Tahnee is back with another soulful Women's Series episode on the podcast today. Clancy Allen joins us to unpack and explore the depth and nuance of the birthing process. Clancy is a Doula with prior professional experience as a civil litigation lawyer and training in kinesiology and yoga. It is Clancy's deep desire and burning passion to facilitate women on their birthing journey's, helping them cultivate their inner power, and find their voices within a medical system that is often unsupportive. Clancy creates a sacred container for women in the birthing space, helping them to recognise and dissolve fear and overwhelm, guiding them towards the harmony that exists between their intellect and intuition.
Tahnee and Clancy explore:
Who is Clancy Allen?
Clancy is a birth mentor and birth keeper, wise woman, and mother to a spirited 4 year old boy. Clancy honours the continuum of the childbearing phases from preconception, to pregnancy, birth and motherhood as potent opportunities for personal growth and transformation.
After transitioning away from a half a decade career as a Lawyer to study yoga and kinesiology, it was pregnancy that catalysed Clancy’s interest in birth. Clancy’s passion to support women during the childbearing continuum was born with her son. Clancy went on to study as a Sacred Birth doula with Anna Watts (in the Byron shire), Birthing From Within, and the Radical Birth Keeper School.
Clancy offers birth mentoring and birth keeping, postnatal mother support, mothering the mother ceremonies, and her online course, Yoga for Empowered Birth. Clancy holds space for women to recover their inner authority and voice, to remember their innate birthing wisdom and power, and to experience birth as a joyous initiation to mothering.
Peaceful, primal, biological, loving birth is the revolution our world needs, now.
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Check Out The Transcript Here:
Hi everybody, and welcome to the SuperFeast Podcast. Today I am joined by Clancy who happens to be a friend of mine, but she's also an amazing birth mentor and birth keeper. Her name is Clancy Allen, excuse me. And we'll link to all of her website and everything a bit later on, but she's got a really awesome Instagram and a great website, and online courses, so lots of resources out there for mums that are in that birthing time or birthing phase of life.
But I'm really excited to share Clancy with you all today because she's just someone that I've really enjoyed following her journey, and I've learned a lot from her sharing and her resources that she shares. She's got this really beautiful way of pulling in the facts and then also the weaving in the deeply intimate and personal experiences of birth. I'm really excited to have you here today, Clancy. Thanks for taking the time.
Clancy Allen: (00:53)
Thanks Tahnee. Thanks for that beautiful introduction.
Oh, that's so nice. But, yeah, I know we've had trouble lining this up because of life, but yeah, it's really nice to finally be here. And I was just thinking about you the other day and just I think I bumped into you, and you were really pregnant, and I remember you looked really beautiful; and at that point pregnancy was not even on my horizon. And, yeah, it's interesting we're both here now five years later with little people, so big growth for both of us, I'm sure.
Clancy Allen: (01:25)
Yeah. But it's interesting because it wasn't that long after we did have that encounter and bumped into each other that you were pregnant, I think. Or I feel it wasn't that long.
It's true. I don't know the exact dates but, yeah, it would have been no more than six months, I think. Well, when was Loui born?
Clancy Allen: (01:44)
He was February 2016.
Yes. Aiya's December, so yeah.
Clancy Allen: (01:50)
Not too far apart.
Yeah, so you do this amazing birth keeping work now. I know that you were in the holistic space then, but I imagine your birth was a really transformative way of you moving into this work. Are you able to tell us…? I know you were a lawyer at one time, how does lawyer Clancy become birth mentor Clancy? What's the journey there?
Clancy Allen: (02:16)
Yes. I was a lawyer and I practised as a lawyer for six years, so it was a good effort trying on that career and seeing if it was the right fit. And it absolutely wasn't. And I always had this inkling, I suppose, that it wasn't. But, for whatever reason, I ignored my intuition around that and pressed on. And it was a lot of ticking the boxes and doing the things that we think are going to be important. And making decisions as a 17, 18 year old after leaving school for the rest of your life is, you know... A little bit insane.
Clancy Allen: (03:04)
That was the decision I made and the path I took. And I practised as a personal injury lawyer in civil litigation for six years and just became very disillusioned with it all. And it was a very masculine career, long hours sitting at a desk. It really just wasn't fitting into how I saw my future. And the spaces that I was moving into, I guess, I'd discovered yoga and was really stepping away from that dominant narrative around our bodies and our health and medicine, and really starting to question all that and look at things through a more holistic lens.
Clancy Allen: (03:52)
I think I saw a naturopath for the first time when I was a lawyer. Yeah, I was pretty late to the party with all that because I grew up in a house with two parents who were nurses so they very much in that, conditioned in that way and indoctrinated into that system and everything it stands for. There was a lot of unlearning, I suppose, and seeing things differently. And I found yoga and yoga was the thing that kept me able to keep going in law for a couple more years until I finally got to a crunch point and I had to leave.
Clancy Allen: (04:44)
And I went travelling for six months in South America on my own and had no epiphany while I was there about what I wanted to do. Like I thought “Maybe the heavens will open while I'm on this epic backpacking journey in South America and I'm going to discover what I want to be,” but that didn't happen. It took more time. My partner and I moved up to the Northern territory and lived in Kakadu, and I did some yoga teacher trainings, and then I studied kinesiology for a year and I fell pregnant that year.
Clancy Allen: (05:24)
It wasn't.. It was sort of a conscious conception, but it was like we had a conversation and then we were pregnant. There wasn't this extended period of trying, which we thought that might be the case, so it was like, “Whoa.” I did have a bit of ambivalence initially, and it was a bit of a surprise and just wrapping my head around the fact that now I'm pregnant. Wow, this is sudden and I still don't know what I want to be. And I think I was 33 at this time. I actually booked my first anti-natal appointments with an obstetrician in Newcastle, even though we were living three hours out of Darwin.
Clancy Allen: (06:23)
And I thought, “Oh, yeah, I'll travel down there and see this obstetrician that a friend had recommended.” I'm not sure what I was thinking. But as I started to actually do some of my own reading and research, and learn about the obstetric model vs midwifery based model of care and what those two frameworks looked like and what the care might be like, I started to think, “Oh, okay. Then I think that's what I want. I'm really wanting to aim for a normal physiological birth here, so that doesn't feel like the right thing.
Clancy Allen: (07:00)
And why am I trying to make it easy for my family and everyone else down in Newcastle to see me when my baby is born and meet my baby? Why aren't I…” We lived up in Darwin at that stage, why aren't I doing the things that make life easy for me and having my baby up here. I discovered there was these publicly funded home birth service and jumped on that. And I was really excited and just totally devouring everything about birth; and started to think, during that pregnancy, that maybe this is what I want to do.
Clancy Allen: (07:39)
I heard about a doula and I just had this inkling that maybe working as a doula was what I would do after I'd had my baby. But I also thought it's probably just a phase and once he's born I'll be over it. But then nine months later, when I was still reading birth books, I realised I needed to do a doula training. And yeah, so it went from there and I've just done more and more trainings, learnt from more great teachers, have studied as an educator in the birthing from within frameworks, so really use their model a lot in my mentoring. And now have just started the radical birth keeper school with the amazing women who collaborate to found the free birth society. Yeah.
Yeah. For people that don't know, can you tell us what a doula is first? Because I think some people don't even really understand that particular type of offering in that birth space.
Clancy Allen: (08:59)
Yeah. It's pretty simple. A doula is a birth companion or birth support person who's there for the birth in woman's support but also the partner. Really it's not a medical role. She's there to meet the emotional needs of that woman and support her in that transition through the birth process. And usually there's prenatal education and getting to know one another, and building that trust and rapport with the woman and her partner, and up-skilling that partner so that he feels equipped to move through the process. And then post-natally they can also be some support as well depending on the doulas inclination to offer that. Yeah.
And so, and women by my understanding, would typically choose that person to support them in any kind of birth setting. It's not just a home birth or any kind of… Outside the normal birth, for want of a better word. But so did you end up using a doula yourself for your birth?
Clancy Allen: (10:10)
Yes. Yes. So I did have a doula. I had a nightmare at about 28 weeks that I ended up in the hospital. Whether this was a premonition or just one of those normal fears that women have about birth, I woke up and I thought, “Right, I need to get a doula because I've got this fear about ending up in the hospital and that's going to solve all my problems.” And it's only now, with a lot of reflection and hindsight, that I can see how I really handing my power away and looking externally for something or someone to save me from what I was perceiving as the worst case scenario in my birth.
Clancy Allen: (11:06)
And by doing that I really was avoiding the actual work of looking at the fear and unpacking the fear, and was jumping into this problem-solving mindset. And yeah, a big part of my work now is around really tackling and confronting fears, which are totally normal part of these huge initiation and transformation that we undergo as women. Yeah, it can be overwhelming and it can be scary and that's multi-factorial why it's scary and overwhelming and individual as well. But yeah, for me, that was an avoidance thing and it didn't serve me to do that because I was not willing, I guess, to look at my fear.
Clancy Allen: (12:03)
And I thought that by getting a doula that would just solve my problems. And doulas, unfortunately, are incredible and offer amazing nourishing support and space holding but they're not fairies who can come into a birth and wave a wand. They can't change the system and the inherent power dynamics and things that happen within that system that can be sometimes really negative and abusive. They're not bodyguards either. I guess, maybe, I had some misconceptions about all that. And there was a lot of other things too but, yeah.
Yeah. I think sometimes, and we talked about this before we came on, there's an assumption that they have some rights, I guess, to control the situation in a birthing situation, but that's not the case really. A doula is a support person so they're not really able to intervene too much, from what I understand. Is that correct?
Clancy Allen: (13:11)
Well, yeah. I mean, you have these institutions, hospitals, with a hierarchy within them where the obstetricians are at the top of that hierarchy. And then there might be nurses and midwives. And the doula is definitely way down the bottom of the line in terms of a pecking order and is, I think, seen by some medical providers, not all obviously, but as someone who's totally unqualified. And we don't have medical training usually, although there are some midwives who are doulas and that type of thing.
Clancy Allen: (13:54)
But for the most part there's no professional medical training. There's an understanding of the medical system and normal physiological birth, so I guess our perspectives are not valued really by that hierarchy. And yeah, there's not much ability to sway what's happening if it has started to spiral. If things are running pretty smoothly and it hasn't turned into a spiralling stressful situation, there's definitely scope for the doula to act as, I guess, an intermediary and also support the partner to be the advocate.
Clancy Allen: (14:44)
Because, let's face it, a birthing woman can't really advocate for herself to her full capacity because her prefrontal cortex is totally offline for very good reasons. She's in her primal brain and all those executive functions are just not there, which is how it should be. There's not much decision making ability, language. All that is compromised so it's really quite impossible for her, in such a vulnerable state, to be able to advocate for herself and even make decisions.
Clancy Allen: (15:27)
Now I'm going off on a tangent, but even to give informed consent seems like it's just a false concept, because how can you give consent when your whole thinking capacity is impaired. And I guess impaired doesn't really sound like the right word because it suggests that it's like a dysfunction, which it's not. It's perfect. It's biologically sound and intelligent and perfect for her to be in that place. But then we expect her to make decisions and give informed consent and it just doesn't fit. It's incongruent.
Yeah. That's so interesting you say that because… I mean, I chose to have a hospital midwife program home birth as well I remember lots of things I thought about before the birth. And then in it I just was like… I mean, the closest example I can have is like psychedelic drugs. I was completely on another planet and it was very embodied and very primal. But, yeah, they were asking me things and I was like, “I just can't process anything right now.” You know?
I was thinking, Mase knew what I wanted and it was all fine, and none of the questions were particularly hard, but I was thinking afterwards, “Can you imagine if I'd had to make a decision about do you want to be transferred or do this?” I mean, I wouldn't have had a hope. I think about that a lot. And when you said earlier about it's so difficult and you've seen so many cases of consent not being given or not being able to be given, I think that becomes a really grey tricky area in terms of giving care to a pregnant woman and supporting the birth process.
Given now what you know and what you've witnessed and your experiences so far, is there any advice or perspective you can offer on that whole idea of consent in birth and how that all fits together?
Clancy Allen: (17:44)
I think if women are choosing to birth in the system, and let's face it 95% or upwards even, are, this concept of having a birth plan is often scoffed at and ridiculed. And there's this perspective that, well, anything can happen so what's the point in planning. But a birth plan, the power of it isn't in the document itself and showing up to your birth with this document that you've written and saying what you want. The power of the planning is in learning and understanding what the system might be offering you, what you may or may not want, and formulating that document ahead of time and in communication with your care providers.
Clancy Allen: (18:41)
Having discussions with them about the various things that would normally go in the plan so that they're aware of your perspective on X, Y, and Z. And you have an opportunity, I guess, to iron out any possible philosophical differences, an opportunity to even leave that care provider if, during those discussions, it becomes apparent that they're just not willing to support the things that you want. Because it's never too late to find another care provider. Well, that I guess comes with the caveat that it depends on what the options are in your area geographically as well.
Clancy Allen: (19:27)
But if there is another option, you can leave when you're 39 weeks and go and find someone else if you've just suddenly realised they're not on board with what I want here and they're not going to support that, and if you've got alarm bells and red flags. The power of that planning process and that document is really in the many discussions that you should have with that care provider before about what you want so that it's not a surprise.
Clancy Allen: (19:57)
And when you're having those discussions, I think really important to be feeling into your body to get a sense of their body language because sometimes people can talk the talk but then when it comes to… And you hear that happening a lot with women who birth saying that I was fooled or tricked. They said that they would support this and then when I went into labour everything changed. You really have to have your psychic antenna on, I think. And we are all psychic but I guess we're all conditioned away from that.
Clancy Allen: (20:43)
But we're especially open when we're pregnant. We have that real openness in our field, so dropping into that and getting a real felt sense of how you're feeling in your body in those interactions and if that feeling is matching what they're saying. Because I think that's really important, that unspoken stuff. But, yeah.
I think what I'm really hearing is examining the full. I mean, I guess that was something I have witnessed and spoken with friends about. It's like this is how I'm going to birth and so I think it's important to do due diligence and actually examine the range of possibilities. And that was something, I know for me, we had to talk about. Well, what happens if I get transferred? And what happens if… And it wasn't to entertain fear as much as to make sure that everyone knew what we wanted in those stages, I suppose, and which hospitals we wanted to go to and which ones we didn't.
And, again, you don't know what you don't know but you can, with a bit of education, understand what the different possibilities might be. I think it's this sense, and maybe what you were saying before about how you were looking at a doula to fix it instead of really looking within. It seems like your work has really shifted to that inner journey toward… There's that great saying that goes around on memes all the time; but it's, how you birth is how you live. Right? It's like what we're not willing to examine shows up when we birth.
And I know that, for me, definitely I was in and out of my thinking controlling mind. I wanted to control the whole process. And then in the primal body the mind which was like, “Get out of the way. We've got this,” kind of thing. I could feel myself shifting in and out of those spaces. It was a really profound experience. But yeah, is that how your work has shifted. Is it more on the mothers in a landscape, I suppose?
Clancy Allen: (22:55)
Totally. Yeah. And I think there's a lot to be said about what you just said as well, about looking at all the different alternatives, I suppose, and pathways that might happen and understanding them. You knew where you wanted to go if you did need to transfer. And I think there's this misconception that you don't focus on the thing that you don't want to happen because you don't want to manifest it. Something like, yeah, if you're fearful of having a caesarian then let's just not talk about it.
Clancy Allen: (23:33)
And let's not focus on that because I don't want that to happen, so I just absolutely cannot go there. But we give the fear so much energy just by keeping it at bay and holding it away from our mind and our consciousness. Yes, my work is definitely about going into that and exploring that. And also we don't really recognise I think in our culture as well that we've been preparing for birth our whole lives but we just don't recognise that. We fall pregnant and then we think, “Oh, wow, I'm pregnant. What do I need to do to get ready for this?”
Clancy Allen: (24:14)
But we come to birth with all our baggage essentially. It doesn't happen in a vacuum. We come to it with our beliefs, our assumptions, our conditioning, all the narratives out there around birth being quite negative. And we definitely take that on at some level. It's everywhere, that narrative and that dialogue. And even our own birth imprint from when we were born, what happened then? How did we interpret the world in ourselves at a body level? Did we feel it as a safe place when we were born?
Clancy Allen: (24:59)
What's our own imprint there, because that can come into it? Our family stories and also the rite of passage of menstruation. What happened to us during that? And for me, at least, there wasn't really any celebration. It was exciting but it was like, “Well, here's the things that you need, pads, tampons,” and you just get on with it and carry on with life as normal. There was no awareness around the cycles and honouring and understanding the whole cycle and ovulation and all of that type of thing. That just was totally missing.
Clancy Allen: (25:40)
And if you suffered in any way from that monthly bleed, then just take drugs or let's just put you on the pill and suppress it. And so that's our initiation to our bodies being totally disconnected from them. If that's happened to us, which for a lot of us it has, that then plays into birth because birth is a body-based event. We're forced into our bodies. And if it's foreign territory for us to be in that and have that somatic awareness and to stay with all that, it can be really confronting. And we can just want to block it or numb it, I suppose, like we've been conditioned towards with that earlier rite of passage.
Clancy Allen: (26:28)
Yeah. And I didn't fully comprehend all that, I don't think, with my own preparation. I think I felt like by doing all the right things, getting the doula, doing the calm birth course, reading the right things and choosing to have a home verse through a publicly funded home birth scheme, that I'd covered all my bases and the formula was met, and I'd ticked my boxes, and I'd get the birth I wanted. I didn't understand the importance of really doing that inner work and looking at all my past stuff. And there was a lot there to look at.
Yeah, there was.
Clancy Allen: (27:13)
But I think it's never done.
No. Absolutely not.
Clancy Allen: (27:18)
That's what being human is, I think. Yeah, and that's where I really focus my work and my mentoring now with couples and women. Is looking at all that stuff. And also looking at the rules and agreements that we made as children. We decide how we need to be in the world when we're very young. We make rules that govern us even when we're adults. It might be, I need to be compliant and quiet to get love. That's when I get praise and that's when I get love, and so if I'm quiet and a good girl and obedient then I'm worthy of getting that love.
Clancy Allen: (28:07)
And even just an agreement like that one that we might've made when we were five or whatever can carry on and come into the birth space and influence how we engage with a system that has that authority platform as well with the expert. Yeah, it becomes a whole big tangled web of so many things that can influence us in that experience that is going back to our entire life history really.
I don't know exactly what happened with your son, but I know that you had some birth trauma. What was your experience in the end, and what was your process I suppose? I'm sure the work you're doing is part of your healing, but there are other things that really helped you transform that experience into something more meaningful.
Clancy Allen: (29:08)
Yeah. After it happened, yeah, I was in a bit of a dark place and just learning how to be a mother and learning breastfeeding and was overwhelmed with all that. The trauma that had happened, I just put in a box for a little while, compartmentalised and got on with it, and perhaps was in a bit of survival mode. And then it was no more than six months later though after his birth that I was ready to look at it. I know women carry their birth stories with them for their entire lifetime sometimes and it's a really deep wound, but maybe it was because…
Clancy Allen: (29:55)
I don't know why I was really willing to look at it pretty soon. I think that's a pretty early timeframe. At five months I started looking for someone who could help me unpack what happened and process my emotions and hold me in a container. I found a woman, she lives in your area, called Angela Fitzgerald. Beautiful woman. She used to be a midwife and a doula, and she's a mother and just holds really powerful space. I worked with her for at least six months, I think. We would talk on Skype and that was the beginning.
Clancy Allen: (30:39)
And then something that was really powerful was getting my hospital notes from the hospital and looking at them, because I was meant to have a home birth but had to transfer because of a resource staffing issue from their perspective. It wasn't because of anything to do with my body or the process, so I ended up in the hospital. And I guess a common internalised feeling that a woman who's had a traumatic birth would be my body failed me, my body let me down, because you get that label of failure to progress or whatever might have unfolded, but that's a common story.
Clancy Allen: (31:30)
Getting the records was really helpful for me because it confirmed that my body was actually progressing by their standards and measurements anyway, which I honestly don't hold that much value in. But at the time that was like, “Oh, okay. I was progressing.” And for a woman to even be able to progress in that environment is astonishing really because Dr. Sarah Buckley talks about the conditions that women need to birth and its darkness, privacy, not being observed, safety, familiarity, all these things.
Clancy Allen: (32:10)
And yet you step into the system and there's lights, there's strangers, there's a room you've never seen before in your life and you'll probably never be in again. There's surveillance with monitoring, there's technology, all the things that are totally the opposite of what supports birth flowing and the hormones working. For any woman to be able to birth a baby in that setting is just remarkable and just shows how-
Adaptable we are?
Clancy Allen: (32:42)
Yeah, exactly. That was helpful, to see that and look at all that. I've done so many things. I wrote a big blog post on it which is on my website, and I think there are about 20 things that I listed that I've done that have been really supportive in me getting perspective, and being able to sit with my story now and not feel triggered or upset, and to really see the lessons. And Pam England said… She wrote the Birthing From Within book and she's who I've studied with. And she had a traumatic first birth experience, which ended in a caesarian. And I think she was a midwife.
Clancy Allen: (33:29)
And so, her lifelong quest was working out what the hell happened to me. And she finally one day just cracked up laughing out loud and realised, just had this epiphany, that she'd been looking for a way to heal her birth experience and doing all these things and exploring and investigating; but the cosmic joke, and the reason she laughed, was because her birth healed her. Yeah, it just eliminated so much for her. And I feel like that's been the case for me as well. It doesn't take away that it was painful and it wasn't what I wanted, but there's been gifts that have come from it for sure.
Oh, that's really powerful. It's such an interesting thing, what you were just talking about with Sarah Buckley's work, because I remember listening to her podcasts with Daniel Vitalis when I was pregnant and they were just so.. It made so much sense. And I was reading Ina May as well and she was talking about how birth is the continuation of sex and if you're not comfortable having sex in front of strangers under bright lights why would you even think that you could birth that way.
And it is incredible to me that we come in… Some people do successfully navigate that system. And I think about my own mum because she birthed me in a hospital and she always said to me she had to tell the doctor to fuck off so that she could walk up and down the hallway. Because she was like, “I used to birth horses,” because she would bred horses when she was a kid. And she was like, “I knew that when you were birthing you don't lie down on your back. You walk up and down.” And she's like, “I had to tell them to fuck off so I could squat in the hallway,” and all this stuff. And I just laughed.
But it was interesting that her way of birthing sovereign was to be really strong and almost masculine in it and having to take her power. And I remember feeling those kinds of feelings when I was birthing and I can feel how my own tendency, I guess, is to muscle through something instead of to soften into something. And I think even if you've had a textbook good birth there are so many lessons from… Because it's such a big process and an initiation. And it's like if you take the time to reflect and to really nurture yourself through that process, you can come out with so much juice for your own development.
And here I am. Aiya's is nearly four and I'm realising I've still been doing the same things. And I was talking to Jane Hardwicke Collings and she was talking about how we menopause that way too. We menopause how we live so we'll muscle through it, or we'll whatever your personal shit is. That's my shit. And I think it's like we can use these opportunities. We can all come to these things, whether they're positive or negative or whatever the framework is, to just, to develop ourselves.
And that's what I've seen. Your work, to me, speaks so much to that opportunity that there is in this experience, that some of us have and some of us don't. Not everyone chooses to birth, but it can be such a rich fertile ground for self-transformation and for understanding ourselves better and for healing so much, I think. It was kind of a long way of saying it's so nice to speak to somebody who had a traumatic experience who's used it to fuel that positive change, I suppose.
And also, I think it's good to remember that everyone's having these huge initiations no matter what type of birth you're having, whether it's under hospital lights with obstetricians coming in and out or whether it's at home quiet. It's a big process. And the more, as women, we can all rise together and honour each other in that and support each other, I think that to me is probably the thing that's missing. And I didn't find it in the mothers groups and the women's groups. I just didn't find the depth, I guess, that I was looking for.
Because you've gone and studied all these things, I imagine you're having these conversations a lot with women who were interested in similar things. I know you do ritual and circle and ceremony, are there more of those things happening now and if women are, I guess, trying to honour their transformation through this time? Is it finding those communities and networks or is it…? Do you have any advice or suggestions on how to connect to like-minded women or that kind of thing?
Clancy Allen: (38:12)
Yeah, a great question. I guess right now we're in an unusual situation with the distancing that's been in place over the last few months. I feel really stumped with this question.
I know I probably through the biggest question at you.
Clancy Allen: (38:32)
Do I have to edit that out?
No. I think what I'm getting at… And it is a big question. Because what I'm really feeling is like women divide instead of leaning in. There's this tendency to like, okay, well I've got the baby now. I've done the birth. It was shit, but it's fine. It's done. I've muscled through the birth again, or I'll get through it if I ever want to do it again for a sibling. But, I've got the baby and that's the focus. I guess what I'm getting at is, to me, there's this really fertile territory that we're like if we ignore that opportunity, it's going to come up again and it's going to come up again.
Like you said, human life never stops. We keep going through these initiations and transformations. Yeah, I guess I'm just getting at I know you've worked in ceremony and ritual and that space. And I know in other cultures they honour the mother or there's the confinement phase and then I'm sure that grandparents and aunties and people hold space. We don't really have that in our culture, I guess. And I guess what I'm getting at is, in your experience, where do women find that? Is t through.. Are there women's circles? I know that that's becoming a lot more popular.
Now you do prenatal yoga. Are there postnatal yoga places where people talk about these things? Are there other spaces, I suppose, evolving or coming through in your experience that honour the process? Because a lot of what I've seen seems to be women doing it on their own or within a smaller group of friends that are similar minded. But, yeah, just I'm interested to know.
Clancy Allen: (40:17)
Yeah. I think what I'm really interested in when I create space in a circle setting for women is offering a different framework, because we have framed birth and everything really even around it, like the prenatal part and postnatal, as a medical event. And Robbie Davis-Floyd, an anthropologist that you might have heard of, she talks about the American rite of passage of birth and it being an initiation to the technocratic model of birth. And that worldview is that our bodies are machines that are subject to failure and malfunction, and we can't fix that with technology.
Clancy Allen: (41:08)
And that the whole thing is a medical event. And the prenatal stage is a series of obstetric rituals which are essentially grooming women towards accepting this technocratic model, and then the glucose test. And that these rituals really have no actual basis in any meaningful value. And then you see those rituals continue in the birth process with often meaningless interventions. And I see that that's pretty true really, because a lot of the birth practises that are being used are not rooted in evidence-based practise. They're just cultural norms. It's just the way things have been done, so we'll just keep doing it that way.
Clancy Allen: (42:10)
I think evidence-based practise only came in 15 years ago. No, it was in the ‘90s and then it takes 15 years for policies to change. Delayed or immediate cord clamping is still just done routinely even though we know that delaying it is preferable so that that baby gets all its blood. That's just one example. But we're really groomed towards just accepting this with all these rituals as part of this initiation. I'm really interested in showing women a different way, that there's another map, there's another framework.
Clancy Allen: (42:52)
And looking at some of the things from the Birthing from Within lineage like the symbol of the labyrinth, which is this beautiful, spiralling, meandering path, and applying that as a map to what the birth experience is like. Because a labyrinth have occurred across all cultures way before there was any communication or as far as we know. And it's a metaphor or a symbol for something across these cultures that's meaningful and so we can apply that to birth.
Clancy Allen: (43:30)
And when you walk through a labyrinth, it can be meditative but it can also be a little bit disorientating and confusing because there's these twisting turning hairpin turns. And you think, “Am I nearly there yet?” Or, “Where am I?” And that really parallels how it can feel in the birth dance. Sometimes you can start to think that.
Are we there yet?!
Clancy Allen: (43:54)
Yeah. Well, you're disorientated. It's this really beautiful metaphor and I'm planning to build one on our property here for women to actually come and walk through to have that real embodied sense of that as a different way for looking at birth, shifting this medical lens that we're so enculturated or acculturated towards. And it's just everywhere. And the story of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess who went to the underworld, that story as well really speaks to the descent that we women in that journey of descent during birth or it might even be postnatally.
Clancy Allen: (44:45)
Maybe you have this ecstatic birth but there's a challenge or a struggle, so your descent to the underworld is in that period. And those stories, those ancient mythologies, that's the first story that was ever recorded ever on clay tablets in Sumer, which is now modern day Iran or Iraq. One of those, sorry. But it's really powerful. And those stories are in our collective consciousness. A lot of the time, if we've never heard them before, we're not aware of it until we hear them.
Clancy Allen: (45:22)
And for a lot of us that awakens something deep within us, a deep recognition or comfort, because we can all relate to that journey somehow. Some of those tools are some of the things that I am weaving or planning to weave into circle when I get going again.
Clancy Allen: (45:49)
Yeah. Yeah, post-Rona, just to show a different way and for women to connect in a different way, and to have more meaning around the experience.
Well, I think what I'm really hearing there is this is a non-linear journey. Our midwives were amazing, but it was very linear. It was like, “This weeks, that weeks, [inaudible 00:46:09].” It felt like, “Tick the box, tick the box.” You go through all the things. And I think that idea of not being held to a Gregorian calendar, not being held to, “Oh, you should birth in this amount of time.” Or even with my birth like, oh, you're a first time birth or you weren't to birth till tonight when I was telling them I was in labour at 6:00 AM.
And they were like, “No, no.” And I'm like, “No, no. Yes, I know I'm having a baby. I don't know why, but I [inaudible 00:46:41].” And they were like, “Oh, no, I said, "No, I am.” I was like, “No, I am.” I'm lucky because of yoga. I think that I really have cultivated more of a relationship with my body, but I think there's so much lack of education around the physiology and the body's wisdom, and that these things aren't linear and they don't occur on a timeline, and babies come when babies come, and the baby initiates the birth through its hormonal… All of that stuff.
It's like there's this really beautiful bigger story, I think, not being told. And then, yeah, I can really feel that when you said about an honour and, yeah, I can really feel that. Even if you had an ecstatic birth, I didn't have one, but I'm sure I remember being in the collective. I remember being with every birthing woman at one point and going like, “Oh my God. I totally understand” I mean, it was like one of those epiphanies you have when you're on another planet. But I get it. I just get it. I'm in it. I know it. And it was like if I've been not feeling safe and medicated and whatever, I wouldn't have had that experience. Yeah, I think-
Clancy Allen: (47:51)
That's so profound.
But it's so empowering too, because you come out and you see women differently. I see women now with so much strength, and I can admit to less judgement too. I used to think and go, “How could someone book in a caesarian?” But in that moment actually I was like, “Oh, I understand that decision. I understand all of it.” And I was like, “Here I am being all non-judgmental in my birthing.” I'm like [inaudible 00:48:19].
Clancy Allen: (48:19)
You're in this great philosophical chat yourself.
I was like, “Oh, that's really…” I think I grabbed Mase and he was like, “Okay, crazy lady. Keep doing the things.” But what you said about ritual, and I'd never thought of it that way, but it's such a powerful way to think about. Everyone goes for the 20-week ultrasound and everyone goes for this and these are the celebrations of our culture and they don't celebrate the woman or the… It's like the device is celebrated almost or the technology.
Clancy Allen: (48:56)
It's a ritual towards compliance and towards acceptance of that dominant medical paradigm and the body as a machine. And I guess that's a symptom or an effect of the industrial revolution and the industrial birth complex.
Clancy Allen: (49:17)
And I find it really sad.
It is really sad.
Clancy Allen: (49:20)
I mean, it's dehumanising in a way because if you look at… I actually have a book that was written by a German author and it's The Body as a Machine and I think it was one of the first anatomy books, if not the first. But I don't want to make that claim because I don't know. But that actually mapped out all of the functions of the body as mechanical functions. And it's crazy to look at. It has the penis as this little…
Clancy Allen: (49:51)
Like a wind up toy.
Yeah, it's really funny. And all the organs, there's all these little factories pumping away. But I remember I was really shocked when I first saw it, but I also was like, “I can actually relate to this,” which shocked me as well. This part of me recognises that because I've been brought up in that culture and I was like, “Oh.”And I feel like that's so far from how we try and live but, yeah. And there's still a part of me that buys into that idea, I suppose, on some level, so more unravelling. But so tell me more about Birthing from Within. What else are you talking about or doing when you work in that paradigm?
Clancy Allen: (50:33)
Yeah. One of the things that I like to share, just as a starting point for someone who's interested in birthing from within, is the framework or the three ways of knowing to prepare for birth. The first way of knowing is the modern medical knowing. This is being or knowing the stages of labour, the physiology of labour, what the modern birth culture and system is like. It's pretty linear, like just assimilating the information you need to know, learning, taking it on. We're all pretty comfortable in doing that.
Clancy Allen: (51:13)
And that's the easy part of preparing because that's the part that's valued by society as well. That's got the research and the statistics and the facts and figures and the concrete knowing that you need to know. The second way of knowing is the intuitive knowing. That's your gut instinct and your connection to your body or your innate knowing, which is not particularly valued by the mainstream and really isn't in birth as well. Like in your example you said, “I'm having this baby now,” and they were like, “Oh, that's silly girl. No, you're not. You're a first time mum. You don't know.”
Clancy Allen: (52:03)
Of course, you know. You're the expert of your body. You're the one in your body having the experience. And so that way of knowing is really about cultivating your connection to that; which a lot of us are so disconnected from because we live, from the shoulders up, in a very mental place. And then this way of knowing is not valued because even if you're saying, “I know this is happening,” or, “Something's not right,” but if it doesn't correlate to what they understand about what might be happening and what the evidence and the statistics or whatever says, then, you might just be dismissed or disregarded.
Clancy Allen: (52:43)
And then, yeah, we really do have this whole doctor-God-expert complex, which if we are in that then we don't value our own knowing because we value what they say. We externalise the knowing. That's a big one. And I guess things like yoga can help people connect to that. And anything that's just, I think, quietening down the mind and getting into your body and connecting with the feedback that you have from your body can help you to cultivate that. A following what your intuition might say and seeing what the outcome is.
Clancy Allen: (53:32)
And so then, the third way of knowing is the inner knowing or knowing who you are. This is more about that excavation of your history and your background, and your beliefs, and what's lurking in your subconscious, and how much of the negative cultural narrative about birth being a medical event that you need to be saved from, that you've taken on, and what you really believe and what your you're birth imprint is. Yeah, that's really about unpacking all that and having a good hard look at it and confronting the fears and moving through them.
Clancy Allen: (54:09)
Things like, I guess, kinesiology or even just talking to someone experienced like a birth mentor or journaling and, yeah, looking at who you are and what you might bring into the birth space is that part. And that's the part that I just didn't really realise, I guess, when I was pregnant until after. And so that really needs to be the thing that you focus on the most, probably. Yeah.
If you're working with women, are you usually starting reasonably early in their pregnancy, or yeah? Because I imagine it takes time to go through.
Clancy Allen: (54:50)
Yeah. Yeah, that's ideal like spending an extended period of time. I've enjoyed that when couples have contacted me quite early on and we start at, say, 16 weeks or something. It really gives the space to build the relationship and to go deep into all those themes and things and for them to integrate it. Yeah, that's my preference, but that doesn't always happen. Sometimes people come in quite late in the piece. But for the most part I would say people are coming in at least halfway.
Yeah. My friend did a short fear session with you, but is that something you offer as well where you just work on specific aspects of what's coming up for someone, as more of a mentoring counsel?
Clancy Allen: (55:41)
Yeah. Those are usually an hour to 90 minutes. And if there's something specific that you're ruminating on, or maybe there's a few things, then we can look at that. And it's called a courageous excavation of fear process. It's about moving through it and really looking at it and picking it up and, hopefully, coming out the other side feeling more empowered, more confident.
That's what I heard.
Clancy Allen: (56:11)
Yeah. But I think in even just speaking it. I spoke to that friend about it afterward and verbalising fear to someone who can hold it and who isn't going to react or be triggered by it. It's really powerful, I think.
Clancy Allen: (56:30)
Yeah. There can be some really good shifts with that work if the person is willing to be vulnerable. And your friend was, so she was the perfect candidate. Yeah.
Where does prenatal yoga fit into all this with you, because you've got your online course and stuff like that? Is that mostly an offering because people are at home or is there a value in people attending classes as well? Or what's your kind of take home with pre-natal yoga?
Clancy Allen: (57:01)
Yeah. The way that I do it is I structure it as a six week block that people commit to and come to so that there's that familiar container for the six weeks. And I was doing that in person, probably only three or four times a year, and that worked beautifully. And it's just evolved, I guess, over the years that I've been teaching it and it's become a really… I think it's a really awesome offering. And yeah, now the online version is the same. It's six modules, so you go at your pace.
Clancy Allen: (57:42)
But the idea is that it's education about birth from this lens of birthing from within and my own flavour fused with the yoga with a little bit of optimal maternal positioning, things that I've learned along the way. And it's really about that second way of knowing, so cultivating that connection really and that inner knowing and tuning into that. Because that's a big piece that we can all just have more practise with, but especially important to get ready for birth. I was going to say something else, but I've forgotten.
Well, you've moved into the online space.
Clancy Allen: (58:26)
Is that a version of that course, like a six week kind of...
Clancy Allen: (58:32)
Yeah, it's pretty much what I teach in person. In fact, it's probably a little bit more because I've put some other resources in there and some bonuses, and I guess you can keep going back to it. That's the benefit of that. And it was accelerated by the Rona. It was always something I was going to create before that all blew up, but it just happened a bit quicker. I was waiting for the perfect time till I was pregnant again and I was going to film it when I was pregnant. I was going to make sure I'd done another yoga teacher training before, because that was important too.
Clancy Allen: (59:10)
And then Rona happened and I'm like, “Well, I'm not pregnant and that teacher training that I was going to go to in Bali in August is not going to be happening. I guess I'll just stay to get this out now.” And, look, things are going back to normal, sort of; but, anyway, it's there as a forever thing.
Well, that's great for people that can't physically be with you so, yeah, a really good offering. We were talking about this a little bit before as well but you've recently, I think, gotten, a little bit uncomfortable with the word doula in your own work. Can you tell us a little bit about… You've been doing that for a couple of years, I guess just as a last question and what is it actually like to be there for a woman and then, as you've witnessed all of that, what do you want to see more of in that space from different care providers and just women in general? If you could remould the model a little bit, based on what you've seen, what do you think it would look like? Big question.
Clancy Allen: (01:00:13)
It would look like women knowing how powerful they are and really owning their inner authority, and unlearning the seeking that we do outside of ourselves to validate our experience or to approve of it or to make sure we're okay. I know I did, in a way, during my own pregnancy and I participated in that system. And in some of the ways I engaged and participated I can see now, with the benefit of hindsight and reflection and everything, that I handed over my power in many ways.
Clancy Allen: (01:00:58)
And there were opportunities in that journey to stand more in my power, but I can do that now. And I guess if I can impart anything to women who are navigating their experience and moving through the system it's for them to really own their experience and step into their autonomy over it, and be the expert of their body. And I think, yeah, the women I'm really speaking to now have just had some clarity on this in the past couple of days, so I'm speaking this out loud now for the first time.
Clancy Allen: (01:01:40)
But the women that I feel that I'm really here to serve are the women who have had an experience in the system that was less than ideal and they've come out saying never again. Or maybe they were traumatised or maybe it just was really average and they're like, “No, there's got to be a better way.” Or maybe they're a woman who's really disillusioned with her prenatal appointments and feeling like her body is just a faulty machine and there's got to be something more to this, more depths, more meaning, more spirituality.
Clancy Allen: (01:02:20)
Or maybe it's the woman who's had a child who's been damaged by that system in some way, or maybe she's had a chronic health condition in the past and moved through that system and found no answers whatsoever. And so I think the women I speak to, or that I'm calling in, are those women who are sort of… Yeah, they don't want to participate in that anymore. They're really willing to look within themselves for their own authority in their experience.
Exciting times for you. And the other bit of that was what it's like, I guess, just to finish on a positive note. I'm sure there are some really beautiful experiences you've had as a doula and working with women.
Clancy Allen: (01:03:11)
Just how rewarding that, maybe, is for you.
Clancy Allen: (01:03:18)
Yeah, it's been so rewarding. I just have had beautiful nourishing experiences supporting women. I've seen women in their power. I've seen women come back from having induced births three times and then on her fourth baby having this beautiful home birth experience. Yeah, but just being there after a woman has given birth and done that work and opened herself and expanded physically but also spiritually and being able to hold her and love her and shower her with kind words and compassion and tenderness is really rewarding. I love that. I
Clancy Allen: (01:04:10)
I've often stayed for hours after the baby has been born; and a recent experience, the mum, she really needed that support after so I had a little sleep on the floor in the hospital and was there when she woke up because she was in and out of consciousness. Those moments are really special, so I hold those really dear to my heart. And, yeah, doulas are incredible because I think for the most part we have so much love to give to women and, yeah, I really believe in women.
Clancy Allen: (01:04:51)
And I think what I was saying before about who I'm speaking to, remembering your innate power can apply to any woman wherever she chooses that she needs to birth, whatever the environment is that she feels safe in. It is a huge opportunity to step into your power. Yeah, that's the bottom line of it all for me, I think.
Yes. Full power. Awesome. Okay, well, I'll leave you with that and I think that's a really powerful note to end on. But if people do want to connect with you, obviously we'll put links in the show notes to everything but mostly through… Instagram and your website are your main communication channels. Do you use Facebook as well?
Clancy Allen: (01:05:41)
A little bit, yeah.
Yeah, like most of us.
Clancy Allen: (01:05:45)
It's like the poor cousin.
Yeah, but we've moved on.
Clancy Allen: (01:05:50)
And if people wanted to reach you, they can contact you through your site. And actually, if they wanted to arrange a Skype session if they weren't in your area, is anything like that possible?
Clancy Allen: (01:06:00)
Clancy Allen: (01:06:02)
Oh, that's so great. I think there'll be lots of women out there that really can learn about you a lot and really connect to how you approach birth. I'm really grateful for your time and for telling us your story. And yeah, thank you so much for being here with us, Clancy.
Clancy Allen: (01:06:15)
Thank you. Thanks for having me, Tahnee.
It's a pleasure. All right. Well, I'll talk to you soon.
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