Elena O'Keeffe

Elena O'Keeffe

Cofounder of perinatal training “The Mother’s Journey” | UK

I am a childbirth educator and midwife, who trained and worked in one of the best maternity settings in UK, and a cofounder of the perinatal training called The Mother’s Journey which has offered women practical tools for conscious conception, pregnancy and empowering the birth experience since 2009.

I am also an author. My first book about childbirth and postpartum recovery will be published at the end of this year. It is written for women who wish to overcome the unconscious fears and doubts of inner strength and to bring a spiritual awareness to birthing a new life.

I believe in experience - tangible, personal, first-hand experience that shapes personality and projects integrity and confidence. The quote I live by is “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice” (A.P. Chekhov).

Eleven years ago I experienced the stillbirth of my daughter and the incredible healing and self-realisation that followed. Having gone through a dark passage of post-traumatic stress disorder, I emerged from that experience with practical ways of achieving forgiveness, self-belief and, most importantly, self-love.

I find myself equipped to help women who wish to move through their personal blocks and anxieties during pregnancy and birth. Together with two amazing colleagues, I have a mission - to share through The Mother’s Journey training practical tools to equip any woman to know herself better, particularly her infinite Self, and also to deal with the stress and adversity of raising a family. Currently we run The Mother’s Journey courses in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Ecuador and United Kingdom.

My realisation of my purpose was not a quick process. Russian born and bred, I came to London in 1996 after winning an educational grant from the British Council to study for a degree in Organizational Psychology at City University. I had no thoughts of family or children at that time. As part of my graduation project, I was researching the effect of stress-reducing therapies amongst professionals. I was focused on a research career, whilst presenting at the international symposium of Medical Computer Technologies (IEEE Dublin Ireland 2005) and being interviewed by the Daily Mail and Independent newspapers and BBC Radio.

I am married for twenty years and have two wonderful sons. The first pregnancy is always a voyage into the unknown – mine went well. My second pregnancy appeared to do so too but our daughter was stillborn at full term. I made a promise to myself that I would come back to the same hospital as a midwife and make a difference to the care of women, particularly those going through unexpectedly tragic experiences. I graduated from the obstetric department of the University of West London and worked in John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. Throughout my midwifery career, I delivered over 100 babies, mostly high-risk pregnancies.

As a midwife, I have witnessed the incredible power of women’s bodies. Women generally do not speak freely about their birth process, positive or negative, perhaps it is too personal. The consequence is that there is not enough honest sharing of actual birth stories with other women, either positive to inform and empower or challenging, which can usefully inform and prepare other women for the experience to come. Rather women learn to pretend all is fine, or play super women, or say half the truth, or even scare the other expectant mother with unnecessary exaggerations for effect.

I believe we need to be honest, to call out fear and falsehood, to listen and to share, to truly empower each other and by doing so to create an ever-growing shared safe space in which we claim back the inner strength of womanhood. There is an old saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. No woman should suffer in loneliness during the postnatal recovery and upbringing a child – collectively, we should not allow this as women. After childbirth a woman’s body is different, and she can lose confidence in how she looks.

We need to stop comparing ourselves with how we look and focus on how we feel – as women.

We need to reclaim our forgotten ancient wisdom through connecting with each other and reconnecting with our inner feminine - and in so doing we change the world.