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.
It is my understanding that doulas try to protect themselves – their souls and their hearts – by being choosy about clients. They want to commit to those who demonstrate the highest level of commitment to physiological and unmedicated childbirth and to those who are also most likely to choose a like-minded caregiver.
The advocacy dilemma in the field of childbirth support is a tough one to crack. The dilemma lies in the tension between certain components of birth support practice, such as serving and supporting, and other components such as being a change agent in our society and a birth activist. By relying on coaching principles and strategies, I suggest that you can be sure to practice within your scope of practice and to refrain from projecting or engaging any ‘activists agenda’ in your relationships with your birth clients. Coaching is the pathway to client-centered relationships and care.
How do you Lead your birth clients to build the most effective support group?
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The most effective coaching questions and strategies to clarify your clients’ needs, expectations, challenges, or concerns arond their birth support group
Don’t you wish to see your clients building the best support group for childbirth? In this webinar, we are revisiting some of the most accepted notions and expectations in regards to birth support in order to suggest a client-centered coaching conversation about one’s support group for childbirth. Common expectations, like partners present at the birth, or the fact that the nurse can’t be a part of the support group as a representative of the medical system, are being revisited from a coaching perspective.
Are there any studies about the benefits of coaching for health improvement?
While working on my new certification course, Coaching for Pregnancy and Birth, I researched studies that will provide the scientific data to support what I already knew – coaching provides the most beneficial strategies to lead expectant couples toward a healthy and satisfying journey of pregnancy, birth and early postpartum. I assumed that the best research strategy would be found in the field of health and wellness coaching, which has been growing rapidly over the years as more people have become conscious of their health and well-being, and guess what – I was right!
Recently I watched the movie ‘Trial of Labor’, and listened to the stories of three women who wished for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). It made doubt the approach we, birth activists, take in our efforts to improve maternal care. Especially our continuous attempts to educate and empower expectant individuals by pointing out the flaws of the medical system and its representatives.
What did birth activism look like in the 90s?
I gave birth to my oldest child in 1995. I often say that she was my muse since my first pregnancy and birth experience led me to pursue a career in the field of birth support. I was lucky to go through this journey in the 1990s, as it seems that these years offered women a wealth of information about natural childbirth: Barbara Harper first published Gentle Birth Choices in 1994, the same exact year that Michel Odent published his book – Birth Reborn. Janet Balaskas published Active Birth in 1992, and Marshal H. Klaus published Mothering the Mother in 1993. Henci Goer closed the 1990s by publishing The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth in 1999. All of these authors were, and still, are my teachers and mentors, not to mention idols.
How do childbirth educators and doulas use all these resources?
Who can read Harper distinguishes myth from truth about childbirth, and continue to obey the medical authority?
As a childbirth educator, I was referring my students to the books mentioned above as resources. I was thinking – well, who can read chapter 2 in Harper’s book, where she describes the medicalization of childbirth and distinguishes myth from truth about birth, and still obey the medical authority? (Harper, 1994, pp. 51-91). Since 2002, I opened every class that I ever taught about ‘Common medical interventions in childbirth’ presenting Goer’s remarkable observation, at the beginning of her book, that “Obstetric practice does not reflect the research evidence because obstetricians actually base their practices on a set of predetermined beliefs”. (Goer, 1999, p. 3) Again, I was thinking: who can read this statement and the evidence-based information that follows, which refutes the notion that obstetricians practice is evidence-based, and still blindly follow medical advice?
What did birth activism look like since the beginning of the second millennia?
At the beginning of the second millennia, we took birth activism to the movies: Birth as we know it was released in 2006, Pregnant in America was released in 2008, at the same year as The business of being born. Laboring under illusion was made in 2009, and Orgasmic Birth was released in 2008. One would assume that movies are reaching the mass more than books, and expect better results in terms of educating couples about childbirth and leading them to make informed choices, and yet we saw no change in the anticipated direction. After 20 years of birth activism, the statistics of medical interventions in Labor and Delivery are disheartening; the high rates of augmentations and inductions, epidurals, cesareans, and the low rates of VBAC’s and home births break my heart. I believe that many fellow childbirth educators and doulas feel the same way when they think of all the couples they taught or supported that ended up with a cesarean or came back home from a long-lasting birth that strayed from their birth plan. So maybe it is time to take a different approach in order to create the change we strive for?
What’s holding them from making better choices that are based on the evidence-based information we share?
So why are they still not making better choices?
It wasn’t until I became a life coach that I was able to put the finger on what it is that is missing. It is not by means of sharing our knowledge that we can lead a change, but rather by evoking the change in them. I’m going to paraphrase here on Goer’s observation regarding obstetricians, and apply it to couples as they prepare for childbirth: “Parents’ choices in childbirth do not reflect the knowledge we share with them, because parents actually base their choices on a set of predetermined beliefs.” Just like the evidenced-based knowledge suggested by studies in the field of birth didn’t change obstetricians’ practice, it can’t lead parents to change the choices they make. There is a need for a different mechanism than teaching evidence-based information in order to create change because change is not achieved by the practice of informing, but by the practice of coaching.
Parents’ choices in childbirth do not reflect the knowledge we share with them because they base their choices on a set of predetermined beliefs
What makes coaching a better practice to evoke this change?
Here are a few differences between teaching, informing and coaching, that might explain my choice to integrate coaching in my practice:
- The educator is an expert in a field of knowledge. The coach is an expert in an area of practice, or performance.
- The educator is delivering a body of knowledge, informing. The coach is providing tools and strategies to enhance the performance in the desired area.
- The relationship between the educator and the student is hierarchic, meaning that the educator is an authority, holding a body of knowledge that the student does not possess. In coaching, the relationship is more like a partnership, with the client’s goals, and her journey to reach them, being at the center of the partnership.
- Educators mostly share information students are interested in and answer students’ questions. Coaches are mostly asking questions. The coach’s questions facilitate clarity about the client’s goals, needs, and belief system. The coach might also suggest options to reach these goals while staying in alignment with the client’s truth about the area of practice and about herself.
- Both educators and coaches assign tasks to their clients, but of a different type. The educator assigns tasks that will enhance a better understanding of the matter at hand and the expansion of knowledge. The coach assigns tasks that will evoke better performance and functioning.
Looking at these practices, which one do you think is a better practice in order to invite the change in the field of childbirth? Coaching makes so much sense when we acknowledge that individuals’ choices in childbirth are based on predetermined beliefs rather than on knowledge. Coaching is the art of helping others to adopt new concepts and perspectives in order to meet their desired goals. The new concepts will serve our clients better and will allow them to adopt new habits of behaving and responding. There are many predetermined beliefs, or myth, that can sabotage a healthy birth. Many of them are part of our collective unconscious, inherited from our ancestors through cellular memory – childbirth used to be a dangerous life experience! Adopting new perspectives and patterns of behavior will allow both expectant parents and obstetricians to make better choices in childbirth.
If you want to learn how to integrate coaching strategies into your birth support practice, I invite you to join our Birth Support Coaching Course and bring on the change!
The dichotomy of Natural Birth vs. Medicalized Birth had been established in the discourse about birth for the past 30 years and was accepted by both birth professionals and moms. The most obvious and urging question expectant woman is concerned with is whether or not she will take epidural or will try for a ‘Natural Birth’, and in accordance with what she feels inclined to, she will then educate herself and prepare for her birth. She will decide on a childbirth education class and make decisions regarding her caregivers and support group for the birth based on her decision for or against taking epidural. A woman who gave birth vaginally will almost always be asked whether or not she took epidural, or in other words “did you have a natural birth’? This situation is reflected also in birth stories we read online; where we can always find statements in this spirit: “I decided not to take epidural and try for natural birth…and here is what has happened…or “So I decided it was time for my epidural…”. What I find even more concerning, is the shower of praises and cheers that the mother who went ‘naturally’ will perceive, vs. the mother who helped herself cope with an epidural.
I think that that the concept of Natural Birth is so misleading that while preparing for this experience, a woman might find herself giving birth in a way that cannot be farther away than what nature planned for women- a rather medicalized birth. ‘Natural Birth’ is a proposition which describes the conceptual event of some sort of birth that the speaker or listener have in mind. But what type of birth is it? What’s on our mind when we think ‘Natural Birth’? Which pictures come to mind? Which words are associated with it? Which scenarios do we envision and are they really ‘Natural’ for the women we know and support?
I argue that for modern women, there is nothing natural in the process of giving birth and therefore the concept ‘natural birth’ by itself presents women with a dilemma: Giving birth is part of our nature, this is how we procreate, and yet as an occurrence in the life of modern western women, there is nothing ‘natural’ about childbirth.
To support my argument, I checked the dictionary for the definition of ‘natural’, and found the following definition:
nat·u·ral Natural, adjective 1. Existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind. 2. Or in agreement with the character or makeup of, or circumstances surrounding, someone or something. So now let’s take the propositions of ‘Natural birth’ and read these two definitions with it: Natural birth is: 1. Natural birth is caused by nature, not made or caused by humankind. 2. Natural birth is in agreement with the character or circumstances surrounding expectant moms.
My understanding is that when we oppose ‘Natural Birth’ to ‘Medicalized Birth’, we probably mean to say or imply that this kind of birth occurs and unfolds with no humankind intervention. Well, firstly we need to recognize that this concept tells us what Natural Birth is not, and not what it is. Secondly, I want to point out the misleading implication of this definition- that when we think about something that happens naturally, with no humankind intervention, the connotations that come to mind is of something ‘simple’ or ‘effortless’, which are not at all true when it comes to giving birth. Let’s take a look at the second definition and see how it resonates with us: “Natural Birth is in agreement with the character or circumstances surrounding expectant moms”. Really? Would you agree that in terms of ‘the character of life circumstances surrounding women’ nowadays, nothing about birth is natural for the modern western woman? Do you feel the tension? There is also a conflict between the two optional meanings of the concept ‘natural ‘. I think that healthy vaginal birth, which we refer to as ‘natural birth’, has become so rare because of the dilemma that the word ‘natural’ presents. Here is the dilemma of the modern in regards to childbirth:
“It is in my nature to give birth, yet there is nothing about birth that is natural for me”
Here are some of the reasons why childbirth can’t be or feel natural for us:
- Birth is unpredictable and impossible to plan for. (How many of you already planned their summer vacation? Christmas vacation?)
- Birth requires us to agree to be in pain, and we live in a culture that is obsessed with alleviating pain. We also lost all our coping pain techniques and skills while being born in this culture.
- Healthy birth is a process that lasts an average of 18 hours for first-time moms, and we live in a fast pace culture; we use instant coffee and instant pudding and order food in drive through…We like our results fast! In movies and TV sitcoms birth takes five minutes max.
- Being a long process, birth demands physical and emotional performance, it demands strength and stamina which the modern woman who drives her car, uses elevators, sits in a perfectly air-conditioned office, uses washing machines and dishwashers, and does not squat down the river every day, absolutely lost.
- Our cultural inhibitions, which are the cultural circumstances surrounding expectant moms, are in conflict with our primal and intuitive response to birth. The progress of labor depends on the release of hormones like Oxytocin and endorphin, that are being released by the part of our brain that is called ‘primitive brain’. The primitive brain activates primitive and uncontrolled reactions and behavior like moaning and groaning, crying and screaming, throwing up, the spontaneous motion of the body like spiraling, and other types of behavior that are not considered to be attractive or feminine, and therefore are in conflict with our cultural inhibitions.
To summarize my argument, talking about natural birth is misleading. In a subconscious matter, which women are unaware of, thinking about ‘natural birth’ lead women to either think about something as natural as a sneeze or a yawn, something that happens spontaneously with no investment or effort and therefore needs no preparation or intentional engagement. Ironically, expectant mothers must have a thorough and deep preparation in order to give birth spontaneously, in a healthy vaginal way. For the modern woman, giving birth in the way nature planned for her is quite a performance. It requires her to perform physically, emotionally and mentally in a way that is much different from her everyday life circumstances. And just like no one says natural marathon or natural success, nor should we talk about natural birth.