Tackling Your Birth and Labor Checklist
“Gather all the necessary information and support team personnel, that you need to go into your labor room feeling at ease and understanding the process.”
Trusting your Body During Birth
by Michelle-Nicholle Calareso
Trust is a difficult relationship to build
Building a trusting relationship with others is difficult for many people. In order to trust a friend, partner, or colleague you must become vulnerable and put a piece of yourself forward. You must believe that the other person is reliable, truthful and committed.
Trusting oneself involves the same vulnerability. You must feel that you are reliable, truthful and committed.
Your body knows what to do
Your body is made to carry and support life. It knows how many hormones to release and when, how much water to retain and blood to let flow. Your body releases oxytocin just at the moment it believes that the baby is ready to survive on its own. Only when there is unbalance does the body become defensive and hamper the natural process of pregnancy and birth. You can maintain balance physically by eating right, exercising and preventative care.
Emotionally, you must begin to trust and love yourself. The three road blocks that stop people from fully embracing and trusting their body are self-criticism, fear, and internalized messages.
Self-criticism comes in many forms: “I should exercise more,” “I’m not doing enough for this baby,” or “I can’t give birth naturally because I’m not strong enough.”
Fear is manifested in terms like: “This will be painful,” “What if the baby is too big to come out,” “I will never make it through this.”
Internalized messages build a wall of distrust when we start to believe stories we hear from others about the pain and stress of childbirth, horror stories about 72 hours of labor, C-sections, and other medical interventions Internalizing these stories sets you up to have negative energy present in your mind that then leads to the destruction of your positive energy.
Technology can inhibit the body’s physical and psychological functions
Technology is another impediment to trusting your body. Some procedures that can occur in a hospitalized birth psychologically destroy a mother’s ability to listen to her body and do what instinctually needs to be done to handle contractions, allow the cervix to dilate and enable the baby to safely pass through the birth canal. Our society has led us to believe that what our care providers suggest is the best and sometimes only way to deliver a baby, that pain is not necessary in the process of childbirth, and that we should dismiss it or make it an affliction that must be removed. What we as women must remember is that we have given birth successfully and effortlessly for many years outside of these environments, without these technologies, and our bodies have told us what must be done.
Think about the first trimester of your pregnancy when you may have had a food aversion. That was your body’s way of saying that those nutrients where either in abundance or harmful to your growing baby. Your body takes care of you continually and you must trust that the messages it sends you during labor are ones that are necessary and truthful.
Deal with self-criticisms and fears before labor
Now, before labor begins, is a good time to reflect on self-criticism and fear. Try writing or discussing out loud these internal messages and worries. When you are confronted with “I’m not going to be able to give birth naturally because I’m not strong enough,” write down what makes you a strong person. List those times your strength has brought you through a difficult situation. Or when you are faced with the fear of a long labor, write what is at the core of that fear. Is it that you are worried about fatigue or mental exhaustion? Expressing what is at the core of these ideas gives you the ability to find the truth in yourself and begin to replace the negative with the positive.
Some find researching and education helpful in dismissing negative internal messages. Ask questions of your care provider or childbirth educator. Read about hormones that are present during labor and how they effect your body. For example, adrenalin is also released along with oxytocin during labor. It is sometimes present because your body feels confronted by an unsafe environment and needs to protect itself and the baby. Many clinicians diagnose this as “failure to progress” or “Dystocia” when really it’s our body’s natural way of protecting itself in a hostile surrounding.
Take each moment one at a time
Trust is not built in an instant. During labor, take each contraction individually and focus on what your body is doing. Think of the contraction not strictly as pain but also as what is needed to allow an opening for your baby. Think of the sensations that you feel as the baby descends on the cervix as their way of helping with the process. Work together as a team. Not all of the work is on your shoulders. The baby is programmed to turn and drop in the proper place when the time is right.
External reminders to trust your body
When labor begins, surround yourself with people you trust and have a good relationship with. This can be a partner, family member, a doula, or all of the above. Explain to these support people that you need to feel safe in your environment and that rather than coaching you through the process of labor they are to allow you the space that is necessary for you to hear and respond to those instinctual messages. When you hear the message to squat or vocalize, go with it. Your doula can then keep others from stopping you from doing those things and protect the way that you are listening to your body.
Forgiveness is key
Giving birth is the time to forgive. The transition into motherhood is a perfect time to forgive oneself and others. A way to open up space to believe in your body is to start forgiving it for the times you may have felt that it has let you down. Forgive your mind for harboring those feelings that may have kept you back. Forgive those who may have hurt you in the past and allow that space to be filled with the trust that you will protect and be there for yourself. Opening up to forgiveness will allow your body to feel safe and move the process of labor along.
Sunset Beacon June 2007
Helping Mothers Navigate Childbirth
By Jonathan Farrell
The miracle of childbirth is a truly wonderful and marvelous event, but sometimes some intervention is needed. This is where midwives, doctors and nurses usually step in to help with delivery.
But, in the high-tech mode of medicine today, many hospitals are pushed to the limit with constant medical calls, so who is there for the mother to make sure she is comforted and strengthened during this stressful time? A doula.
Michelle-Nicholle Calareso is a doula. She supports the mother by providing guidance and confidence through the entire birth and delivery process.
The word doula is a Greek word meaning “woman helper.” The helper is there only for the mother.
While the concept of a midwife has been around since ancient times, a doula is not a midwife. A doula’s main focus is to attend to the well-being of the mother before, during, and after her pregnancy.
“I am not there to do anything medical at all. I am just there for the mother and father or whomever the mother wishes to be in the delivery room with her for support,” Calareso said.
Calareso formed San Francisco Doula Services and is part of the SF Doula Group. Fully trained and certified, she is also a member of Doulas of North America, International (DONA).
“A doula is fully trained in providing emotional and moral support,” said Heather Lovejoy, DONA’s Northern California representative. “She goes wherever the mom is.”
Lovejoy clarified the difference between doula and midwife.
“A midwife helps in the medical process to ensure a safe delivery. A doula is there to help the mom with her needs.”
Applauding Calareso and the services she offers, Lovejoy sees the role of doula as being much more than a “coach” for the mom.
“The word coach is limited,” Lovejoy said. “Doulas do much more.”
While a midwife is there for delivery, a doula is there for the mom months after the baby is born if she needs support. A doula is also an advocate for the mom amid all the protocol and routine of having a baby.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), a doula is available months before the baby is born (prenatal), to help prepare the mom and other family members.
Lovejoy explained that the scope of doula practice is varied, with prenatal, ante-partum and postpartum support available. Moms need help managing a newborn immediately following the birth and months after. This is why Calareso and other doulas offer up to one year of support in the postpartum stage.
Ante-partum is a term to describe a high-risk pregnancy when bed rest is recommended.
“Each mom and family situation is different,” said Lovejoy. “All decisions are made by the mom.”
A doula helps a mother manage the stress, worry, and confusion that can all be part of pregnancy and childbirth.
According to the APA and the Nemours Foundation, studies have shown that when support for the mother and family is provided better outcomes result. This is also true when complications occur.
“I think (patient support) is missing,” said Lovejoy, as high tech medical environments become more mechanized.
She is eager to see more doula services to help mothers navigate hospital protocols.
“The more of us, the more awareness,” Lovejoy said. “Our list of doulas has expanded dramatically in the past few years.” As someone who has experienced doula services herself, Calareso knows how vital the advocating support of a doula can be.
“I had a doula for my first born,” she said.
From that experience, Calareso decided to put her years of teaching into a new direction as a doula.
“I help the mom get acquainted with the process and with the staff at the hospital, explaining every step along the way,” she said.
For more information about Michelle-Nicholle Calareso, call 303) 775-8305 or visit the Web site at www.sunflowerdoula.webs.com.
Dads and Doulas: Key Players on Mother’s Labor Support Team
There was a time when expectant fathers were portrayed as anxious, floor-pacing, cigar-smoking men who were tolerated in hospital corridors until the long-awaited moment when a nurse or doctor would announce they were the proud father of a daughter or a son. Today’s expectant fathers are different.
When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and parenting, today’s father wants to share everything with his partner. He wants to be actively involved; ease his partner’s labor pain, welcome his baby at the moment of birth and help care for his newborn at home. A labor doula can help a father experience this special time with confidence.
The word “Doula” which comes from ancient Greek, today refers to a woman trained and experienced in childbirth. A Doula provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the expectant mother and her partner during labor, delivery and in the immediate postpartum period. The wisdom and emotional support of experienced women at birth is an ancient tradition.
Studies show that when Doulas are present at birth, women have shorter labors, fewer medical interventions, fewer cesareans and healthier babies. Recent evidence also suggests that when a Doula provides labor support, women are more satisfied with their experience and the mother-infant interaction is enhanced as long as two months after the birth. With Doula support, fathers tend to stay more involved with their partner rather than pull away in times of stress.
Today, a father’s participation in birth preparation classes or his presence at prenatal visits and in the delivery suite is a familiar occurrence. Yet, we sometimes forget that the expectations of his role as a “labor coach” may be difficult to fulfill. Sometimes it is also culturally inappropriate for an expectant father to be so intimately involved in the process of labor and birth.
The father-to-be is expected among other things to become familiar with the process and language of birth, to understand medical procedures and hospital protocols and advocate for his partner in an environment and culture he is usually unfamiliar with. A Doula can provide the information to help parents make appropriate decisions and facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner and medical care providers.
At times a father may not understand a woman’s instinctive behavior during childbirth and may react anxiously to what a Doula knows to be the normal process of birth. He may witness his partner in pain and understandably become distressed. The Doula can be reassuring and skillfully help the mother to cope with labor pain in her unique way. The father-to-be may need to accompany his partner during surgery should a cesarean becomes necessary. Not all fathers can realistically be expected to “coach” at this intense level.
Many fathers are eager to be involved during labor and birth. Others, no less loving or committed to their partner’s well being find it difficult to navigate in uncharted waters. With a Doula, a father can share in the birth at a level he feels most comfortable with. The Doula’s skills and knowledge can help him to feel more relaxed. If the father wants to provide physical comfort such as back massage, change of positions, and help his partner to stay focused during contractions, the Doula can provide that guidance and make suggestions for what may work best.
Physicians, midwives and nurses are responsible for monitoring labor, assessing the medical condition of the mother and baby, and treating complications when they arise. But childbirth is also an emotional and spiritual experience with long-term impact on a woman’s personal well being. A Doula is constantly aware that the mother and her partner will remember this experience throughout their lives. By “mothering the mother” during childbirth the Doula supports the parents in having a positive and memorable birth experience.
The benefits of Doula care have been recognized worldwide. The Medical Leadership Council of Washington, D.C, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the World Health Organization are among the many healthcare organizations that value the benefits that Doulas provide to women in labor.
The father’s presence and loving support in childbirth is comforting and reassuring. The love he shares with the mother and his child, his needs to nurture and protect his family are priceless gifts that only he can provide. With her partner and a Doula at birth a mother can have the best of both worlds: her partner’s loving care and attention and the Doula’s expertise and guidance in childbirth.