Elsa Martineau is a coordinator for the Postnatal Support Network (PSN) in France. She has attended seminars of Karine Langlois, a midwife from Quebec, The Quantum Approach to Birth,  and of Michel Odent and Liliana Lammers of Paramanadoula. She believes that these seminars have played a necessary role in how she currently participates as a doula in the maternal field and how this non-medical support has its place alongside the midwife and/or gynecologist. 

From 2018 to 2020, she attended the school of Yoga de l'Énergie, and continues to teach perinatal  (prenatal/postnatal) yoga to women. 

She wishes to contribute, facilitate, inform, and support future and young parents; in the hope that each mother, each newborn and each father start their lives together with the most gentle, informed and practical support; to be able to build step by step in this new chapter of their lives.

You can find her work here: https://www.elsayogadoulamontpellier.com/

Why become a doula?

It is powerful to be a doula, it is an act of service that is healing for my lineage.

It began with my own experience, I was sick during my pregnancy (pregnancy sickness) and I had a quick birth with my son, I was in shock of how to care for a newborn, to care for my new body. I had to ask myself, "How do I feel? How can I rest when my baby needs me?" I felt alone, it felt like a burden. I had a hard time nursing and my mother at the time was also in a major depression. I was in a position when I had to take care of everyone but myself. I felt rage and anger. I suffered in postpartum and I underestimated the value of support that I needed.

All this accumulation made me run away to New York while I was 6-weeks pregnant with my second child. I got married, went through the immigration process, and the family of my partner (at that time) lived there. I thought life would get better.

I announced to my partner soon before he was leaving on a business trip that I was having a second baby, his response was, " we will talk about it when I return..." 

I went to planned parenthood soon after that, made amendments with the spirit of that child, and had an abortion. 

I was in denial. Denial of the lack of listening to myself, denial of my relationship, and denial to the environment I had put myself in. I experienced emotional violence and had the police take my partner away the following months after my 30th birthday. 

I decided to move back to Montpelier, France after that. 

How do you support women in birth?

I had typed in 'yoga' and 'doula' in the search engine and found the Yoga Doula School.

I believed it was my mission, to help women love themselves. To put themselves first. Women can be loved, and can be in a relationship, but self-love needs to come first. Especially in postpartum. The first birth I attended was the birth of my son's preschool teacher.

Women are struggling with care. Daily ritual, meditation, self-care acts... There is too much pressure on women and the misconception is that we don't have time to care for ourselves. If women create this intention of putting themselves first, the man will always follow her lead. The kids will feel safe, they will feel kindness, and love.

I encourage women to attend circles, this is essential to rooting a self-care practice--weekly, monthly-- meet with other women! When this happens they love themselves more, women are softer, and their relationships are affected positively.

If we do this, men will see how important it is for us women to connect. Men are learning from us.

What do you think is needed for a shift away from medicalized birth in France? 

I advocate for more awareness, I tell women that the 'resources' are inside themselves. I have women imagine other options for birth like birthing at home, having a freebirth, or birthing at a birth center. Women make their own decisions. 

Often though, women underestimate their options. Dreaming bigger provides us with freedom. I inform my clients of this, so that they can discover their options. 

I attend birth in the hospital and at home. Fifty percent of my clients are single mothers (birthing without a partner). I unconditionally love and support the mother and the baby's needs.

Doing what I do, I would say that I am passing on the message, the seed, to know that at some level they are empowered to have me by their side.

As a doula, in what ways can mothers advocate for the Home-Birth Movement in France?

Support midwives. Have a liberal home-birth! Support associations! We are fighting to have more homebirths. In some regions in France the are no home birth midwives, so in order to promote the right to our choices we must change the legality. 

In the constitution of France it states that you can have births at home. You tell this to people and people think you are crazy. Support it. It is a right. More women need to know that, it is not something forbidden. 

There are several types of midwives in France, this is: Global, a midwife that comes during your entire pregnancy to the postpartum; Liberal, a midwife that attends the birth; and Semi-Global, a midwife that just attends the pregnancy and postpartum but not the birth.

As a mother and a doula, what wisdom do you share to a woman when she becomes pregnant?

I tell her to cultivate self-love and talk to her child. The biggest job for a mother during pregnancy it to build a subconscious connection. It is the occasion to be present for the baby, this creates the 'karma' for the next generations. Be careful not to pass on 'too much karma.' 

I tell women to connect to self-care practices and prepare for the birth. Because I want her to get there...so I meet her where she is at.

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