As doulas, we talk a lot about support. Mental, physical and emotional support are what we do. I’d say a good majority of the support we give is verbal; words of encouragement, educating, words of kindness, positivity and affirmation. Don’t get me wrong, a pregnant or laboring person loves a double hip squeeze, a hand to hold or a massage, but I think we often underestimate the power of words on our physical, mental and emotional well-being and comfort.
I want us to think for a minute about certain physical feats we, or someone we know has set out to accomplish. We may say we want to lose weight and become healthier, or climb a 14er or start participating in marathons or races. When we express these physically exhausting, difficult and demanding desires we are usually met with support and encouragement: “I know someone who did (xyz), let me get you their information, maybe they can help.,” “here’s the diet, exercise and/or training regimen that worked for me.,” “don’t give up! It’s hard, but you can do this!” We get such amazing advice and support or recommendations on how to achieve our goal. There is quite often tears, set- backs, physical pain, emotional/physical and mental fatigue and discomfort- but in the end, we have a sense of accomplishment, pride, power and contentment. With dedication, determination and the support of those around you encouraging you even when you wanted to give up, you achieved a goal… that’s incredible!
Now, I want us to consider the things we hear when we express a desire for birth and the physical feats of pregnancy, labor and birth- whether we want unmedicated, VBAC, medicated, or just to figure it out as we go along; we aren’t always met with the most positive and encouraging phrases… “why would you want to do that?,” “you know you don’t get a medal for (unmedicated, VBAC, going as long as you can without medical pain management, etc.),” “your baby is too big,” “once a cesarean, always a cesarean,” “there’s a reason they invented epidurals and pain meds,” and many more less than positive, enthusiastic or helpful comments.
What if, instead, we said things like: “How can I help you prepare for the birth you envision?,” “have you thought about a doula, childbirth education class, breastfeeding class, etc.?,” “Here’s a list of some great books and resources that really helped me be informed in my choices and about my many options,” “have you joined any due date or pregnancy support groups?,” “You’re an inspiration for being so involved, informed and intuitive about what is best for you and your family.”
Bottom line is; birth, just like training for a marathon or going on a journey to better health is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. The result is pride, power, and accomplishment-no matter how birth happened. How you feel about your birth, about the choices you made, about your active participation in this life changing event and the support you had surrounding you is just as important as a healthy mom and baby. Surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people, be supportive and encouraging in your interactions with pregnant and birthing people. It really can make all the difference.
What phrases helped, or hindered your mindset and goals for your birth? Let us know in the comments.