Pregnancy and childbirth are the most profound experiences in human lives. It is the utmost transformation. However, in our culture, the typical conversation about childbirth has been reduced to one topic: labor pain. In social media and blogs, as well as in social engagement or moms’ talks at the playground, we have reduced the conversation to labor pain, the fear of it, or coping with it. With labor pain being so central to our thought process about childbirth, no wonder expectant individuals are preoccupied with the decision about taking an epidural. The community of birth support pros manifests the same culture by constructing ‘Natural/Unmedicated Birth’ with “Medicated birth” and idealizing the first option, leading to many birth givers experiencing “negative emotions related to unmet expectations or a sense of personal failure“ when they as for an epidural (2018). The personal decision about coping with labor pain has social and emotional values attached, presenting individuals with ‘The Epidural Dilemma.’ This dilemma is genuine and can be navigated with prenatal coaching strategies.
Doulas have heard this a hundred times: “I want a natural childbirth but I’m open to the possibility of getting an epidural”. Labor and Delivery nurses read it on birth plans thousand of times.
I leave myself open to… the possibility…
This opening can go both ways – it can lead your clients to triumph in moments of doubt and crisis or it can lead them to surrender to the fear and ask for an epidural.
This opening is where the coaching conversation begins. Coaches in many different fields, such as executive coaching, career coaching, relationships coaching, or lifestyle coaching are searching for this opening. And yet we, birth support professionals, are handed the opening so explicitly. This is our cue to begin to coach.
How do you engage the client in a powerful, life-changing, and results-oriented conversation, and not miss this amazing opportunity, this opening? How are you going to lead a coaching conversation with this expectant person or birthing individual who ‘leaves themselves open?’ Aren’t you curious to learn about the source of their hesitation – what is interfering with their ability to fully commit to their desired birth experience? Wouldn’t this be valuable to your support process if you understood what is the nature of the circumstances that will make them turn their back to plan A – having a natural childbirth, and choose plan B- asking for pain medication?
When birth workers, such as doulas and childbirth educators, first envisioned the birth plan in the eighties, the main idea was to help expectant parents prepare for the physical and emotional aspects of the birth process, explore how they want various situations handled during their actual birth, and provide a tool for parents to communicate with each other, their care provider, and the hospital staff prior to the birth (Simkin, 2007; Simkin & Reinke, 1980). As sometimes happens, the mean comes to be associated with the goal, and as such, expectant couples and some birth workers, associate writing the birth plan with achieving it. This association may evoke some unexpected outcomes: