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.
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.
I have been a childbirth educator and a birth doula for the last 14 years. During the first year of my doula practice I realized there is a difference between Knowing about birth and Being in birth. With no exception, all of my birth clients took childbirth education classes and read pregnancy and birth guides. Most of them were also committed to have a natural birth, to avoid medical interventions as much as possible, and to design their birth experience according to their belief system and their emotional and physical needs. While supporting them in birth, their knowledge did not serve them well enough. The mothers whom I have worked with were missing tools for labor.
So I have decided to begin my support earlier than the birth, and became a childbirth educator. As an instructor I teach the Active Birth philosophy, mostly affiliated with Janet Balaskas. In my classes I always focus on practicing labor tools. My perception is ,that in the Google era ,couples are exposed to so much information and knowledge, that my special contribution is in teaching them the hands-on practice of being with the birth. I have created the Practicing for an Active Birth workshop especially for clients who wanted more hands-on practice. I taught this workshop for ten years in Palo Alto. My students were raving about this class, and the local midwives were continuously recommending it to their birth clients. On November 2012 I launched the DVD “Practicing for an Active Birth; The Most Comprehensive Hands-OnGuide for a Healthy and Active Birth”. This DVD presents 2.5 hours of labor support tools and comfort measures for birth, and many coaching tips for both birthing mothers and their partners In accordance with different phases of the birth.
Labor tools are in support of the progress of your birth as well as your ability to cope with labor pains. Labor tools are relating to the physiology and anatomy of birth, and when you practice them, you have better chances of having a healthy birth which progresses in a timely manner (Off course it takes some collaboration from your baby too). It is hard for me to accept philosophies of childbirth education which deny the presence of pain in labor. Contractions are strong cramps of our uterus, and when a muscle cramps, pain is present. So how are you being with that pain and what are we doing when you are in pain?
When we are in pain, our habitual instinct is to react with fear and tension. We refer to these phenomena as the Fear-Tension-Pain syndrome. This is our survival mechanism. Pain is a signal our brain translates as: “Something is wrong; there might be a risk to the organism”. Neglecting the pain might lead to a serious threat on our survival. Therefore, we emotionally react with fear and alert; we activate our Fight –Or – Flight syndrome, a remaining of early phase in our evolution and the number one cause of tension and stress. The Fight or Flight syndrome is a set of physiological symptoms, designed to enable us to fight a source of danger or flight when fighting is not optional. Both these reactions will take: lots of adrenalin, shallow breathing, tightening of the muscles, fast heart rate, and an alert somatic system.
Now going back to the birth experience, when we react to the pain of contraction with our habitual instincts described above, we are in the way of a good healthy birth. The uterus works on two kinds of “fuels” –oxytocin and oxygen, both are in charge of effective contractions. In the presence of high levels of adrenalin, the release of oxytocin is inhibited, and our contractions are not becoming stronger and closer together, meaning- Failure to Progress.
We can summarize it this way: FTP leads to FTP.Meaning- The Fear –Tension- Pain reaction in birth leads to Failure To Progress. Labor tools are related to the physiology and anatomy of birth since they allow the mother to de-activate the fight-or-flight syndrome, and by practicing them the mother is suppressing the release of adrenalin, increases the release of oxytocin and the flow of oxygen to her uterus, and reacting to her contractions with acceptance. Here are some of the labor tools we practice: breathing techniques, massaging, positioning, several visualization techniques, positive affirmations, relaxation, and hydrotherapy.
About four years ago I studied to become a life coach. The coaching practice brought up a new understanding in the way I think about labor tools these days, and led to the development of the Labor Practice. In coaching we are supporting potent clients in making a change in their lives. The change can be in the way they act or in the way they are being with something. A very central term in coaching is the change of the habit. As a life coach I encourage my clients to explore and distinguish habitual ways of doing and being, which do not serve them any more. These old habits are in the way of getting what we say we want and doing what we say we are committed to.
With this understanding, I was able to see that acquiring the labor tools as part of the childbirth education class is not enough. That if our reaction to pain is indeed a habitual instinct, then it takes a lot more practice for the mother in order to break the habit and rely on a different set of tools. With that thought in mind I developed the Practicing for an Active birth DVD. This is the most comprehensive Hands-On Visual Guide you can find ! Now couples can watch this DVD at the comfort of their home, and practice labor tools as many times as they want, until the mother really fells she owns this set of tools.
The DVD presents a wealth of labor tools – Positions for birth, Breathing techniques, different techniques of visualization – like spiraling of the body and expansion of the belly, Massaging techniques, hydrotherapy and more. You will learn these tools in accordance with the different phases of the birth. In each phase of the birth, a different progress needs to take place, and I introduce the right tools to invite this progress. Whether it is a release of oxytocin in Early Phase or the engagement of the baby in Active Phase, you will understand the logic behind the tools and how they can best support you in achieving a healthy and empoweirng birth.