a random road rage incident.

She saw my swelling belly, but she saw something more. She brought me a bowl of soup traditionally prepared to strengthen and sustain mothers. She ministered to me with womanly solidarity passed down through generations.

Where are you now, my sweet neighbour? How I wish I could thank you. 

Do you even know what you did for me?

Just outside the walled village. Is there a tired mother alive who doesn't know that face?
The baby in my womb then is now 14.

Just last week, I heard about a young mum who is unwell. Her kids all got the flu and she caught it from them. It’s settled in her chest, and she feels like death.

This mama is a bit special to me. I was her doula and our hearts were entwined at that point. I count her a dear friend, a soul friend.

She’s also amazing for the incredible work she does in empowering other women, not only through her birth-serving and photography, but through mentoring women to face their fears, stare down their blocks, and, step by dogged step, move forward into business success. Her work is the stuff of miracles, with a twinkling of stardust.

Suffice to say, I am rather a fan of this epic human.

She gave me an opportunity to give back and I grabbed it with both hands.

From my dear Chinese neighbour, I’d learned the secret embedded in so many cultures – that food nourishes so much more than the body – especially soup. She showed me that there is no dividing line between food and medicine. I remembered the garlic, the ginger, the medicinal roots, herbs and mushrooms she’d put in that delicious bowl of nurture.

I went out and shopped for a whole organic chicken.

As the late Autumn cold began to bite, I had a great reason to stoke up the woodstove.

In went my Schisandra berries – magical berries from China; my Astragalus and Withania root – immune boosters and nervous system soothers from India; the delicious and anti-inflammatory ginger and turmeric, nature’s anti-biotic, garlic - and of course, the immune-boosting mushrooms. From my garden I picked herbs washed in the mountain rain – sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, coriander.

The soup percolated all day, filling the house with anticipation and aroma.

Now to convince Angela to let me bring it to her.

- Oh I couldn’t ask that of you.

- I’m coming anyway, I gently persist. If you really don’t want me there, you can have me arrested.

Next day, Angela lets me know that she needs to spend time with a visiting relative.

But see, I know this darling woman. I know that she who gives tirelessly and selflessly to others finds it hard to let people care for her.

I found this out as her doula, when, just after giving birth, she politely declined my offer to come and look after her for a few days.

How I regret that I did not press firmly, and kindly, and persistently through her resistance.

Not making that mistake again!

Next day, I bundled up the soup, along with Elderberry cordial and herbal medicines. I drove 3 hours to her door.

Sent a quick text.

- Angela. There is a delivery at your front door. It should probably go in the fridge as soon as practical.

- OMG!!!! Are you there?

- Um – yes? I'm committing an act of civil disobedience.

- Are you a SAINT??

- No - a friend

- I am so indebted, texts Angela.

- Oh no you are NOT!

*puts on bossy mama doula hat*

My darling, I am giving you a challenge. I am helping you strengthen your ability to *receive* …
Just receive, and know you are worth it, you are worthy

And then an echo from my own soul:

- You have no idea what you do for me.

Do you even know what you did for me?

I am right back in that crowded, concrete village. I feel the unyielding concrete under my soles, I smell the acrid cooking oil, the fish and the sewer, I am sweating in the humidity.  Where there was never any quiet, where I was so lonely in a place where there was never any solitude. 

A friendly face. A loving gesture. A bowl of soup.

I text Angela again:

- I'm your friend. I love you. This is what your friends, your village, do for you when you're sick. It should be ordinary, routine, just "As You Do"

The fact that hard-working women feel so overwhelmed by simple little acts of kindness, is an indictment of society's treatment of women and poor value of women.

Text bubbles …

- You are so, so right.

And it's incredibly fucking sad.

I text:

- Consider it my personal F*** You to the patriarchy.

And my darling Angela replies:

- I f***ing love your patriarchy-smashing ways!

I know that Angela will exponentially multiply any small blessing I can offer her, because she is that sort of person.

She is a knitter, a weaver, a spinner of connection, in a society sick with separation.

And so am I

And so are you

And most of all, so was my sweet neighbour, who reached across a smelly sewer and other divides, to bring me a bowl of love soup.

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