Hello again! Recently I shared some things I bring with me to a birth. A bluetooth speaker and music, hair elastics for you, lip balm, battery operated candles, meditation stones…While these items are all important and have significance in their own ways, the most important thing doesn’t even get packed in my doula bag. Just like the most important thing you take to your birth (see previous blog!), I cannot pack this in my bag either.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU AREN’T PACKING ANYTHING FOR MY BIRTH?!?
It’s my hands. Of all the tools I use during labour with my clients, my hands are most useful. After all, they were the first tools humankind had! “The hand is the tool of tools because the human brain never stops devising increasingly sophisticated tools and instruments to be manipulated by it.”
They offer you comfort with pressure or gentle caressing – guiding – my hands are invaluable. While you are in your groove – your rhythm, routine and ritual (those are your instinctive coping tools for labour. They are ingrained in you.), I don’t need to say much. YOU’VE GOT THIS, AFTER ALL!! But maybe you are parched – I know – and I have a drink ready to bring to you. Maybe your lips are dry, I’ll apply coconut oil to them. If you are shivering from an epidural, I know where the blankets are, or I will find one for you. If you would like some hydrotherapy (a warm shower or bath feels amazing when surges are strong), I will guide you there, test the water for you and keep you warm while you manage everything else. Really, very little needs to be said between us.
Sometimes it’s just a gentle touch on your back, hands or feet. If you are getting out of bed I’ll put your slippers in place with a gentle massage. If you need rest, I’ll adjust the bed, the pillows, and make sure you are warm enough. If you have a partner, they can also do these things for you. A doula will find the face cloths, towels, peanut/birth balls, blankets and anything extra you may want for your birth.
While you lean into your instinctive coping methods, a doula will perform the magical double hip squeeze which is a labour comfort measure technique. I put my hands along your hips, fingertips on the top of the hipbones. Keeping my palms stationary, I’ll rotate my hands inward and apply pressure up and in, while only using my palms. The double hip squeeze can give great relief during labour while your pelvis is stretched by the pressure of the baby’s head bearing down. The baby can also put uncomfortable pressure on the sacrum. The hip squeeze pushes the pelvis back into a relaxed position and relieves the pressure of the stretch. Your pelvis will flare out slightly, allowing the baby room to move around and down. Hip squeezes feel AMAZING and provide great relief during contractions.
I wash my hands frequently – almost obsessively during a birth and not because I’m a “germaphobe.” Well, in a way I am, because I want to keep the space as sterile as possible for you and your baby. Some clients have asked why I wear gloves and it is for your own health and benefit of baby. Do not be insulted if you see me put them on.
I am always sure to have consent to touch you. Especially if you have confided in me about previous trauma, whether it be physical or sexual assault, PTSD from a previous birth experience. I like to establish boundaries during prenatal sessions, and they are always respected. Maybe you absolutely hate having your head touched. Let your doula know. If something emotional unexpectedly comes up during labour – and things can surface from out of nowhere! – it is so important to talk to your doula about what is happening in your mind so they can support you exactly how you need it, and offer coping suggestions.
After I assisted my first birth, I was overcome with incredible emotion from witnessing the power and strength of a mother who had been through so much in her recent life experiences. I felt compelled to write a poem about my new Doula role. Preparing for this birth, I was nervous and afraid I wouldn’t be enough for her – she was a newly widowed mother with no partner. Amazingly I had everything and more for her. Her friends showed up in shifts, and I taught them how to offer massage and hip squeezes. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much my hands touched her to comfort her over the 17 hours I was with her. I knew that I would continue to support families in high risk births, or those who who’ve been through difficult trauma. When assisting a birth, it is actually surprising how little you need. Everything is right in my hands: intuition, empathy, comfort, support. And you can hold onto them too. I won’t let go of you.
Here is the poem I wrote, dedicated to O.Y.
My hands are for comforting you
They know how.
They will dim the lights, start some music if you like.
They will guide you
they will hold you up
And bring you a cold cloth to your forehead.
Offer you water, sustenance,
While fanning you.
They can touch you, gentle
They will rub your back,
they know how.
My hands are non-judging
They are for you.
You hold on, you hold them tight.
For as long as you need
I won’t let go!
They will keep you safe,
and you’ll know you are respected.
After your new love arrives,
When my work is done,
My hands and my arms will hug you,
and congratulating, praising you,
It is time for me to go.
So your hands can now comfort your sweet babe.
And they’ll know how, too.