Deborah Rose Schoutema has poured her own experiences, love and years of study into providing heartfelt, holistic self-care, health and happiness to women throughout the third trimester, birth and into motherhood: offering ancient wisdom for the ancient process of birthing new life. Ayurveda doesn’t apply one route for all when it comes to birth preparation, but instead looks at your overall wellbeing levels, constitution and individual prenatal journey. Deborah’s Birthing with Ayurveda course is tailored to your unique mind-body type and birthing situation, covering various tools, DIY bodywork techniques, nutritional guidelines and self-care ideas to seal the sacred trust between you, your body and your baby. Here she talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about her inspirations, the challenges she has overcome, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Oh… Where to begin? Various factors around me stirred a deep fear of infertility in me. First, my mother and grandmother share a story of seven years of prayer and hope before they got pregnant. These stories were told since I was little. Of course, the intention was to shine a light on the miracle of life. However, the story planted a seed in me that said, “You don’t just get children, you receive them after a long, lonely road of hardship”.
With that fear of infertility, and a couple of years of globetrotting as a model under my belt, I travelled to Sydney to shoot for Vogue. I was 21 at the time and hadn’t had a period in at least 9 months. Furthermore, it had been unpredictable and irregular for a total of 18 months. Exhausted from the flight, I ordered something called Ojas Latte. I didn’t know what it was – I just felt in my bones that this would be good for me. The next guy in the queue asked me if I knew what Ojas meant. He happened to be an Ayurvedic Practitioner and told me about this Sanskrit concept that combines bliss, fertility and immune health. I had a taster session and followed Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for about six weeks. Then, I started to bleed. A period! It was the first of many regular cycles. I was so inspired by the concept of Ojas, and in awe with the self-healing arts of Ayurveda, that I travelled to India to learn more about this ancient, holistic wisdom, and what it had to offer women like me. When I say, “women like me”, I mean people with so little “Ojas”, they feel fatigued, fragile and on edge by default. It came hand in hand with low self-esteem, although I did not realise this back then. I had always looked at my body as a distant “tool” that helped me navigate through life, and in my case, bring bread to the table. My relationship with my body was not one of love and compassion, but rather restrictive and suppressive. Ayurveda unlocked an infinite amount of self-love in me that seemed to regenerate my mind, the subconsciousness, my body and its deep, fertile grounds.
I started sharing Ayurveda’s holistic self-care tools with my peers (other models, stylists, make-up artists, photographers) a year after my trip to India, whilst I continued to integrate the knowledge into my life through one-on-one mentorship with various practitioners, herbalists and doctors. My favourite mentor and a big influence was (and still is) Terra Rafael, a retired midwife who has integrated Ayurveda and Shamanism in her practice as a homebirth midwife for nearly 30 years.
Whilst I was specialising in women’s health, Ayurveda and its way of unapologetic self-love through self-care (“Dinacharya”) was at its peak in my life when I was pregnant with Nova, my son. And here comes the other important part of why I am doing what I am doing. Coming from the Netherlands, where birthing at home is the norm, and every birther gets postpartum doula care at their homes for at least 10 days, I was baffled to learn that the UK was one of the many countries where these things weren’t so normal. Giving birth here, it felt like an expedition to navigate my way through the system and find additional support that I aligned with for after my baby was born. To be honest, most of the aftercare came down to just me and my partner. All the tides that come with being postpartum… They weren’t talked about (much). The GP did not even do an IRL check-up after 6 weeks, to see how my stitches had healed. If it wasn’t for the wise women that had so thoroughly prepared me for this phase of healing, I would have felt isolated, scared and overwhelmed.
And even with all the preparation, I still had my portion of feeling fragile and sometimes blue. I remember I booked in a session with a meditation guide who was a specialist in childbirth and postpartum healing. I was 4 months postpartum and shared my concerns with her. She then advised me not to worry about of any of this again for at least another 2 months. She said: if you still feel that way then, you can call me. And I never called. Things just got better and better as time went by. Six months postpartum, my period dropped back in, and my productive mind returned to me (just in the follicular phase, haha). I decided that I wanted to offer others what I had missed after birthing my son. And to do everything within my power to make known that these offerings exist – because it was so hard for me to find anything like it! (Point in case: I didn’t).
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
It’s been a natural transition from working primarily with Women’s Health on my peers (I preached Ayurveda to all my colleagues and often people wanted to try it) to working with people outside of my comfort zone through events across London as well as online on platforms for communities that I love. I centre a lot of my work around the womb and focus on the Mothering Energy, as this happens to be a big thing in women’s health: the wish to conceive, conceiving, birthing and raising kids. In my experience: the wish to be a mother begins with mothering yourself. Regardless of your gender, it’s the Mothering Energy that allows procreation to happen. This doesn’t only apply to physically mothering a child, but also to mothering your creative energy and ideas. And so – that’s how I started! With mothering my creative energy and ideas. I had guidance from an amazing (creative) life coach, I journalled, meditated on it, wished for certain outcomes and then took baby steps in the right direction. And I haven’t finished taking those baby steps yet, haha.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
This is going to sound so cliché. The biggest breakthrough is me realising that people need this service. But that is on a personal level. For the business itself, it was in asking for feedback. My business is a service. I serve others. So I needed to know who those others were, what they needed in their lives and what made them look for what I offer. I spent about nine months trialling different user experiences, learning what others valued in the service, and learning how I can deliver just that in the most efficient way possible. I struggle with keeping an overview – Notion has totally changed the way I work and made things much more efficient for me.