The birth was not what the parents nor I envisioned… The mother and her husband joked that they carried out maybe two out of ten items on their birth plan. Still, I am so grateful to have been there and provided some support during their labor.
When I arrived to the hospital the laboring mom was being massaged through each contraction by her attentive spouse. They were in good spirits and also managing the intensity of the pain. It was hard for me to know what exactly to say or do when I first got there—I didn’t want to sit there and just watch! No, no, no. But they were doing such a beautiful job on their own—how could I intrude? Then I recalled my DONA trainer, Natashia Fuksman, and the doula philosophy she adopted from Michel Odent- with woman.
Trying to find the words or suggest a posture that would be comforting to the mother was difficult at first. Then I brought to mind how strong and discerning this mother already was… My job was not to solve this or rescue her, but to witness the process unfold.
I did this by:
- Affirming the mother’s strength and ability to breathe through contractions
- Helping her adjust her body into different positions
- Massaging her back through contractions while her husband held her hand or needed to leave the room
- Acknowledging the husband’s attentiveness and caring
- Sitting back and letting the couple be or allowing for privacy when it was called for
- Encouraging them to request details and clarity from medical staff when they started to despair about the health of the baby
I think about all the ways I could have been different—I wince even now at the moments I said to myself “D’oh!” (a la Homer Simpson). Most of the awkward moments involve me saying too much. When I remembered, I repeated to myself, “With woman, with woman, with woman…” Then I was able to stay focused on the process and not the outcome.
The labor ended in the birth of a healthy son by cesarean section… So, I did not actually attend the birth. As I left the hospital early the next morning I held the space for the laboring mother to experience the outcome of her birth without judgment. In that moment I realized that for all the training and reading I had done—being with was the most precious gift I could offer.