The new decade is but 8 days old and I've attended two births. Two awesome births, to be exact. (And after that I missed one with Leigh because the labor started just after I got home from the second birth, which had been a 24-hour marathon. Thanks for letting me recover, Leigh!)
Both moms had beautiful natural births in comfortable environments and I was honored to be a part of their experiences.
Being a labor support person in any role can be challenging, whether it's as a doula or an apprentice. I try to make sure that before my doula clients go into labor, they know that they can say anything to me; they don't have to sugarcoat it if they need me to STFU during labor.
But first time moms are the most difficult because they've never labored before; they don't know how they'll feel or what they will need during labor. If they're having an intense experience, they might not be able to put their needs into words. And of course, I don't want to interrupt their rhythm by asking a bunch of questions. So it's a challenge.
Many labor support professionals have certain things that they have found that work with most clients. Leigh once grabbed a laboring mom's feet and she loved it. After that, the mom would say, "Feet! Feet!" as a contraction was starting.
A few days later, I attended a birth and grabbed the mom's feet during a contraction and she shrieked, "Stop touching me!"
It takes all kinds.
I used to take a lot of "stuff" with me to births. I'd have a Birth Ball, a rice sock, a tennis ball, a small massager, some positive affirmations or a birth book or two. However, after reading Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, I decided that the most important thing I can do is express love for the mom. Yes, that sounds really cheesy, and no, I don't love every client. But I can express my love for what the mom is doing, my belief in her and her body, my compassion and empathy for her, and my encouragement. And that's all I usually need. If she wants other stuff, she can get it for herself.
That leads me to something that someone said to me recently, which was that a doula can do too much for the laboring mom. Honestly, I'd never thought about that. I always want to make a laboring mom as comfortable and happy as possible. But, once in a while I see a mom whose labor takes a long time because she's just not willing to get to that uncomfortable place. Labor can be very uncomfortable. It doesn't have to be painful, but there's usually some amount of discomfort involved, and if the mom isn't feeling any discomfort, she's probably far from giving birth.
Achieving a medication-free birth is a feat; it takes hard work, it takes perseverance, and it takes a lot of support. But in the end, only the mom can do it. I can't take it away from her -- and I don't want to. I love this blog which compares preparing for a medication-free birth the way one would prepare for a marathon. I have never run in a marathon and I don't plan on it. But if I did, I wouldn't want to be carried across the finish line, even if I were uncomfortable and in pain and wishing I'd never signed up for this stupid marathon in the first place. Anybody can be carried across the finish line. Not everybody can actually step across it.