I also will never forget another mom whose labor was really starting to get going in earnest. She was middle-school slow dancing the baby down with her husband, when he tried to crack a joke about a Honey Boo-boo. Mom was NOT having it. She placed her hands on his lips, and shushed him. She shushed him, and shushed him through the whole next contraction. She was telling us speech was disrupting her labor, and she needed us to be silent so she could get down to business. We took the hint, and in a few hours, we had a baby.
Doulas recognize the times in labor when a woman needs privacy and quiet to get down deep and birth her baby. We want a woman to be comfortable enough to turn off her conscious mind and follow her body’s lead. Sometimes that means shutting off lights, and putting on quiet music to create a mood that the nurses (and family members,) can’t help but respect. Sometimes that means watching a woman’s body language and offering help without having to be asked. Other times it means breathing with her through each contraction.
Breathing with a mom is a trick I learned from my babies. When I wanted them to give into sleep, I couldn’t very well tell them “Go to sleep,” (and possibly add an expletive in there. “Go the (bleep) to sleep!”) or, I could, but they couldn’t understand the word. In fact, if I let my stress get the better of me, the baby would feel it, and just crank up even more. Instead, I learned to slow down my breathing into a rhythm that mimicked sleep breathing. The baby would pick up on it, and soon enough calm down into rest.
Doulas know how to look a mom in the eye, and without saying a word, breathe with her through the contractions. It is a powerful, reassuring tool, that says to her, “You are ok.” “You can do this.” “You are safe”, without saying a word. It allows her to stay in her instinctive, birthing state without having to be told to “relax”. Yeah, we can talk, but we also know how and when to shut up.