In honour of International Women’s Day, we are featuring ten Hegen mums who have found strength in spite of the odds, adversity and loss. This week, we have a mother who struggled with baby blues and went on to be an advocate for women to embrace their body.
Just a glance at the IG profile of our young Dutch mom Pleunie tells a story of someone who believes in the beauty of birth, motherhood and babies. She tells us that all her life, she has had an enormous fascination with pregnancy and birth, even as a little girl borrowing pregnancy picture books from the library with an ambition to be a midwife someday!
That goal took shape when she became pregnant with her beautiful baby girl, Prim. While she had a smooth and happy pregnancy, Pleunie went through some postpartum blues. But she was not afraid to take all the time she needed to heal herself, mind and body. At just 27 years old, this Doula and birth photographer exemplifies courage; empowering other Mothers to embrace and respect the needs of their pregnant and post-pregnant bodies.
Hegen: We’re huge fans of your IG channel and are very inspired by what you put out there! What message is most important to you when you create content there?
For me, the most important issue is women empowerment. There is really a shift underway in which women are becoming increasingly aware of their bodies, what they are capable of and that they have the right to make choices for themselves. These choices relate to how they want to be pregnant and how they want to give birth.
It is my great passion to inform women about their body, pregnancy and delivery and to encourage them to make choices for themselves and have the childbirth they envision. Pregnant mums are often inundated with information about baby prep and care but perhaps not so much to help them mentally for the life-changing experience of giving birth! I think that it is so important for a pregnant mother to enter into the delivery room being informed and feeling supported. So that’s what I hope to achieve that with my Instagram channel: to inspire and inform women.
Hegen: It is amazing that you’ve been connected to the idea of babies and pregnancy since such a young age! Can you share with us what your current work entails?
Yes, I’ve always known from a very young age that I wanted to become a midwife. This dream profession (and the decision I took to pursue it) was triggered by my own pregnancy. I very much lacked the continuous professional support and guidance I wanted during my own delivery.
So I took steps to learn and become certified myself. As a birth doula, I want women to have the opportunity to receive the pregnancy and birth support in the way they need it most. In helping as a guide for women before and during their delivery, we would discuss birth options and try to implement this as well as possible in practice.
In addition to my work as a doula, I am also a birth videographer. A few years ago I followed a course in film and editing, but never took it further as a profession until recently. I had been filming all the valuable events in my life for as long as I can remember, including my own delivery. I was so incredibly grateful that I recorded my delivery on film. That inspired me to do it for other Mums. With birth videos I hope to give women an incredibly valuable memory of their delivery, even with processing the negative parts that may have not gone as they had hoped. During childbirth you are so in your own world that afterwards you cannot remember much at all.
Hegen: What is the biggest misconception that people have of a doula?
That we try to take the job of a midwife or the spouse or partner.
This is definitely not true! A Doula’s job is to give added value where there is a lack of support. Midwives can be busy and have more than one birthing mother during every shift to take care of. A spouse or partner may be willing to be present but is not professionally trained to know everything and support their woman throughout the entre birth process.
As a doula we support woman from the start of labor and will not leave them until well after the birth. Together with the midwife, partner and hospital, we create a team to support the laboring woman towards the delivery they envision to have. Together we create a plan to make her delivery a positive and loving experience.
Hegen: Empowerment and strength seem to be important issues for you. What is your personal definition of strength?
My definition of strength has completely changed since I became a mum. Strength to me now means being the best mother to my daughter as I can be. My purpose is to always greet her out of bed with a smile on my face and take care of her throughout the day, even when I've been awake half the night and I'm dead tired. To me, strength means being there for her and being able to put my own feelings aside.
Hegen: Can you talk about a period in your life when you had to rely on your strength to get through a challenging or stressful time?
The baby blues hit me hard on Day Four, postpartum. I wish that someone had told me more about that. When I was pregnant, I had been so happy and loved every single minute of it, even at the end when I gave birth. I was so in love and proud of my big belly and wanted to be pregnant forever.
But after Prim was born I remember sitting in the shower crying so hard because my belly was big, soft and empty. My boobs were huge because my milk was coming in. I have always been extremely conscious about my body, exercising often and eating healthy. I had been nervous about how I would look like after birth and when it really happened, I felt horrible.
I was crying all the time, feeling like a failure even though I was so happy with my baby girl. I asked myself: am I a good mother? Why am I so tired all the time? Some other woman on social media are already climbing mountains after having a baby, so what was I doing wrong?!
My body was having a hard time adjusting to its new job of producing milk for my baby. I found that I always felt so tired even though Prim was only waking up once a night. Eventually I gave myself a pep talk; I told myself to stop looking at IG, comparing myself to other women and what they were doing or how they looked. That my body, my baby my journey – is different from others’. That I don’t think there is a right way to measure success as a woman and a mother. That what matters most is my daughter’s happiness and my own.
Once I accepted this, I started to relax and give myself some credit. Honestly, I regard my baby’s birth as my greatest achievement!! It’s amazing to me that my body could make this beautiful healthy baby girl and is still producing milk to nourish and help her grow. My body rocks!
I decided to put my business on hold and focused solely on recovery and getting my strength and energy back. I think it took my body about three months to get back to my pre-pregnancy shape. Once I began to have the energy to exercise, I started to feel like my old self again.
Taking that extra time to heal meant that in addition to regaining my health and well-being, I also enjoyed a lot more one-on-one time with Prim. That bonding period is possibly the reason why I’m still breastfeeding successfully nine months later! So I’m proud that I gave myself the time I needed.
Hegen: What or who is your source of power when you are feeling burnt out?
I think that's obvious: my beautiful dear Prim. And especially when I get such a wonderful smile from from her, I can handle feeling tired for a very long time.