Artistic director and actress Elisa Terren’s pregnancy reminded her of the importance of debating what femininity is and inspired her towards a new career as a Doula.

Elisa has a number of TV credits and short films under her belt, such as Three Kings, directed by Richard Eyre. Today she’s working as a Doula and together with her partner, running the independent theatre company “ aya theatre”.

I met with Elisa at home in South London, where she spoke passionately about the power of femininity over coffee and chocolate croissants.

NJ – Tell me about yourself?

ET – I started my professional life by trying out different fields, like film directing, agriculture and theatre. The theatrical craft attracted me, and when a respected teacher believed in me, my acting became more serious. I started my career in the United States. When my visa expired , I decided to move to Russia. I started my acting training for a year in St Petersburg. Once in the UK, I took an MA in classical theatre. Since then my career has been floating on.

NJ – Why did you choose acting?

ET – I have always seen myself in the Arts and had been working hard with visual art. But I realised quite early that, to be able to be as good as I wanted to be, I needed to spend a lot of time alone. I wanted to be good at painting, and it is a very lonely art form. My creativity is inspired by working with other people. Acting came as a natural medium for me; I loved the depth of it, the physical effect, knowing yourself through the craft. You offer something from yourself but it is bigger than yourself.

NJ – How did pregnancy affect you in your professional life?

ET – I wanted to have a child and I was just waiting for the right moment. Together with my partner and our company “Aya theatre” we were working on a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s “Burmese Days”, we had done it in New York and were applying for funding for a London run, when the funding fell through and we couldn’t put on the production, the time seemed right to have a child. I was working up until 8 months pregnant with the company and other projects. I didn’t even go to any acting auditions. Pregnancy and the acting industry isn’t a great match. My pregnancy actually moved me away from acting, even though I continued doing some performance. I would say that the creative process during my journey was directed to the inside rather than outside. Pregnancy softened my boundaries to understand what creativity really is. My main problem with the acting industry is that it isn’t very creative most of the time.

NJ – Is that why you trained to become a Doula?

ET – Yes, pregnancy and giving birth is so misunderstood, women go through a horrific pregnancy and birth more often than necessary. After my studies and my experience and working with other people who have a firmer grasp of this, something that is natural, real and wonderful became my source of inspiration to become a Doula.

When I started to study these steps towards motherhood I realised how misguided conventional beliefs about giving birth are. It is a natural thing, women are made to handle it and mostly need no help with it. My own experience of giving birth was wonderful. Giving birth is a creative act per excellence. It was the most earthy, spiritual experience I’ve ever had. And I think I partly experienced that because of all the inner work I did before. The reason many women go through a bad experience is because in our cultural conditioning the image of giving birth is quite awful, and I wish more women could feel the way I felt.

I want to create this space for other women. Birth is the beginning of life, love and death. And this needs to be acknowledged. Working as a Doula I hope I can help to perhaps create the same for other women.

NJ – Do we need to talk about femininity more?

ET – For me it is important to understand femininity and value it, in the society we get lost in being respected in a man’s world, and forgetting to bring in the feminine side into it. Instead we take on masculine roles in our movement to fit in. It’s individual what you think of femininity and how you approach it. Archeological findings in Crete show a 6000 year history that is not based on war, but love and partnership, where women had high status. History is not only about war and domination, it is also about women. This is something that gets lost and we need to start talking about it. I got closer to this during my pregnancy, It’s an important process, I want to be there to support it and create a space for women to discover their power through femininity.

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