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.
What you miss prenatally, can’t be achieved during childbirth. And what has been missed can sabotage your clients’ birth experiences
Revealing the hidden gaps prenatally
Birth doulas often feel accountable for their client’s positive and healthy birth experience. While this is somehow true, it certainly is not the case. Hiring a doula doesn’t release the couple from taking the actions needed to achieve their desired birth experience. The presence of a doula at the birth can’t guarantee healthy and active childbirth. Couples need to engage and be accountable for their actions. It is not up to the doula to be accountable for their positive birth experience. When the doula is the only one accountable for the outcome, both parties risk unsuccessful relationships, disappointment, and low satisfaction.
I have a saying I often use in my courses – doula training programs or continuing education programs: “What you miss prenatally, can’t be achieved during childbirth”. I wholeheartedly believe that prenatal coaching can remove some hidden success blockers out of the way. Some of those success blockers can be covered by layers of explicit determination. These hidden internal resistances, conflicts, and gaps can be prenatally revealed and resolved. Some general examples of those are:
- A gap between what they say they want and the actions they take toward achieving it.
- A gap between the birth experience they wish for and their belief system or concepts around childbirth.
- Possible gaps between the expectant individual’s beliefs and values, and those of their birth partner, or of other members in their support group.
- A hidden internal resistance to be with the labor process which has been created subconsciously many years ago and is currently hidden from the individual who is aiming for active birth.
- A conflict between expectant individuals’ birth priorities and other life priorities they might hold.
“I just had my 2nd client’s birth after getting certified as a Transformational Birth Coach, and just like my client before her, both of them birthed without me!” (Nur Hafiza)
You can learn to facilitate Alignment
When doulas and other birth workers learn to coach, they can close these gaps and facilitate alignment – a position of agreement between all parts. Doulas can align the couple’s vision, their thoughts and belief system around childbirth, and the actions they take towards achieving their desired birth experience. This alignment is crucial both in terms of the couple’s satisfaction level of the birth process and in terms of increasing a healthy vaginal birth experience.
Let’s look into some more tangible examples in order to understand how these gaps might appear:
- Your client tells you that they want to have a natural childbirth, but doesn’t sign up for any childbirth preparation class. The gap is between your client’s wishes and the steps that they take toward achieving their goal.
- Your client wants unmedicated childbirth. In fact, she says this is the reason she hires you. However, she doesn’t look for a caregiver that shares her philosophy and practice accordingly. The gap lies between your client’s goal and the choices they make.
- Your client shares that they are very concerned, or even scared of an episiotomy. They are asking you to help them avoid it. Yet when you provide resources about perineal massage, they come back the following sessions saying they “Couldn’t find the time to read it”. There is clearly a gap between the client’s commitment to avoiding an episiotomy and her actions.
- Your clients both share their preference for having a natural childbirth. Nevertheless, each time you try to explore alternative non-medical solutions, the birth partner chooses the medical solution by default. There might be a gap between the clients’ goals and their belief system, as they perceive childbirth as a medical procedure.
- Your client keeps telling you that it is their priority to do everything possible to avoid a cesarean operation, yet she “leaves herself open to the idea of an epidural” You may reflect on this gap by asking: Will you have an epidural even if the evidence proves that it increases your chances of having a cesarean?
These gaps can be hard to detect if you have only two prenatal meetings with your birth client, as is the coon practice. These gaps or internal conflicts cannot be resolved by taking a childbirth education class because these classes do not address individuals’ challenges, resistance, or hidden lack of alignment.
How prenatal coaching affects your birth support practice?
Until you learn to conduct a series of prenatal coaching sessions, it’s really hard to believe the tremendous impact it will have on your birth support practice. Both you and your clients will experience higher satisfaction levels with your relationships and with the birth process. Prenatal coaching sets up the tone for the birth: it facilitates much more than your clients’ ability to cope with childbirth strains. It actually transforms them! The coaching process takes your clients from the ‘child’s seat” and puts them in the ‘Parent seat’. It leads them to confidently own their journey and be in charge of their experience. It is that empowering! When this transformation is achieved, true empowerment happens. Some of my students reported that their birth clients needed them for just a couple of hours during birth because they were so well prepared. One of my students, a doula practicing in Qatar wrote to me: “Neri when you said that our coachees might not need us for their birth – I was a bit shocked…they were empowered and birthed without their doula around. I just had my 2nd client’s birth (after getting certified as a Transformational Birth Coach) last night, and just like my client before her, both of them birthed without me!” (Nur Hafiza)
There are so many places you’ll go with transformational coaching! From shortening your physical presence at births to just a couple of hours, and all the way to being hired as a transformational birth support coach without being asked to provide doula support as well. My student Jill Mcknight fully transitioned from providing doula support into coaching and launched her Birth Coaching Practice. And you don’t have to be a trained birth support professional in order to become a transformational birth support coach. We’ve got a prerequisite program for newbies to the field.
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