Women supporting women.
Meet Maymun Ahmed. Born in New Zealand to Somali parents, Maymun is in her third year of a Bachelor of Nursing/Midwifery at LaTrobe University and has recently joined our tribe of volunteer doulas at Birth for HumanKIND! One of five children, which she says is ‘pretty average’ in the Somali community, Maymun moved to Australia when she was 10 months old. Her mother worked with Somali refugees as an interpreter for the Immigration Department in New Zealand at the same time as supporting her and her husband’s families to come to New Zealand after the war broke out in Somalia. Following somewhat in her mother’s footsteps, this amazing young woman is using her skills as a midwife and a doula to support women from her community through pregnancy and birth. We’re excited to share a little of her story this World Refugee Week.
Hi Maymun, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Tell us — why did you decide to become a midwife and a doula?
“I’ve always loved being around expectant mothers and newborn babies but it was during my senior years at school when my interest for midwifery really developed. I remember learning about the UN Millennium Development Goals at school and Goal 5 was ‘improve maternal health’. This really struck me. In Australia we’re often so privileged and our maternal health system is quite good but I believe that every women should have that same privilege. I see it as a fundamental human right. This really drove my desire to study midwifery because it is a career that allows you to make that difference and to be part of such a memorable experience.
What do you like about the role of the doula?
“I love that when you’re a doula you’re solely there for the woman. You don’t have the responsibility of providing any clinical care, interpreting CTGs, etc. Nothing. You are there for her. Being a doula allows you to support women and get to know them on a more personal level as well as being able to support them in non-clinical environments.”
Can you describe what you love about birth work in general?
“Being the first to touch another human entering the world is truly magical. Placing the baby on their mother’s chest and watching the reaction of the parents as they get teary and overwhelmed with the joy of seeing and touching their baby for the first time is amazing.”
What are some of the key characteristics that you need to be a birth worker?
You need to:
Advocate for the women you care for.
Be able to meet the woman where she is.
Be culturally sensitive.
And be able to listen to the women you care for.
Do you think that volunteering as a doula for Birth for HumanKIND will make you a better midwife?
“Volunteering as a doula for Birth for HumanKIND will allow me to spend time supporting women without having the responsibility of providing clinical care. In the future when I’m a midwife and both supporting the woman and providing clinical care, the benefits of the extra time I spent solely focusing on supporting women will become very valuable. Especially, I imagine, when the clinical environment gets busy, it will help me to remember to individualise the women and maintain my focus on supporting her and providing her care in partnership with her and her partner/family and not to lose the essence of being a midwife due to the busy environment. This will also make my career more enjoyable and rewarding.
Volunteering as a doula for Birth for HumanKIND will also help me develop skills to support all types of women, especially women who may be more vulnerable. Understanding the barriers these women face and spending time with them as a doula, gaining an insight into their social, emotional and psychological needs, I believe will be of benefit to me as a midwife when caring for women.
The skills I will gain from volunteering with Birth for HumanKIND will be invaluable. I can already sense it. It will definitely make me a better midwife!”
What do you think is the most important thing for a woman to know when she is becoming a mum?
“That there is no right or wrong way to be a mother. No one knows your baby the way you do. Women are strong and capable.”
Can you share with us why you wanted to volunteer with Birth for HumanKIND?
“I love the service that the organisation offers, and that I have the opportunity to support the community’s most vulnerable women during a special and challenging time in their lives. I strongly believe that no woman should birth alone, or go through the journey without the support and information she needs.
To be able to support women, who may not otherwise have any support, gives me such a rewarding feeling that I can’t compare with anything.
For every woman supported by Birth for HumanKIND’s volunteer doulas like myself, I know that it’s one less woman going through a life-changing experience with minimal or no support. So I’m very fortunate and excited to be part of such a wonderful organisation.”
Are you excited to work with women from Somali backgrounds through our doula support program?
“Yes, I’m so excited to be supporting women from my own community. Giving back to my community is really important to me. I really look forward to empowering Somali women, supporting them to become active participants in their journey/care and seeing Somali women empowering one another. Historically, Somali women are known to be strong women and I really look forward to supporting them in a Western culture to have the same level of confidence and knowledge they would have had back home on their journey into motherhood.
I’m privileged to be fluent in both Somali and English and understand both cultures. When supporting Somali women, this makes a difference. I’ve supported Somali women as part of my continuity of care experience [at university], and I’ve seen the difference it makes for the women. They have voiced to me how it made them build better trust in the care they received and made them feel safe during birth. I look forward to providing Somali clients through Birth for HumanKIND with similar experiences — even if it’s just being a familiar face that they can see resemblance in, so they don’t feel so alienated.
I feel that due to a lack of midwives and doulas from Somali backgrounds that a lot of Somali women don’t feel connected to the health professionals providing them care. There are language barriers and a lot of cultural differences in parenting. Imagine birthing in a country where you don’t speak the language! I hope by supporting Somali women, and by being a Somali speaking woman myself, they feel more safe and comfortable through their journey. I also hope to inspire other Somali women to consider becoming a doula or midwife.
And lastly, what is your hope for birthing women worldwide?
“That no matter what type of pregnancy and birth a woman has, I hope that it becomes a positive experience for the woman and that she walks away from birth feeling strong and empowered, ready to step into motherhood.”
Maymun Ahmed is one of Birth for HumanKIND’s ten new volunteer doulas. Recruiting, training and supervising these doulas to work with women in need would not have been possible without your generous donations during World Doula Week. So really we have YOU to thank!