Written by Erika Munton
As a birth worker, how do I stay grounded, internal resourceful, skilled and empathetic to the birthing women and men in my community? To be fully present and fully trusting of my instincts is a crucial part of my role. It's key to giving excellent support along with self awareness and self care to sustain my practice. After a year of loss and change in my personal life I wondered how my work was being affected by this. It was important to take care of myself so I could better take care of others. After 300 births, it was time for a short break.
Written by Bethany Meakin
It’s actually quite difficult to articulate the specifics of what doula’s do, how we positively impact the space for one woman will be different to the next, however, it is this ability to connect with each individual and support her in the way she needs to be su
pported in that exact moment that is the ‘art form’.
Your doula will be able to ‘read’ if you need complete silence and hands off for the next 4
hours or whether you require vocal encouragement and physical touch. She will also constantly check in with you in a gentle and respectful way ensuring the balance of support is maintained with you and your partner throughout the journey. How do you put into words ‘holding the space’ or describe the intense feelings you have when you’re supported in such a deeply connected way?
Well let me try….
Its really common to find when you are pregnant or in early parenting that people (even complete strangers) feel it is within their right to tell you their personal stories, opinions and advise about what you should or should not do.
That might be fine if they ask first and get the nod to go on...but often this doesn't happen. And you are left feeling bombarded with information and emotions that you then have to do something with.
The well intentioned story teller can come triggered with a reference from their own experiences of being a child or being a parent. It can activate some pretty powerful responses from within them that they believe would be helpful for others to learn from. Or it could be that their response comes from a place of wanting some process around their experience so they can make better sense of it. Unconsciously the person may be seeking healing and change for the better.
This knowing can help you understand their motivation and their well meaning intention. But its still up to you whether or not you actually want to listen, take it on or involve yourself in the discussion.
The closer you get to birthing the more protective you are likely to become of your physical and emotional space. This is very important to respect. Trust your gut instinct as to whether you stay engaged in a conversation you didn't ask to have.
So what could you do if you are in this situation:
You can excuse yourself from the conversation....I just have to duck off to the toilet. Say "thank you I will keep that in mind".
You can ask a question back in order to get more information or reflect the question back on them.
eg - Whats important about that for you?
Where did that thought/feeling come from?
What have you learned from this about yourself?
What would you do differently?
There are so many open questions you could ask if you really want to involve yourself in their process and their reality. But check in with yourself first and work out if this is in your best interest at this time or not.
How have you managed this in your experience?
I love Ted talks and listen to them regularly. The talk I listened to this morning was How we make choices and the effect choice is having on our psyche and society. It's worth making time to listen to this and reflect on whether choices you've made in the past, or are ahead of you, could feel different with this Ted Talk in mind.
A lot of women worry about coping with labour when they feel tired. They hear of births that go through, not only one night, but even two or three. How in the world does a woman do that and stick to her resolve for birthing how she had hoped to?
It is possible! I have been with many women in labour through the night and helped them fall asleep. They have continued on to have positive, healthy births and feel super proud of their efforts, albeit ready for a good sleep afterwards!
It can start in early labour when women can get tired from pacing the halls because “that’s the only way I can get through the contractions”. Yet time and again, 20 minutes after arriving to be with them, they are sleeping blissfully between them.
So how do you get from vertical to horizontal and feel able to manage the pain? How can you pass hours of contractions from the comfort of your bed? ......
I went to a party on Saturday night. The dancing was awesome and I let go. I relaxed into my body and enjoyed the feelings of dancing freely. At some point I noticed a fellow who was shuffling his feet and seemed a bit down. I was curious and feeling bold, so I went over to him to see what was the matter. To tell you the truth I cant really remember what his problem was now but I said I could make him feel better if he would let me try. He agreed. So I said, just for 2 minutes I want us to look each other in the eye whilst I stand as Wonder Woman and you as Superman. He smiled. He widened his stance. I encouraged him to really push his chest out. He placed his fisted hands on his hips and look forward with confidence and strength. I did the same as Wonder Woman and sure enough we met as super hero’s on the dance floor. Before long he was really enjoying this new feeling and I was elated to see him happier. Soon he was laughing and we both started feeling the music move us into more fun and freedom. It was a great moment.
For the rest of the night, all I had to do when I saw that man was smile and press my chest out, just a little, and that same confidence and strength surged back into his smile.
Public v’s private As a doula I get to see our birth culture at play in all sorts of different birth settings: public hospitals, private hospitals, birth centres in public hospitals, home births, and different models of midwifery or obstetric care within these settings. I get to see how the systems work and how people work / function within those systems. I also see the influences and effects the birthing woman and her partner experience in these different models of care. The difference is significant enough that I believe its important for women and their families to be aware of them so they can find out how to advocate for their birth plan and work collaboratively with their care provider.
The article attached shows the disparity within the private model of care and interventions and I recommend you read it. This is not about scaring you. Its about getting you to understand whats really happening so you can find out what you need to know for your individual health care and work out whether your birth plan actually match the choices you've made to support this to happen. When you do this earlier in your pregnancy you have the time and space to do something about it.
Here are some steps you can take or think about:
- Refine your skills to be able to make informed decisions
- Research the models of care options you have in your area
- Ask them about the skills they have that can support your birth plan
- Ask them for their statistics and their protocols
- Check within yourself and ask if you feel like this model of care supports you as the authority figure in your maternity care and birthing experience
- Talk with your care provider about what you want and don't stop talking until it feels right within yourself
- Negotiate or not!
I'll write more on this another time..... there is so much more to say! : ) Erika
Yesterday I went to Maggie Banks workshop on shoulder dystocia and breech births. I was engaged in it all, soaking up the knowledge from such a wise and experienced woman (as well as the shared wisdom of the other participants). The workshop ran for a day and I feel far more able to help a woman make an informed choice about her options regarding this situation. She covered the current research on breech birth outcomes. She questioned the validity of the Term Breech Trial findings and explained another study called PREMODA as a point of comparison, concluding with what is possible and what is safe with breech births. I will add links to these studies on my website so you can compare it for yourself. She discussed how to set up and be in the the birthing environment so a carer can better support the woman's intuitive knowing of how to birth her baby.
She shared many empowering breech birth stories and showed pictures and videos. For example, we saw how a mother moving from a kneeling position to standing helped her baby get past the pubic bone and woosh...out came the baby. Understanding the mechanics and learning manoeuvres that help any stuck babys become unstuck was very helpful too. The hands on activities with the pelvis and doll helped the theory make more sense.
First and foremost most it has reinforced that women deserve our trust and respect when birthing their baby's. Nature works best when we do not get in the way and each woman is different. We need to see each birth as unique and not a part of a baby making factory that needs management. Given time and space, love and care she can do it. With skilled hands guarding the birth journey and offering help when needed, birthing a breech baby is a safe option to consider.
I am more motivated and equiped to support someone having to make decisions about birthing a breech. I was a breech, my son was a breech and I have supported a 1st time mother to birth her breech. Maggie has written a book called 'Breech Birth Woman Wise'. Its an informative and confidence boosting read for anyone facing birth with a breech.
At a birth a short while ago I had the privilege of witnessing a couple grow deeper in love with each other through their birth experience. At one stage, when she was feeling the contractions really intensely, she asked her partner to tell her about how they met and how he fell in love with her. He did just that and she felt her body calm down. She felt more in the zone with her labour and she went on to birth her baby soon after that.
I wasn't there in that exact moment of him sharing this, but what I saw was the way they gazed into each others eyes as they met their baby girl. It was just mind blowing or should I say heart expanding! I do try to remind couples that stopping for just a moment to gaze and acknowledge each other in the coming and goings of day to day life can make such a difference to feeling connected.
I hope lots of couples can see birth as a moment in life where love can grow and help create strong foundations for parenting and partnering.