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?