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.

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.

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How to Provide Hands-Off Labor Support During a Time of Social Distancing?

In light of the current social distancing imposed on us due to COVID-19, Birth Coach Method is giving away free access to lesson #4 of the Birth Support Coaching Course-‘Prenatal Coaching’! We hope that it will help you as you keep providing valuable and necessary support for expectant individuals using online communication platforms (Facetime, Zoom, etc.) 

Birth workers are mastering strategies that relieve fear and doubt!

Our lives have been changing rapidly lately. In the past few weeks, the whole world has been reacting to COVID-19 with our fight-or-flight (FOF) response. Being alert and living every day on our survival mechanism might be as dangerous as the virus itself, if not more dangerous. We, birth workers, are experts in preventing or reversing the FOF response that leads to labor arrest. We are experts in managing the fear of pain and of what’s unpredictable or unknown. Psychotherapists might help their patients cope with anxiety and fear in a process that lasts weeks, months or years. However, we, birth workers, are first responders specializing in saving people from fear and doubt.    

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Becoming a Doula: A Good Career Choice or a Community Service?

Twenty years ago, when I was nearing the end of the yearlong doula training program in Jerusalem, my trainer advised us all not to quit our jobs in favor of establishing a doula practice. Regardless of the fact that we enrolled in a yearlong program with a commitment to give 100 hours in hospital shifts, Shoshannah guided us to view the doula role in terms of community service rather than a career path.

A doula for every woman is not just right; it’s a valuable asset

This perspective is reflected in the well-known saying “A doula for every woman, a motto I trust was carved with noble intentions but prioritizes the welfare and empowerment of only one woman – the birthing woman, at the cost of disempowering another woman – the doula. It should be noted that the topic of doulas’ monetary compensation, just like the other two dilemmas I addressed before it, has also caused some turbulences within the doula community. This can be read in Penny Simkins’ Real Talk from Penny Simkin, in which she responded to the disagreement with this motto as expressed by a ProDoula member.

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Is the Doula Profession at Risk?

Doulas’ Dilemma #2: The Doula Scope of Practice

This is the second blog in a series of three that I began writing in November. I am very passionate about the doula profession. That’s why I feel called to write this series before it is too late.  And by “too late” I mean that I think our profession is in danger. Being a doula trainer and at the same time an approved continuing education provider for obstetric nurses, allows me to be connected and empathetic to both sides of the conflict – doula and medical caregivers. On top of listening to nurses’ pain points in their relationships with doulas, I recently have been invited to speak at a few OBGYN and midwives’ practices and heard that they are on the verge of banning doulas

Additionally, recent events confirm what I have been fearing – the current practice of doulas’ who share evidence-based information that supports better obstetric practice (while not being medically trained and bearing no liability for their clients’ health) is going to hurt us.

  • It puts our relationships with medical caregivers at risk.
  • It will lead more cities to follow New York in attempts to license doulas.
  • It will lead our best friends – hospital-based midwives – to ban doulas or have blacklists of unwanted doulas that they don’t trust.
  • It might also make it harder for us to find paying clients because they hear more and more stories about doulas who break the trust and rapport that couples have established with their medical providers.

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Birth Support Coach vs. Doula

Since the seventies, those who provide education and support to birthing individuals have all been called ‘Labor Coaches’. In that group are childbirth educators who teach about childbirth and deliver a body of knowledge, usually in a group setting. Also in that group are doulas who are trained to provide emotional, physical and informational continuous support throughout the birth. We all got used to thinking about childbirth as an event in which our role is to help the birth giver cope with labor strains while providing information, reassurance, and applying comfort measures.

On the other hand, coaching, a growing industry generating $11 billion in the USA, is an entirely different practice that stands by itself. It is the practice of leading competent and healthy individuals to optimally perform in order to achieve their goals.

Birth support coaches that are trained here at the Birth Coach Method, likewise, are also trained to coach expectant individuals towards achieving their desired birth experience. 

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Doulas’ Professional Status: Peers, Companions, Lay Women or Birth Support Professionals?

I wanted to quit, but I discovered coaching and got excited again about being a doula.

After a decade of practicing as a doula and childbirth educator, I was about to quit. I was burnt-out. The rising rate of medical interventions led me to doubt my ability to fulfill my role and facilitate healthy and positive birth experiences. Additionally, the growing gap between doulas’ approach to childbirth and the approach held by the medical caregivers that our clients trust for their journey, triggered a lot of tension in me. These circumstances, in addition to the given hardship of the doula practice, made me reconsider my career path.

Ten years have passed since I felt under-resourced and I still enjoy practicing as a doula and training doulas. How did this happen? I discovered coaching!

In the last couple of years, I have come to learn that I am not the only one to have gone through this professional struggle. In spite of  ACOG’s recognition of doulas’  benefits and some big headlines reporting the many celebrities who hire doulas for their birth,  doulas experience a few major dilemmas that cause great hardship.

This uneasiness reflects in social media and doulas’ blog posts, and I can sense the confusion, frustration, and disputes that percolate within the doula community. Being passionate about doulas and our valuable stewardship position,  I’d like to share my  personal path that helped me resolve the three major dilemmas doulas face: 

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From Prenatal Yoga Poses to Desired Birth Visions

Prenatal yoga instructors, you are first in line

Out of all the birth support professionals, prenatal yoga instructors probably are the ones to begin supporting expectant individuals the earliest along their journey of pregnancy and childbirth.  From a coaching perspective, I see it as a huge advantage, so if you’re a prenatal yoga instructor, you can make miracles leading and empowering expectant mothers to strongly hold not only yoga poses but important convictions about their childbirth experience.  Just like the practice of yoga helps individuals to connect with their breath and their body, coaching strategies help them connect with their beliefs, inner truth, values, and needs.

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Fresh from the Oven: Sharing from our Birth Support Coaching Course

Are you curious about what happens in our Birth Support Coaching course?

It’s exciting to lead the first group of birth professionals who joined the Birth Coach Method’s first coaching course. We have participants from all around the globe: The Netherlands, Israel, and the US (East and West Coast). We all come together on consecutive Tuesdays for eight weeks using the Zoom platform. It is a group mentoring session in which I get to expand on the topic of the current lesson studied prior to the meeting. In addition to highlighting important concepts, we all brainstorm scenarios and engage in powerful coaching exercises.

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How to Use Hospitals’ Whiteboards as a Coaching Strategy

Exciting steps towards improved communication between L&D nurses and their patients

I’m constantly searching for coaching props and strategies that can help me coach expectant parents throughout pregnancy and childbirth. I have been developing tools and strategies for some time now and excitedly shared them with the community of birth support pros in previous posts and in my book. So, you can imagine my excitement when I came across a few resources affirming the use of white dry-erase boards in L&D for improving communication and maternal care.

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Beating Information Overload with Coaching Strategies

Are your birth clients overwhelmed by the overload of information?

Being overwhelmed by the overload of information is a state of consciousness that many expectant couples struggle with. It disempowers and damages their ability to make mindful decisions and perform well. Beating it requires a shift in our practice rather than providing more information. You can help your birth clients beat this overwhelm by coaching them.

In my practice, I often encounter the overwhelm that my clients
experience being overloaded with information. Seriously, it feels like it enters the room when they do. How often are you being called to resolve this overwhelm as a childbirth educator or a doula? There are conflicting opinions and expectant parents don’t know what advice to take or what to believe while all along trying to do the right thing; they want to find what is best for the mother and the baby. The overload of information creates a ‘noise’ that interrupts our internal conversations with ourselves. Feeling overwhelmed is not only disempowering, but it’s also exhausting.

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