Author: Neri Life-Choma

I am the founder of Birth Coach Method and am celebrating 20 years of leadership in the field of childbirth support. Throughout my career, I have been honored to provide doula support and teach childbirth ed. classes to hundreds of expectant couples, as well as to direct two birth resource centers. I am also a doula leader in my community in the South Bay area of Silicon Valley in California.

Matrescence: Coaching During a Time of Life Transition

What is Matrescence?

(pronounced ma tres ens).

The psychological birth of a mother, similar to adolescence, involving hormonal and identity shifting. According to Dr. Alexandra Sacks, matrescence and adolescence are:

  • Hormone dominant
  • Body altering
  • Irreversible
  • A rite-of-passage
  • Confidence-challenging
  • Awkward

Throughout this profound identity transition, an expectant individual undergoes an average of about 13 doctors’ appointments during pregnancy, 3 urine tests, 4-5 blood tests, 4 ultrasound tests, 2-3 vaginal exams/swabs, and 2 monitor exams. That is if they are healthy, give birth before or on their EDD, and do not need further diagnostic or screening exams. Then, they will go through the childbirth experience – an experience in which the transparent fabric of one’s routine is disturbed by pain, fear of death, and temporary loss of control as their body expel a new human being while they are under the care of medical caregivers- most of them practice from an “expert” position – an authoritative one. This abundance of encounters with medical maternal healthcare providers amplifies the neglect of expectant individuals’ emotional state and mindset during this profound transformation. Not even one behavioral assessment is routinely recommended for this individual. Instead of focusing on individuals’ well-being and mental health as they transition to parenthood and prepare for the profound transformation of childbirth, maternal caregivers and researchers tend to focus on how the baby is doing.

Not even one behavioral assessment is routinely recommended for individuals going through the identity transition of Matrescence

The acclaimed goal of the excessive prenatal testing mentioned above is to provide parents-to-be with information about their health and their babies’. It comes with no acknowledgment of the potential mental impact of undergoing so many doctor appointments, screening routines, and diagnostic exams – the potential increase in individuals’ anxiety levels. However, Descriptive statistics indicate that almost 60% of pregnant patients feel anxious mostly because of the fear of receiving bad news

Putting aside the fear triggered by these many prenatal testings and doctors’ appointments, it is hard to understand how negligent the modern maternal healthcare system is to the emotional and mental states of those who go through the transformation of pregnancy and birth. Some researchers have tried to call attention to this social failure. 

Women are Calling Attention to the Becoming of a Mother

Since the mid-70s, reachers have been calling attention to the becoming of a mother. One of them is anthropologist Dana Raphae, who coined the term Matrescence. More recently, Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist, has centered her work around making matrescence a well-known word as adolescence. According to Sacks, both Matrescence and Adolescence are hormone dominant, body-altering, irreversible, a rite-of-passage, confidence- challenging, and awkward. Additionally, becoming a mother changes our social status.  

Women have not only studied the transformation but also have written poetry about it.  Sophia Stid is a Californian poet who wrote a poem called “Matrescece’, describing the experience of a modern woman while becoming a mother:

Become a mother, become room, become food,
become miracle. The heart of each devours

the other’s heart. Hurry – become faster, Barely
made myself, I knew what they said meant 

my body was a door, made for someone else
to come through. Become sacrament. 

The commandments I kept, the ones
I couldn’t keep – all practice before

this one. Become sacrosanct. In birth, the pain
is not like other pain. In birth the pain is purpose-

ful and anticipatory. Anticipate. Become vanishing
act. Become numb, shaved, cut, split, crazy with pain-

become  bare beneath the wide washed
lights of medicine and angels – become everything

and so nothing, and no one, but a mother, a
miracle room, a heart in someone else’s mouth

Need a moment to catch your breath? I know that I needed to. Reading this poem shook me to the core. I have worked with expectant individuals and families for 22 years. However, this poem has allowed me to clearly see the importance of addressing our clients’ mindsets as they go through the identity transitions of pregnancy, birth, and becoming a parent.

Birth support figures who understand the nature and challenges of matrescence can become excellent birth support coaches!

I’m not suggesting that every expectant individual will engage in therapy. If we adopt Dr. Sacks’ comparison between matrescence and adolescence, we can agree that only some adolescents need therapy to successfully cope with this challenging period in their lives. Most of them are competent and functional. The missing link is coaching. Sports coaches and coaches who lead other types of school clubs become teenagers’ leaders for the transition into adulthood. It’s rarely their parents or teachers. There are so many books and movies with this theme. 

Can expectant individuals use coaching?

Yes, It’s the same as with adolescents. Birth support pros, who understand the nature and challenges of the life transition of Matrescence can become excellent coaches. Birth support coaches integrate transformational birth support coaching strategies to empower and lead throughout the transformation of pregnancy and birth. 

Coaching can help a pregnant individual to navigate throughout these transitions: to cope with the particular emotional, hormonal, physiological, and social changes that the transition entails for the unique individual, and the unique challenges that emerge for each one. Coaches can tap into expectant individuals’ mindsets and help them adopt new perspectives, which will in turn generate better mindsets. Clarity of one’s experience and vision for themselves as they go throughout the transition, higher levels of confidence, commitment to their positive and healthy transition, strong convictions about what they want and need, will all lead expectant individuals to take charge of their transformation. These states can’t be achieved by education – we don’t expect adolescents to read about the process of adulting in order to go with grace through it. We coach them! Let’s provide this complimentary and necessary care that the medical system neglect to provide, and coach expectant individuals and their family members. 

 

Why Transformational Coaching is Essential to the Vaginal Birth Initiative

As a seasoned birth support professional, I have witnessed the maternal care system implementing so many new procedures and clinical policies over the 23 years that I’ve practiced. Since 2010, new reforms in maternal care associate the quality and safety of care with the increase in vaginal birth rates and the reduction in cesarean rates. However, the origins of obstetric gynecology lead maternal care policymakers to search for new clinical reforms to resolve a problem that may have originated somewhere else. I believe that none of these reforms will be able to achieve the three major principles designing safety of care: patient- engagement, patient-centered care, and partnership among patients, their family members, and their medical caregivers. 

Continue reading

Facilitating Alignment of Expectant Individuals’ Visions, Beliefs, and Actions

Facilitating Alignment of Expectant Individuals’ Visions, Beliefs, and Actions

When doulas provide prenatal coaching sessions they can help clients be better prepared for the birth of their child and demonstrate a higher level of accountability for their childbirth experience. This is not done by means of education. Prenatal coaching goes beyond teaching and delivering evidence-based knowledge. Its purpose is to help couples discover hidden gaps, resistances, or inner conflicts, and work together as a team to resolve them.

Continue reading

Transformational Postpartum Coaching: Promoting New Parents’ Self-Confidence and Well-Being

Just like prenatal coaching, transformational postpartum coaching shifts the focus from helping or informing to elevating new-parents’ performance level, self-confidence, and well-being.

Most of my writing has been dedicated to pregnancy and childbirth support. During the pandemic, I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges of new parents or parents who have expanded their family recently. I want to share how transformational coaching during the parents’ postpartum period can enhance their experience.

Continue reading

Revamping Labor Support with Transformational Coaching

You can learn to empower expectant individuals to perceive their own mindset and desires as the most valuable ‘data’ their providers should focus on, by doing so yourself! Learn to provide transformational birth support coaching, and you’ll get to see them conducting themselves brilliantly and with confidence throughout their birth experience, and celebrate themselves.

Continue reading

Being in Support of Vs. Supporting through Childbirth; What’s the Difference?

During this long-lasting period of social distancing, I find myself struggling when I can’t physically support my birth clients. I began searching for new meaning or a pathway to the concept of providing continuous labor support’ and was reminded of two very different states that I already explored while becoming a transformational life coach: Being and Doing. I am so used to thinking about providing continuous support as an action-oriented practice, filled with hands-on engagement. But the need to practice social distancing doesn’t allow this type of support. There may be many birth support figures who feel the same, and I hope that this blog post will serve all those who serve.

Continue reading

Convincing Prospective Clients that Doulas are as Valuable Now as Ever

Convincing Prospective Clients that Doulas are as Valuable Now as Ever

Doulas face a challenge: after many years of service and hard work, our value is finally recognized, but now with COVID-19, we find ourselves cast out of hospitals. 

It took us a very long time to get public recognition. Until not long ago, only a minority of expectant individuals knew what a doula is. I believe that it took too long for two main reasons:

  1. The refusal of the health care system to acknowledge the value of a doula, which makes it an out of pocket service, and quite an expensive one. 
  2. The affiliation of doulas with natural or unmedicated childbirth; an experience that doesn’t really resonate with the majority of birth givers. 

Doulas finally received recognition and then came COVID-19. Our challenge is to convince prospective clients to hire us during this time

Continue reading

Is COVID-19 Doulas’ Opportunity to Achieve Work-Life Balance?

Is COVID-19 Doulas' Opportunity to Achieve Work-Life Balance featured image

Some of the most heartbreaking news that doulas received along with the outbreak of COVID-19 was that we are banned from hospitals. Many of us were already committed to couples and families that we have come to love and care for, and with the increased level of uncertainty and fear, we knew that our clients needed us even more. As the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, it becomes clear that this crisis might last as long as a year or even more, raising a growing concern about doulas’ source of income. As upsetting and tormenting as this ban might be, the current crisis bears an opportunity; an opportunity to achieve work-life balance.

Continue reading

Birth Activism is Taking a Turn; It’s time for Social Accountability!

This post is not about your career.  It is not about your professional development as a birth support provider, or how you can better serve birthing individuals and their families.

It’s about something happening in America right now.

Birth activists like us have worked hard for decades to guarantee women’s right to choose in childbirth:

Silence is not neutral and it is not an option

  • The freedom to choose one’s preferred place for their birth.
  • The freedom to choose one’s support group for their birth.
  • The freedom to create one’s birth vision and receive maternal care that acknowledges the vision as equally important as the caregiver’s clinical knowledge.
  • The freedom to give birth and have intact perineum.
  • The freedom to autonomy in L&D by rejecting medical advice that does not align with one’s beliefs and values.

It is time to humbly admit that this birth activism is privileged and not enough.

Continue reading

What You Miss by Overlooking Birth Support Clients’ Motivations

  • I would like to experience a natural birth”  vs. “The idea of taking an Epidural scares me more than childbirth itself”. 
  • “I feel safe and confident at home, and that’s why I would like to have a home birth.” vs. “I’m afraid of going into the hospital because of the outbreak of  Coronavirus”. 
  • “Being intimate with my partner is what’s most important to me in terms of my ideal birth experience” vs. “I’m afraid a doula in the room is one more opinion to deal with”. 

The statements above show that more and more expectant individuals are aware of their choices and options, and this is great! For many decades, birth support professionals have worked hard to promote the notion of birth givers’ right of choice and to spread the idea of advocacy throughout the journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Our goal was to empower birth givers so they don’t feel they have to obey experts who confuse being knowledgeable with being an authority.  At the same time, we might have overlooked the motivations behind expectant individuals’ choices or goals. You may wonder why is this important? You may think that as long as you understand clients’ desired birth experiences or their visions for their birth, the  “why” doesn’t matter. Well, just keep reading.

Continue reading

  • 1
  • 2
  • 6
0