We’re delighted to be bringing back our ‘Spotlight Series’, shining a light on women who inspire us. This month, we’re speaking to Lauren Milligan, the brilliant former fashion editor turned Doula.
Lauren has been a part of my life for over 10 years. We first met in the early years, when I started Lily and Lionel. Lauren always included us in her Vogue.com news stories and, after meeting, we became friends.
Fast forward a decade later, I was pregnant with my second baby and I reached out to Lauren as I’d heard such great things about her Doula work. She helped me throughout my pregnancy as I wanted to rewrite history to have a positive birth after a traumatic experience delivering my son. Largely thanks to Lauren and all the work we did leading up to my daughter’s arrival, I had the most incredible, positive birth. Words I never thought I’d use to describe having a baby.
I’m so inspired by the journey she has gone on and the lives she touches, hope you enjoy reading…
Was there one significant moment when you realised it was time to take the leap from fashion into becoming a Doula?
It was a combination of moments really. Ben and I were the first in our friendship group to have kids, when I was 29, so by the time most of our friends and colleagues were having kids at 35 or 36, which is definitely more common in the industry I was working in, we had 3. This meant that a lot of people asked me for advice or anecdotes about how we’d done it and someone said “you should be a doula”, which made me curious to find out more. In a sense, that’s the root of the role of the doula because there would always have been a few older women who already had children in an ancient village community, who helped younger women around them welcome their babies. I loved to be able to support friends and know that telling them things that I hadn’t known could change their experience for the better. I’d also done my job for a long time and while I completely loved it, I was at a point of being able to do it without really trying. One day when we were having dinner, one of my boys asked me what I learned today - and when the honest answer was “nothing” I knew it was time for a change!
Describe a typical day in the life of you?
Well at the moment I have a ten-month old and am working on a book so I’m not taking on as many clients, which changes my days a little. I have clients who are due in the next few weeks and others who are not due for 6 or 7 months so my interactions with them is very varied. When I have clients in the first or second trimester we’ll speak most often by WhatsApp or voicenote and catch up for a call or zoom before and after appointments or whenever they need me. I might have a client who’s been advised that they need a test or to begin a course of action for a medical condition, so I might spend the morning gathering them information and links to give them a broad sense of their options. If not I’ll be writing or researching for my book during naptimes. For clients in the final weeks of pregnancy, we talk every day. Often just a listening ear is what they need, but also because early labour can take days or even weeks, they often need suggestions for how to manage early contractions while eating and sleeping as normal. If I’m called to a birth, everything else in my day just falls away. I grab my bag and spend the car journey just relaxing and leaving everything in my own life behind so that when I get to the birth space I can enter without bringing any of my own stresses and just see what the family needs. A day in the life if I’m supporting a family postnatally is the same, just turn up, clean slate, make the parents a cup of tea and just hear how their night has been. Then I’ll just do what would help them - like I would have in the ancient village! Support with breastfeeding, make them some breakfast or snacks - or make lunch or dinner and put it in the fridge to be heated later - put some washing on, fold some washing, hold the baby while they jump in the shower or catch some sleep. If you imagine what you would do if your best friend or sister had a baby, that’s all it is. As simple and life changing as that.
Tell us your most rewarding story (if you’re happy to share) since you began this journey into helping women?
It sounds like a cliche but I really couldn’t choose one. Many clients who come to me are first-time parents without any idea of what to expect or how to take control of of their own journey; many are already parents who desperately want to change the course of their pregnancy, birth or postnatal experience after a difficult first birth; many more are not British and are embarking on this amazing time without anyone to just care for them and tell them they’re doing great. I’ve had so much lovely feedback from clients, and hearing someone say that something so seemingly small or insignificant that you did meant the world to them is without doubt the best thing about my job.
Describe your personal style and how it has evolved given the 2 totally different natures of your work from past to present?
Well, practically obviously it’s pretty different! But the heart is the same. I like colour, it makes me feel good, so my work uniform is an array of colourful tracksuits - hydrangea blue, peach, pink, caramel, cream, green - worn with oversized home-tie-dyed T-shirts with my logo on. For birth or postnatal work, what I wear has to be easy to move in and easy to clean. But I still want to look like off-duty Hailey Bieber, so that’s my vibe. Since I became a mum, I’ve been drawn to a sort of relaxed French style - high-waisted jeans, men’s shirts, blazers, chunky knits, vintage blouses - and so that’s what I wear when I’m meeting clients and when I’m off at the weekend. Thanks to my time in fashion, I have more clothes than I’ll ever wear in this job, but as long as I wear them when I can it feels justified. The heels get less action than they used to, but that’s all of us post-pandemic right?
How do you unwind from a day supporting women during their most intense time and also managing 4 beautiful (and I’m sure energetic) children?
Definitely energetic. It’s a strange thing because getting home from a birth I am exhausted - even if it’s a short one. I’ve been at births where I was home in less than 6 hours, but because the experience is so intense it’s not like working any other 6-hour shift. So when I come home I want to shower (birth is messy), but I also want to cuddle the kids and be part of their day. So I’m really torn. You’re on a massive oxytocin high after a birth so it’s tricky to just go to bed straight away, so if it’s daytime I’ll play with them for a bit or make dinner or whatever and then it normally hits me and I have to crash. Relaxation as a mum of four looks like going to the bathroom alone so I won’t pretend I’m doing any kind of significant self-care ritual. Wash, pyjamas, face down in bed.
Is there anything surprising that you do which makes your heart sing?
Everyone thinks that the moment of birth will be the most heart-melting - and of course seeing a baby come into this world is the greatest privilege you can imagine - but for me the things that really make me smile are much more unassuming. One mum had had a long night with her baby, and when I arrived I gave her a hug and asked if she’d eaten. I brought her some tea and toast, and some fruit and yoghurt and just sat at the end of her bed to talk to her about the night. I asked what she needed - washing done, time to shower, I could make lunch or dinner for later? And she asked if I could please just sit there for 20 minutes and talk to her about what what happening in the world: politics, celebrities, royals - someone famous had just got married and she wanted to dissect the dress. It was a moment that really brought into focus my old life and my new. Just talking about normal life made her feel reconnected and reassured her that life would be normal again. That’s my job in a nutshell really. So lovely.