When I join a family’s birth team in the hospital system, I work with the mother and her partner, to support their natural birth process, and to create space for the birthing intentions of the parents within the medical model of care.
I look through the lens of woman-centred care. Why? Because birthing mothers and their babies and partners have the best birth outcomes when the mother’s physical health is cared for, alongside her mental and emotional wellbeing. She is the one giving birth and it is, by law, her human right to decide what happens to her. I serve the birthing mother and her partner. I don’t run my own agenda, nor that of the hospital. I work by a doula code of ethics and aim to be aware of my biases and world view.
As a doula, educator and life coach I work to help a couple create their best transition into life as parents, with a specific focus on preparing them for a positive and empowering birth experience. Helping a couple explore their values, needs, philosophies, beliefs and expectations around birthing, helps me understand what is important to them. With this knowledge I can better guide them through their birthing process.
I nurture a growing awareness within the individual and the couple during their pregnancy, in labour and in early parenting.
Together we create a birth-support plan for the labour support team, and another plan for the obstetric care provider and hospital staff.
During their pregnancy I coach couples to learn and practice skills of communication, connection, self-awareness, self-care and pain management/comfort tools for labour. With these skills they create their ‘labour tool kit’.
In labour, I protect the space they create by minimising disruptions, by encouraging them and offering tools to help the labour progress (if need be).
Using their own labour tool kit creates a positive transformation from partner to parent, individual to mother/father. It serves to build strong foundations of bonding and attachment, for their family to build upon.
Interestingly, men are only one generation old as helpers in the birth space. There is much to learn, and a lot of unexpected emotions to experience. A myriad of questions will arise about their role and how to be an effective helper. With the support of a doula, a partner often feels more calm, confident and informed in their role as helper, lover and witness to the birth of their baby.
Taking a broader look now at how to make a great birth team with your care provider and place of birth, I site a systematic review called “Pain and women’s satisfaction with the experience of childbirth. (By Ellen D. Hodnett, RN, PhD Toronto, Ontario, Canada)”
It was discovered that there are 4 key elements that contribute to a mother feeling satisfied with her birth experience. Sure enough, good team work makes a difference!
1. Quality support
(Continuity of care (Prepared partner, doula, 1:1 midwife care)
2. Trust in the care providers
(Matching values and skills = trust in the team)
3. Feeling in control
(Making an informed choice and communicate respectfully if there is a need to deviate from physiological birth)
4. Personal expectations are acheived
(The team supports her birth plan)
I hold these 4 elements in all I do so that her whole birth team will be mindful of helping create a satisfying birth for her and her partner, however it unfolds.
In a nut shell – How do I help this process?
• Work with you during your pregnancy to know what you and your partner would most want, and for you to be Birthready (in mind, body and spirit)
• I check that you and your partner understand what is being communicated to you
• I may reframe a message to be positive and asking for consent, not assuming compliance, when touch or choices are involved.
• I help you explore your birth options, outlining their pros and cons.
• I support your need for time to process decisions, without pressure, and to speak up.
• I model the behaviour we appreciate receiving in return.
• I help keep the atmosphere in the room calm, quiet, friendly and respectful, to optimise normal physiological birth.
As a group facilitator, I follow my guiding principles of facilitation within any team, and apply these to the setting of birth:
We work collaboratively with your birth team to enable you to make an informed choice about your care, to help you feel safe and create a birth environment that optimises normal birth and family bonding.
My facilitation principles are:
• The learning facilitator is at the service of the whole group.
• People already have experience and knowledge.
• There is always wisdom in the group from the pooled wisdom of the individuals.
• Everyone has a contribution to the group’s wisdom.
• Everyone’s contribution is important.
• Wisdom does not necessarily correlate with one’s confidence to speak up!
• Everyone has the capacity for insight and learning.
• Learning is deeper and remains with people longer when they participate in the learning process.
• Even when someone has done or said the ‘wrong thing’ we must not allow them to be shamed.
• Foster love and forgiveness
I am not Supernatural, or a magician or a super hero and cannot control other people. But I do my best to hear, understand and navigate the wisdom that is in the room, through the lens of woman-centred care. I acknowledge that everyone in a birth team has an important role, and deserves respect and positive regard. Together we can abolish a sense of hierarchy, and relate to each other human to human. Speaking up, asking for what you want, saying yes, saying no, saying not now, staying present to the sensations in your body, is so much easier when we know that we are are to be respected in the birth space.
It is a privilege to be entrusted with in my intuition and skills to facilitate a collaborative, woman-centred birth team. I bring my skill, support, knowledge and respect, so that you are able to experience the awe and wonder of birthing your child.