In our house, we love NBC’s The Voice. It is one of the few shows that can still bring our teenage boys into the living room to watch television with us. We’ve watched all but the first season and enjoy that this wonderful show puts the focus on what should truly matter about a singer – their voice. We love that the coaches on The Voice have no idea what the vocalist looks like as they listen to them singing. Age, race, body-type, play no part in whether the coach will turn their chair in hopes of working with the singer. Sometimes, even the singer’s gender is a complete surprise to the four iconic musicians who sit in the now iconic red chairs.
This season as we watched the “blind auditions” my sons and I noticed that each coach has a particular style of approaching the contestant as they try to convince him/her to join their team. As we identified those ‘signature’ approaches, it occurred to me how each “style” reminded me of something I see with newer doulas (and even some experienced ones) who are being interviewed by expectant parents. Before I go on, I should say that train birth doulas. Everything I am going to mention here, I cover in my workshops, so where I am going with this isn’t news to the doulas that have taken my workshops but it might be something for parents to look for as you interview doulas and it might hit home with a few doulas too.
This observation of the coaches’ signature approach started this year with the return of Gwen Stefani to the show. We noticed that, initially, Gwen had some very ‘stock’ pitches for the contestants. “I have had the longest career” was her go-to pitch. There were others too, some gender and fashion-related, and the one that confused us the most, but let’s examine the first one.
Having the longest career. This resonates with me because I have been a birth doula for 20 years, first in Seattle and now in Boise. I get the value of being around long enough to have seen so much. Notice I didn’t say ‘seen everything’ because if I know anything it’s this – just when you think you know something about birth it humbles you. Now I get that experience often means a lot of education, perspective and wisdom, but the truth is, just because you have been practicing a long time doesn’t mean what you’ve been practicing is what clients want or need. We all know about care providers whose client load is full but evidence-based practice is not what happens in that office. And how can expectant parents find out what that experience translates to in action if they only see the doctor for 7 minutes in a visit. The same is true in the doula profession. The longer I practice the more differences I encounter among doulas. For example, some doulas do one prenatal visit, some do two (or more) and fascinatingly, some do none at all. Some book enough time and different ways to connect with their clients and some limit appointments significantly. If relationship and familiarity is what you want/need in your doula (and to me that is what having a doula is about) then make sure there is time and place for that to happen. The busier I am the more creative ways I have to find to get to know and spend time with my clients.
If the longest career pitch didn’t work for Gwen, she started down the list of alternatives but the one that had us all scratching our heads was the one where she tells the singer how she is working on an album and she needs someone as wonderful as them to inspire her. This “I want to be your coach for what can you do for me approach” I am happy to say I don’t see much with doulas because as a general rule, most tend to come with pretty big “helping hearts.” But it does rear its head sometimes in the form of doulas who feel desperate to get all of their certifying births out of the way. Certifying births refers to the minimum number of births that a doula needs to attend for her/his certification (it varies between organizations but 3 is a common number.) Sometimes doulas get fixated on getting those births out of the way to check off that requirement. What they forget is two-fold: that not every one of those first three births may qualify and every birth – from the 3rd to the 300th is going to teach them something which is far more valuable than the first three that qualify.
So, if you are still trying to get those qualifying births – know this: that desperation feeling leaves quickly if the doulas value their training, their time, their talents and themselves. That value is defined by charging what all of those things are worth as a professional. Just like the nurse right of nursing school doesn’t work for free. The doula right out of training charges a professional fee. That takes the desperation right out the picture and allows doulas to focus on what brought them to the work – the desire to help their clients.
Next, let’s look at Coach Adam Levine. The lead singer for Maroon 5 has won The Voice twice so he clearly brings something to the table. His style is a really a combination of three strategies. Let’s break them down.
First, one of Levine’s approaches is to tell the singers what he would change or “fix”. In my 20 years practicing as a doula, this might be the single biggest mistake new (and a few ‘seasoned’) doulas make when they meet prospective clients. Some doulas really do have very strong feelings about what parents should or shouldn’t do. For example, they hear that a prospective client is planning a natural childbirth in such-and-such hospital or with a particular care provider who the doula knows (or perceives) is not natural childbirth friendly. The doula lets the parents know that it will be very difficult for them and that they might want to look elsewhere for another provider. That doula carries the business cards of other care providers to interviews just in case the parents need a recommendation. I am not saying that being honest with expectant parents isn’t a good idea. We do need to be honest AND we need to keep our opinions to ourselves until and maybe even IF the parents ask. HOW we share information as well as how much we share is very important. Perhaps a doula learns that the client isn’t planning to breastfeed. Armed with the evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding, the doula launches into the research and the importance of colostrum. Not a bad thing…until the doula finally learns why the couple is planning to bottle feed. More on that later.
The second of Levine’s approaches is an extension of the first. Here, Adam lets the contestant know how much he knows – “I play drums. I play piano, too.” This is not, in itself, a bad thing. But again, what significance does it have to the singer at that particular moment in time – while they are trying to decide which vocal coach to choose? It begins to feel like tossing of the pasta to see if it will stick.
The classic doula version of this approach is the brand new doula who, despite great training, feels worried about a lack of experience and so begins sharing an inventory of knowledge. If not asked about a specific topic it can be awkwardly attached to another question leaving the parents to connect the dots…or not. We cover this in my workshops because it is a common trap for nearly every service profession and possibly every human. This is because this approach is akin to the dance of worthiness – that thing we do when we aren’t sure we have enough to offer or feel like we can’t justify our very appropriate professional fee. It is important for all of us to hold the magnifying glass up for a closer look and ask the question of ourselves – can I tolerate not knowing all the answers? Can I stand being in the place of discovery and still be valuable to this person? The answer is yes, for both the doula and the voice coach. And it is deeply important to embrace that fact. Otherwise, you end up at Levine’s third approach which looks and sounds a lot like begging and you might find yourself in some variation of the “pick me” posture seen in the first three photos (photo credit: NBC).
Which brings us to Blake Shelton. The country singer has won The Voice 4 times and he shares that frequently. Good salesmanship? Possibly, as “selling” the contestant on why they should “pick me” is what all the coaches seem to do when it’s their turn to talk the singer. Shelton is clearly a compassionate heart though he hides it behind a funny, if somewhat sad, self-deprecating style – that is, when he isn’t gloating. I thought it would be hard to connect this approach to anything I see with doulas, but eventually, I did notice something I sometimes see which is the attention-getting drama of comparing all the players.
Shelton focuses on the differences, first between him and Adam, and now, Pharrell Williams. The story Shelton wants the singer to believe is that there is so much difference between him and the other coaches that the contestant who identifies most with him must go with Shelton for any hope of success. Grasping for straws, looking for anything to compare and turn into a “value-added statement”, Shelton finally turns to how his fellow coaches wear their jeans! At that point, it has become comical. What isn’t comical though, is that what first appears like a compelling inference – “Go with the ‘winner’. After all, you want to model your career after mine, yes?” soon becomes a shallow presumption where the coach thinks he knows what the singer wants through some quick checklist of behaviors or qualities or, in Shelton’s case, where the contestant lives.
For doulas, this comes down to whether there exists the same humility with regard to saying we have any idea what a person might be like as there is about saying we have any idea about how a particular birth is going to go. It takes time, attention and valuing the person beyond “closing the sale”. And that brings us to Pharrell Williams.
What stands out most to me, as a doula, a doula trainer, and a human being, is how Pharrell listens. He does what we ask doulas to do – listen deeply. He doesn’t make his interactions with the contestants about himself. He keeps the focus on them and he asks them questions. As a result, he opens the door for rich answers and unexpected moments to reveal themselves. The best example of this was Evan McKeel’s blind audition where all four coaches turned their chairs to hear his wonderful performance of Typical by alternative rock band, Mutemath.
After the other coaches do their best to convince Evan that he should go with them, Pharrell does something different. He asks a single question: “What would it mean to you to advance?”
Such a simple question and so worth watching what happened next.
What would it mean to you? And from that question, everyone saw a completely different kind of singer than they experienced moments before. One question with one intention: to better understand the person in front of us. To move toward each other rather than apart. To understand rather to be understood. Pharrell’s willingness to ask a question instead of pitch himself gave Evan the opportunity to respond in what Levine called such an “elegant” way.
Good questions do that. They unlock doors and throw open windows and lead to answers that have meaning. They aren’t always easy to ask. The asking requires letting go of the need to know everything or have control or be perfect. And the asking might lead to feeling vulnerable and not knowing whether you’ll be chosen. Ask a question and you might find that the client is not planning to breastfeed because she is a breast cancer survivor and, in her case, breastfeeding is no longer an option.
The pearl in this story is in Evan’s answer to the next question “who do you choose as your coach?” His choice wasn’t easy. He valued something about each coach. Just as a prospective client will likely value something about each doula or a doula value something about several different providers or even find value in different organizations, there is something for everyone.
After listing the many reasons he might go with any one of the coaches, Evan chose the one person who asked a question. He chose Pharrell. That was no surprise to me.
I would choose Pharrell, too. Every time. And I actually really like all of the coaches very much. I know much of what they do is entertainment. But I also know that what is happening truly matters to the contestants just as what happens in the birth matters greatly to the parents.
I would choose Pharrell because his approach is like mine. He stays present so he can see what is really happening with the person in front of him. He chooses connection instead of separation. And he chooses the contestant’s story instead of his own. He knows, just like good doulas know, that his client’s success has very little to do with him. After all, Pharrell won The Voice last year with Sawyer Frederickson, but when asked what it was like, he said Sawyer was proof that any idea that you must do something one way to be successful is just not true. Sawyer did it his way and Pharrell just watched him make his choices about what had the most meaning to him.
As much as I appreciated Pharrell’s approach to Evan McKeel’s blind audition, I appreciated his response to being chosen as his coach even more. There was no chest beating, no thumbing of the nose at the other coaches. Just a quiet gratitude.
An equally elegant response.
I started using the term “brain-trust” in 2003 while working on a case for support for a proposed non-profit. I was working with a powerhouse of a businesswoman who made stuff happen. It seems like she knew everyone in Seattle and how to get them to accomplish great things. It was she who taught me “the more people in the brain-trust the better” which I have used ever since to express my need for gathering information and, with the right people, collaborating.
But recently I have begun to question where some brains seem to be leading us. For example, in the age of BIG DATA…maybe all this desire for counting is making us a little crazy. I mean seriously…say this outloud: “we are googling analytics”. That seems slightly odd, doesn’t it? I wonder…while we are busy looking at the graphs – how many sessions, users, bounces, conversions, and clients……are we forgetting our SELVES and possibly, even each other? Do we really need to measure everything?
I came across Seth Godin speaking to a group and reminding the audience that the Industrial age, when we counted products off the manufacturing line, has slipped away and we are, instead, in the revolution of CONNECTION. “The question, as we move from an industrial economy that cherishes compliance to a connected economy that prizes achievement, is this: Are we supporting this shift with a culture that encourages us to dream important dreams?”
And to do that – you have to be willing, as Godin said, to create a culture where it is safe to fail. Safe to let the analytics hover wherever they may – so that I might let courage stand right next to fear and cheer her on.
It reminds me that I when I am creating for the sake of counting clicks and conversions – I need to check in and make sure I also have a metric for the most important action: connecting. After all, just because I can type and you can type back doesn’t mean we are connecting.
Which brings to me to one of my own personal SuperPowers… noticing the subtle shifts in the body – that can only happen when I make time to meet you face to face. Those moments of somatic truth – that tell me to wait, or ask another question, or breathe so you will too – are reserved for the places where we meet in real time and share a physical space as well as a mental one. It is only in person that I am able to use my experience and skill in being deeply present and noticing when the body tells me what the mind is still considering. And it is this connection that makes the difference for both clients and colleagues.
So, the next time your desire to work on your business makes you want to check the analytics, check your calendar instead and ask …who can you reach out and touch? Who can you take a walk with, scribble notes with on a napkin over a cup of tea? Who can you dream big dreams with? And most important, are any of those people ones who will encourage you to make products that have meaning and do marketing that matters?
If you can’t be face-to-face, do the next best thing, be voice-to-voice. This past week, I spent time with 4 of the 30 doulas who have purchased my Childbirth Education curriculum platform. I listened to their fears and hopes and used one of my other SuperPowers…listening deeply. And perhaps my favorite one….asking the right questions. Sometimes the questions bring silence. Sometimes tears. And this is where I give gratitude that I am able to witness the next moment…the moment when truth begins to smolder and inspiration sparks. And then the flames of creativity heat up.
This is “the zone” for me…where my mind moves quickly and that above ground perspective comes in. As a result, a so-so flyer or poster became a stand-out one. A general marketing plan became a laser-like strategic plan. Language and messaging changed to recognize and highlight value and, as result, we FEEL valued.
Recently, I coined the term, “Heart-Trust” to refer to that group of people (usually within my very small brain trust) who I trust to do a heart/soul check-in with – – that essential activity of holding the whys of my business goals up for a reality check –to see if they balance with the rest of/all of me. Choose these people wisely. They need to be the kind of friends who would, as Brene Brown says, “move a body”. The heart trust is where I can be especially vulnerable and authentic without fear of being judged or misunderstood.
If you are lucky, like me, you might find some of your Heart Trust people come from your Brain Trust.
Here, I get critical, honest feedback combined with sophisticated skill and elegant experience.
That is a powerful combination.
Who is in your heart trust?
“Got Oxytocin?” was a Confident Birthing Childbirth Class activity that took on a life of its own.
Designed to be a way for parents to remember the role of the hormones of birth – especially oxytocin
it became a wonderful way for couples to enjoy thinking about their baby
and considering his/her personality
and how the baby is a part of the birth process
and the t-shirts became not only a memento from the class
but some parents even took their t-shirts into their births with them
as a reminder from the baby for all to support this oxytocin-rich environment
and let the family do exactly what they know how to do
Much thanks to Kam Taylor for taking such great photos of these Confident Birthing parents’ works of art!
I tell my clients and students in my Confident Birthing Classes that my favorite position for progressing labor is almost always… the toilet.
I have no idea who said this originally: “Failure to progress is most usually failure to wait.” Folks have a hard time waiting. And normal, physiologic birth can take some time, especially in a first time motherbaby.
I say motherbaby because they are just that…one…motherbaby. And together, they have much to do get this baby out. It takes time.
Luckily, doulas (and midwives and childbirth educators) are not the only ones who get this now. We’ve been joined by obstetricians who are also beginning to get it.
This is no small feat, so it bears a little detour in this post to discuss the value of waiting in the context of some pretty game-changing events.
Here is a great summary of the (somewhat recent) joint statement from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine
stating pretty darn clearly (and raising some hackles in the process) that women need time to give birth.
In their Obstetric Care Consensus Statement – Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Section they make this remarkable statement:
“Slow but progressive labor in the first stage of labor should not be an indication for cesarean.”
So, you can be sure that nudging the labor forward is not because we are bored, in a hurry, have someplace else to be. It is because we are looking at the whole picture of this birth.
We are considering how tired this mama might be. We are thinking about whether her membranes are intact or her water broke many hours ago.
We are thinking about whether she is too nauseous to keep food down and her energy up. We are thinking about – if she has had any cervical exams –
and we know anything about her how her cervix is dilating (slowly, unevenly?) or how high baby may be in her pelvis at this moment.
And most important, we are thinking about how she is doing emotionally. With all that in consideration, as well as her desire to give birth without pain medication,
we gently, lovingly (and sometimes firmly) encourage her to try a position that may help her labor progress.
You’ll notice, however, that you are not facing out as you would if you were just going to make trip to the bathroom. We want you to stay here a while so we are going to help you get comfortable. Pillows on the top of the tank of the toilet to keep you from having to put your arms across the cold porcelain, and to give you a place to rest your head, make it the perfect spot for that forward bending most mamas do instinctively when the contraction starts.
And gravity, along with the nearly squat position of the toilet make it a perfect position to help baby move down.
To stay there though, we may need to help you get even more comfortable. For example, we might need to make that seat a little softer.
And we might need to add a little lift under your feet so you can keep them flat on the floor and under your knees. This helps you keep your pelvis open and takes a little load off your thighs.
We can do this with towels, books or yoga blocks depending on how much lift you need.
OK. So we have you on the toilet and now you’re pretty comfy. You can rest your upper body and head on the pillows. You can close your eyes and sleep (between contractions).
We’ll get your partner on a stool or the birth ball behind you ready with a back massage during your rests and double hip squeeze or direct pressure during the contraction.
And we’ll likely ask you to stay here 20-30 minutes. Maybe longer. Yep. Because it makes a difference.
It’s probably clear that the toilet is a similar shape, size and height to a birth stool. So it makes sense that this is good place to hang out.
But we’re here not because you are ready to push, we’re here to either get contractions longer, stronger, and closer together or baby to move down or both.
And it seems to work. Here’s why: in addition to harnessing gravity, and getting you into a position that opens your pelvis while supporting you to rest,
the open space in the toilet seat allows you freedom of movement to rock and sway your pelvis during your contractions.
This movement makes a huge difference and can be just what is needed between lovely spells of resting to bring your baby down and progress your labor.
And let’s talk (for just a second) about how psycho-somatically, this the perfect place for your body to remember how to let your lower sphincters open. ‘Nuff said? Thought so.
But what about if you are laboring in the hospital where they have no tanks behind the toilets?
Well, we’ve got that worked out for you! You sit facing out as you would if you were going to use the toilet normally.
Partner then sits on the birth ball getting as close to the toilet as possible – with your legs open on either side.
You’ll both need one or two pillows…. two for you to put on your partner’s back to lean forward and rest comfortably and one or two for your partner to wrap forward around for support.
This is sometimes partners’ favorite position. I wonder why? But maybe your partner really needs to go lie down for a bit… we have to watch tired dads on birth balls, you know.
So, we have another option for moms in hospitals too.
We’ll wrap those pipes with pillows and we can wrap the pipes with the rebozo too, for a hand-hold.
So, I am going to wrap up with this. Every once in a while (not that often, I am afraid) this position brings a baby down quickly and sometimes you can feel an urge to push. Well, nothing gets some care providers more worked up than a mom pushing on a toilet. If you are first time mom and your urge to push is not overwhelming, you may wish to stay here for a bit. If you choose to do that, it will likely get those same care providers VERY worked up… and while I have never (in my nearly 20 years as a doula) seen a mom push a baby out INTO the toilet, I suppose that could happen. After all, I always say, just when you think you know something about birth, it humbles you. So with that in mind…I think I have a solution.
If you are just beginning to feel pushy and you can’t imagine moving yet (I say yet, because changing positions often in pushing is a good thing),
you might negotiate with that nurse, doctor or midwife by placing a bath sheet across the toilet – UNDER the seat.
Of course, if you stand up to do that…you might just change positions.
Purchase for Classroom Use
Epidural Photo Set:
These epidural photos are available to birth professionals for purchase on a DVD for $25.00 plus shipping.
Purchase for Classroom Use
Cesarean Photo Set DVD:
DVD of black & white still photos of a cesarean section.
This is the DVD I use for my Confident Birthing Childbirth Class.
It can be used in group or private classes or one on one consultation/preparation with doula clients. They are $25, plus $5 shipping.
As I prepare to ship the 22nd Baby Bump Services Childbirth Education Curriculum Platform (overseas, no less!), I am so excited to share that this very successful and well-recieved Childbirth Education Curriculum Platform has been expanded. I am now including two more tools that have, for years, made my own classes particularly practical and powerful for expectant parents.
So, in addition to the Lesson Plans for over 16 hours of class time, Facilitator’s Guide, optional Study Guide, Educational DVD of Cesarean and Epidural Photos (also new), the platform now includes the new and improved Baby Bump Services Informed Choice Card Game and the Moving to Empathy Card Game. If you teach childbirth classes and would like to use a uniquely interactive and powerful way for your couples to examine interventions and informed choice, as well as a meaningful way to help them process the feelings that come up as a result, you will want to have these tools in your classes.
And, finally, I am also so happy to be able to tell you that for a limited time, the Birth Zone Labor Simulator CD is also included in the platform. All for just $450. + shipping.
Also, Epidural and Cesarean Section photos are included.
For more information, please contact me at email@example.com
If you are a doula or childbirth educator, you are probably familiar with using acronyms to help parents navigate pregnancy and birth choices, particularly those choices that fall into the category of interventions.
When I first started teaching in the late 1990’s, I found the acronym BRAND (below) in a Midwifery Today Journal.
B – Benefits of suggested procedure/test/action;
R – Risks of procedure/test/action;
A – Alternatives available;
N – Nothing… what will happen if no procedure/test/action is implemented;
D – Decide
I taught my Variations, Complications and Interventions class using this acronym for a couple of years. Then, in one of my classes, one of the dads (whose job was something like: “technology feedback and neuro-linguistic specialist” – seriously, I couldn’t make that up) pointed out to me that the root of the word decide is: cide – meaning “to deliberately kill or eliminate.”
It is important to know that the class this father was in was made up of the following mix of couples: 5 first time parents and 3 second time parents whose babies had all been born by cesarean section. Those 3 couples all believed their cesarean sections had been unnecessary and were looking for a more empowering and satisfying experience this time around. It was important to them not to eliminate options.
At the time, I also worked at the Puget Sound Birth Center and I often noticed that one of the midwives, Valerie Sasson, never used the term “informed consent”. She would instead say, “informed choice”. That left an impression on me and the students in my class agreed that having choice in childbirth was paramount.
So, that evening, that class of passionate parents collectively came to the conclusion that a satisfying birth could include giving birth by cesarean section if the mother and partner felt they had choices and if they felt they were well-prepared, well-informed and well-supported.
That evening, we changed BRAND to BRANCh with a ch for CHOICE.
I loved this – BRANCh – my mind immediately conjured up an image of an amazing, majestic tree.
When I share this concept now, I talk about the idea that all the main branches represent each letter of the acronym, one branch is benefits, another is risks and the rest, that the smaller branches represent the questions you will ask to make informed choices and all the leaves on the tree represent the ALL the choices you might have. I tell them that each time they use these tools to ask questions, do research, inquire and consider what is important to them, they are growing the roots of this “empowerment tree” deep into the ground.
I proceeded to teach BRANCh for many more years until I heard Lamaze Trainer, Teri Schilling, introducing this concept to some new childbirth educators. She referred to the now familiar acronym, B.R.A.I.N. The letters are all the same except the “i” was added to stand for your INTUITION. I knew that day I really needed to add the i into BRANCh. I was always telling my students to trust their guts! I felt it was important to add it into the acronym so they would always remember to check in with their own inner-knowing. I would put it in…but, where?
The answer came relatively easily. In our i-tunes, i-pod, internet culture, it made all the sense in the world to me that we would: i-BRANCh! And so it has been ever since.
In one of my doula trainings, childbirth educator, Xylina Weaver doodled away as shared the evolution of i-BRANCh. After class she shared her doodles which eventually led to a beautiful “Informed Choice Tree”art-piece above which she generously sent to me.
Now, when I introduce i-branch to the parents and doulas I teach, I begin first with BRANCh, alone. And then I talk about the leaves on the tree and ask them to tell me if they notice, when they are looking at trees, how the leaves will sometimes be moving, showing us that the wind is blowing when we otherwise don’t feel or notice it. I ask them if they might have a built-in, invisible signal in their bodymind that alerts them to something they need to know. And sure enough, you can see it on their faces, watch their breath change slightly in their bodies as each one remembers their own inner-voice, their inner inkling that communicates to them as well. Their intuition.
And with that, we all feel the roots of our trees growing deeper.
Here is an option for laboring in the tub with an IV or Saline/Hep lock if the tub has a bar like the one in the photo
For this to work, be sure to check which end of the tub has the faucet BEFORE the IV lock is placed.
The laboring mom can then ask for it to be on the arm that will be on the side of the tub with the bar.
Well, it is here, now! And you could be using the Baby Bump Services Childbirth Education Platform to cultivate community and offer fun, informative childbirth classes in your area. Liz Chalmers, of Birth Zone says:
“The best money I ever spent was buying Kyndal’s childbirth education curriculum. More than 1500 people have benefited from her wisdom, in my classes alone. Thank you, Kyndal, for the foundation you have created. I am thrilled you are making it more broadly available–there’s only so many people you and I can teach.”
This childbirth education platform is based on the childbirth education curriculum I use in my successful Confident Birthing Childbirth Class and is used by authorized childbirth educators in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Hawaii.
Here is what one educator (who had taken Confident Birthing while pregnant) said when she received the platform in the mail: “I’m totally in love. (The material) is even better than I remember. My mind is just swimming with possibilities!”
The Baby Bump Services CBE Platform comes with one CD with the reproducible Study Guide for classroom use, Instructor’s Guide and a few additional handouts. In addition, you receive the bound Facilitator’s Guide with Lesson Plans for over 19 hours of lessons. These plans include a complete script for birth rehearsal, and an overview of each of the 7 sessions. Also included are suggestions for ways to connect with your students between classes to reinforce topics from the last session and set up learning and discovery for the session to come. The Facilitator’s Guide includes a Resource List and complete supply lists for each session including every day items that you can use to illustrate a point as well as great childbirth education tools such as The Labor Simulator. You really can buy this childbirth education curriculum and start teaching childbirth classes now.
Also available for separate purchase is the Baby Bump Cesarean Section DVD. This DVD has 69 beautiful black and white photographs of a cesarean section that can be used in the class on interventions. However you approach your intervention class, having detailed photos of the environment and process of a surgical birth can better prepare those mothers/couples whose babies need to be born by cesarean section. This DVD is also a useful tool for doulas to use to prepare clients privately.
COMING SOON: Epidural photos for teaching.
As doulas and childbirth educators we often spend some time introducing the idea of rhythm to our clients. We share that rhythm is a common denominator among women who cope well with their labor and birth. We explore how a laboring woman can find her rhythm, and how everyone can support her and try not to interfere with it.
Today I found this Ted.com presentation clip of the wonderful musician, Bobby McFerrin, together with some men I assume are likely neuroscientists. The presentation was called “Neurons and Notes.”
And, as I was watching, I saw a few things here I often see in birth.
What I find so fascinating about Bobby McFerrin’s interplay with the audience is that it illustrates how we easily connect in rhythm and through sound. I loved watching how the audience falls into the rhythm easily and effortlessly follows him…until…he splits his legs and we have to go into our “thinking” brains and make a decision.
Watch a laboring woman who is confronted with a question and you’ll see her do something very similar. When she comes into her thinking brain, she comes out of that part of her BodyMind that easily finds a rhythm and flows with it, with her baby and birth. Asking the laboring woman a question during a contraction looks very similar to the awkward, halting that we saw the audience go through when McFerrin presented them with an option.
But notice, how quickly the rhythm returned when the audience again followed him. Here is another thing I see in labor. Just like in life…we search for the patterns. And we look to those we trust to help us find a pattern (rhythm) and help us stay there (ritual). We will go into a rhythm we may not really know or feel completely comfortable with if we can go there with a person we trust.
A laboring woman’s BodyMind is searching for the rhythm and she will follow a “trusted servant” (doula) even to that unknown rhythm if the expectation, as McFerrin mentioned at the beginning, is there that we will help her and that we will stay with her in that rhythm until the end.
The audience went willingly with McFerrin because they expected him to create a pattern, a rhythm they could follow. And they followed him, even anticipated where he was going, because they locked onto him…they attuned with him…and together, they made music.
A music lesson for the doula in all of us.
Need a resource to give expectant parents so they can create their own birth or baby soundtracks?
Tell them about 8tracks.com
Looking for a great way to introduce the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices to your CBE or doula clients? How about…
Healthy Birth Practice Flags
These Healthy Birth Practices Flags were inspired by the Baby Tee Shirt Prayer Flags (created for the Bon Future Fund) which I had hanging in my classroom in Bellevue, WA for several years. I hung the prayer flags with the backs of the baby tees facing out as each was printed with the words, “love” and “peace” on it. Those little baby tee shirts were a constant reminder to all the expectant parents and new parents as to why we were there and it almost felt like those little tee shirts were speaking to us – asking us to consider what we each hoped to experience and contribute, not only as parents, but as human beings.
Recently, I have been thinking of ways to reinforce the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices in a subtle, but consistent way throughout my Confident Birthing Childbirth Class. I remembered the little baby tee shirt flags and realized I found what I wanted, and so, I have created these Healthy Birth Practices Flags to hang in my classroom during my classes. Each baby tee shirt messages one of the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices and, like the flags I had in my classroom in Washington, each tee shirt seems to be reminding the expectant parents to choose the healthiest way to labor and give birth.
Each Healthy Birth Practices Flag feels like a message to mom from baby.
The flags could be used in many different ways. You might reveal a new one each week of a 6 week series as you introduce each of the 6 Healthy Birth Practices. You can easily build your class content around the Lamaze Birth Practices as does my friend, Sharon Muza, of New Moon Birth in Seattle. Sharon also shared with me that parents can build a simple but powerful 6 point birth plan based on these practices as well.
These tee shirts inspire creativity…how would you use the Healthy Birth Practices Flags in your class?
In the Baby Bump Services BEcoming a Doula Workshop we weave the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices into our trainings.
Doulas explore the feelings and needs a client might have when approaching and passing her expected
due date and brainstorm ways to help that mama get her needs met in other ways while considering the benefits of letting labor begin on its own.
We practice comfort measures and explore ways to support laboring moms
to walk, move and change positions in labor.
We explore the meaning of continuous supportand the concept of attuning to the laboring mother and the unique single purpose and primacy of interest of the DONA birth support doula.
We practice positions so that we can support the laboring mom
to avoid giving birth on her back and follow her body’s urges to push
We learn about breastfeeding and postpartum and the many ways to
keep mother and baby together.
And the best part of the training is always, like building your practice, working with your clients,
developing your skills and self-awareness…
the best is ALWAYS…about relationships!
The Sharing Trust is my take on the brain trust. The first time I heard the phrase was when I had the pleasure of spending some time with Aggie Sweeney, CEO and President of The Collins Group in Seattle. Aggie introduced to me to the power of “having as many people in your ‘brain trust’ as possible” and she left an indelible mark on me.
Many years before blogging, facebook and Twitter, Aggie Sweeney showed me what connecting could really mean. I understood marketing and networking but Aggie added a dimension that spoke to something deep inside of me: community.
During the brief time I spent with Aggie she was kind enough to take me to an amazing event, The Art of Dining, an annual fundraiser for the Women’s Funding Alliance. It was then I began to think more “globally” about my work. Watching all these diverse people come together with common purpose – to raise money, resources, and hope for women and girls was inspiring to me. I left that evening thinking over and over…”common purpose”.
True community is where real and meaningful connections are made… and when women make connections, communities are stronger. This photo above is of a wonderful community of purpose: new doulas!
The Women’s Funding Alliance has a great tag line: “When women and girls thrive, the entire community benefits.” That was what felt so abundantly clear when I spent time with Aggie Sweeney.
I knew she “got it”… that what women do… what women CAN do, matters.
Pretty much what I am about (Confident Birthing and all) and right in line with another favorite quote of mine:
“If a community values its children, it must first value its mothers.”
Maternal Care and Mental Health Monograph, 1951
During DONA International’s first Webinar, Penny Simkin reminded us all… yes, we need to know what to DO, but more important, we need to know when NOT to do it. During that webinar, Penny shared that, more than anything, she wants to encourage doulas to enter the birthing space of a laboring woman with an attitude of curious observation… to ask: what is she doing and how can I support her?
Penny went on to challenge us: when we are with the laboring woman, are we modeling patience? Are we modeling trust? Or do we, unwittingly, in our desire to help her labor “progress” send messages that it isn’t happening fast enough or that her own intuition about how she is laboring could some how be improved upon by a suggestion or two?
I loved this because it resonates what I have learned in watching so many women in labor and how my practice has changed over time. It also reminds us of the early research on doulas (before we had a name for them) when just having a kindly intentional woman in the room with a laboring mother was reassurance enough. This greatly informs my approach to teaching new doulas. Sometimes it is what we know about birth that helps the laboring woman, but more often, it is what we know about BEing with the laboring woman that helps the most.
It is hard for some to believe that this stunning woman in this photo was 8 cm at the moment I took this photo (you know: transition, that time when movies and television would have us believe that all women are screaming and asking for an epidural). All anyone had to do for this mother was hold the space for her.
How did the people who supported you at your birth “hold the space” for you?
A long time ago, I read somewhere that people typically make life-time friends around two major chapters in our lives: at college, or other graduate learning communities, and after we have a baby.
I witness this possibility each time I teach a childbirth class series and come back to the class reunion. While pregnant in the childbirth class, couples may be more or less communicative with other couples. Some are quite interactive, others not so much, but come to the reunion, and you will see nearly all the proud (and awestruck) parents easily communicating with each other, sharing stories, laughing and encouraging each other. Parenthood brings camaraderie in a way I have seen little else do.
It makes sense. Parenting is the quintessential “on-the-job training”. We have been thrown into the ring and must find every resource, every asset, every companion-in-learning we can find. This is vitally important because our job requires, not the design or maintenance of some inanimate system or project, but the nurturance and rearing of a dynamic little being who we love dearly.
Our investment is great. So, it makes sense that we seek out others in the same situation to help lower our learning curve. We seek community and make our learning social.
And so we create “Communities of Practice”, a term coined by sociologists, Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, PhD. Communities of Practice are an example of an alternative to our culturally defined and structured learning – something which has a beginning and end; and is done in isolation or individually, apart from the rest of our lives and through a teacher. A Community of Practice, conversely, is the very essential, meaningful way we learn through participation and process. And, in the case of a new parent, it is crucial, because it provides meaning, and identity within our new role.
According to Wenger, “Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor. In a nutshell: Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better.”
Yet, Wenger, explains, “Not everything called a community is a community of practice. A neighborhood for instance, is often called a community, but is usually not a community of practice”.
In a Community of Practice, these 3 characteristics must exist:
- The domain: the domain is the identity which is shared by the group: expectant parents, new parents, doula, childbirth educator, etc. “Membership” to the community connotes an acceptance of, or commitment to the identity: doula. The value to the “members” is the “collective competence” and the opportunity to learn from each other.
- The community: This is the coming-together part. Whether in a class, a support group or a play group, “in pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other.” Even if the daily (doula work) is done mostly alone, even in a different city or state, the repeated community exchange informs their experience.
- The practice: “A community of practice is not merely a community of interest-people who like certain kinds of movies, for instance. Members of a community of practice are (doula/childbirth educator) practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems-in short a shared practice. This takes time and sustained interaction. A good conversation with a stranger on an airplane may give you all sorts of interesting insights, but it does not in itself make for a community of practice. It is the combination of these three elements that constitutes a community of practice. And it is by developing these three elements in parallel that one cultivates such a community.”
So this “community of practice” is what I am calling my Sharing Trust. It is here where the shared repetoire of resources (and of doubts and questioning, joys and celebrations) happen. And it is here where we can just BE.
Afterall, when doulas and childbirth educators connect… communities thrive.
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” ~ Lewis Carroll
This became one of my favorite quotes when I lived in Washington State. A midwife I worked closely with said to me one day: “You just have to give everyone some time to catch up to your vision. You are usually a few months out ahead of the rest of us.” Later that day I found this card. I have had it ever since (you can see the latte stain on the card-a reminder of my 11 years in Seattle and the beginning of a love for chai tea lattes). I’ve kept that card on my bulletin board close ever since to remind me that dreaming “impossible things” is a bit of a pattern with me and I should probably stick with it.
What impossible dreams are you dreaming today?