When I meet a pregnant woman and start asking her questions about her pregnancy, I’m listening for some very specific words. These words teach me if this is a woman who has given her birth authority away or not. Words like “allow,” “let,” “agrees” and other such words have no place in the vocabulary of an expectant woman.
I’ve heard on many occasions, “My client thinks she should have absolute control of the birth.” My first thought is, “Of course she should have control.” Yet often times the current birthing system doesn’t agree. I believe that she is to have absolute control because only she can tell anyone observing what she is feeling (or not feeling). Perhaps she doesn’t want to be watched, or have the lights on, or have people talking in the corner. She ABSOLUTELY should be the one in charge.
My clients are a bit surprised when they experience me in birth. Other doulas might say that I don’t do much and need further training but for my client what I do means A LOT. I sit quietly and just witness. I witness her power, her confidence, her inner wisdom. I offer assurance when she’s not sure if what she’s doing is “working” and when she asks me, “What should I do?” I always respond with, “What do you want to do?” Then I encourage her to do what her body is telling her to do.
I know how and where to massage a birthing woman, I know how to use essential oils and homeopathic remedies to support the process and I know what positions will aid with a variety of discomforts and situations. I choose to only use these when she asks for them instead of forcing them upon her. I choose to trust her body because I know the process works best when left alone.
I refuse to make her “stay active” as this may interfere with her birth process. I know many doulas who will watch the clock and have their clients change positions every 30-minutes or so. I question the wisdom in this action and wonder if this interference creates a longer birth process that leads to maternal exhaustion. I refuse to interfere without being invited. It’s her birth experience and only she can tell others what to do.
For her sweetheart, I stand as the one he can look to when he wonders if she is okay. As he sees my calm and peaceful expression, he learns that she is okay and that birth is hard work. He also learns exactly how incredibly strong his lover is and he becomes her loudest cheerleader, which is as it should be.
My personal mantra is, “The type of pregnancy and birth a woman experiences will greatly effect the type of mother she will be.” In other words, if a woman constantly looks to others for “what to do next” instead of turning to the great inner wisdom she already possesses then she will become a mother who becomes paralyzed every time she has a decision to make. If she gives her decision making rights away during pregnancy and birth, she will give them away as a parent.
I am saddened by the number of women who share with me they are “‘choosing” to birth in the hospital instead of at home where they want to be because someone in their life “wants” them in a “safe” place. The counsel I give to my clients and students is this: “Birth belongs only to her and it must happen where she feels safe and secure or it will be hampered. It also must happen with those she wants present or it will be hampered.”
Birth in the human animal is no different than in other animals. She really wants a quiet, solitary, dimly lit space in which to give birth to her young followed by uninterrupted time with her little one. This is what we must give to her and we must trust that she is the only one who knows what she wants.
A woman who owns her birth, will do everything in her power to create the birth experience that is rightfully hers. She will go so far as to tell her care provider what will and will not happen and then, if that care provider tells her otherwise, she will find a different care provider or choose to birth alone with only her lover to support her.
Birth has always belonged to women but we’ve been told for far too long how to do it, where to do it and with whom to do it. It’s time to take it back and experience birth how, where and with whom we want.