Midwife Matters

Pregnancy preparations, women's health, and care options

Labor Companions: The Power of Supporting Mother and Baby

on February 23, 2013

Cultural, ethnic and family systems seem to influence who is present for the momentous and sacred experience of giving birth.  As midwives we have seen that birth is a powerful experience that is often marked as one of the most important life experiences for a woman.  Birth can have a deep impact on her sense of  how she views herself and ongoing  future challenges in life.

Picture 012Your birth is always YOUR unique birth.  Most likely you will not birth like your neighbor, your sister or your mother.  Embrace that you will have YOUR birth.  Go with the flow, trust you will know what is best for you.  I think it is best that labor companions be companions, not  “coaches”.  They are your companions to offer loving presence, gentle reassurance, offering suggestions (not directives) and a spirit of believing in you.  Their presence should empower you.  A Doula can be very valuable as a companion.  The Mother’s partner often needs support also so do not hesitate inviting someone in addition to your partner.  Midwives are present to support and protect the normal physiological process of birth. We are also present to identify deviations of  normal and provide evidence based interventions that are specific to your labor.   There are no routine interventions done by midwives.  They are always in response to the individual needs of the Mother and baby.

Sometimes I have witnessed labor become a spectator event, people want to watch.  Now I personally think every woman is unique and may have different needs and wishes.  But I also think there should be careful consideration by the Mother as to who will offer:  a loving presence, gentle reassurance, the spirit of believing in you and  releasing you to your unique birth experience.  Do not underestimate the cost of emotional power taken from the mother when there are people present who are not the choice of the Mother.  It does influence the unfolding of labor and progress in the birth.

What to do if there are individuals who want to be present but you have not  invited them?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Have a conversation with your “group”.  Share that you welcome their thoughts and prayers for you during labor.  Maybe suggest they light a tea candle in honor of the work you are doing.
  • Reassure them they are welcome to come celebrate with you after you and the baby have met.
  •  Limit phone calls into your room.  You need to be present to your labor, not all the inquiries of “what is happening”.   Technology is wonderful , but can also interrupt a significant moment.
  • Have a pre-birth celebration in which you invite your family and friends to offer  a “Rite of Passage to Motherhood “party.  Ask for blessings.    As women share their birth stories take what is helpful and remember you are safe, loved and supported.

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