Doula Advice: What Your Friends And Family Need To Know About Your Birth
Search around, and you’ll find approximately 6,268 guides instructing pregnant people on how to select a doctor, a midwife, a doula, a birth photographer, a lactation consultant, and even a nursery decorator. (A NURSERY DECORATOR?!! I’ll take the “baby poop” color scheme with the “everything is a mess and I don’t care anymore” décor, please.)
But what about a guide helping a pregnant person to select the friends and family members who will join them on the day an entire human being comes out of their body? Nope. Not many of those guides.
But there should be.
In the five years I’ve worked as a doula, I’ve seen awesome friends and family members do and say some pretty un-awesome things while their loved ones were giving birth. Some of these people were catty. (“Oh, you’re doing hypnosis? Heh. Good luck with that.”) Some of them were mean-spirited. (“Don’t you know that formula-feeding is poison?”) Most of them were just clueless. (“I hope you don’t mind me eating these chili cheese fries right here in front of you where you can see and smell everything even though the hospital won’t let you eat during labor.”)
Besides a few honest-to-goodness jerks, I don’t think that these friends and family members meant their loved ones any harm. Nonetheless, they still could have used a few pointers to help them minimize their birth room blunders. Your friends and family members might be able to use these sorts of pointers as well. Because although they might love you more than anyone else in the world, they can probably annoy you more than anyone else in the world too.
So regardless if you’re planning to give birth in a labor and delivery room, an operating room, a birth center, your living room, or even the hut you’ve constructed in the rainforest, make sure your friends and family can remember the four following rules when they join you on your big day.
Your peace of mind might depend upon it.
Everyone gets to drop the F-bomb during labor. Everyone.
You never swear, not even when you stub your toe. Your mother feels faint when she hears someone say “crap.” Your best friend is so churchy that she makes nuns feel like heathens.
Too bad. Childbirth can hurt like a motherfucker. It can transform even the most serene “what-the-heckers” into women who drop atomic f-bombs with every contraction. Your friends and family should be prepared to deal with that.
All that swearing isn’t for nothing either. Researchers have determined that swearing might play an important role in helping to relieve pain. There is actual science behind your f-bomb usage. And my guess is that “egads” or “heavens to Betsy” just aren’t going to cut it when it comes to pain relief.
No comparisons to other births. NONE.
“Well, your sister had a c-section right around this time…” STOP IT.
“I didn’t have an epidural with my…” ZIP IT.
“I was up and active just eight hours after my cesarean…” NOPE.
“Isn’t this right around where your labor stalled out last…” NUH-UH.
“My friend’s cousin’s daughter’s labor was 57 hours long, and she…” FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT YOUR MOUTH ALREADY.
People need to realize that every birth is different. People need to realize that they are invited to a birth for support, not discouragement. People need to realize that unlike wine and yoga pants, mounting self-doubt and childbirth don’t pair well together.
People need to know when to keep their mouths shut.
They don’t have to just “stand around” while you give birth.
If they’re going to be in the room (or the rainforest hut), they should be ready to work. And by “work,” I mean, “support you.” Wholeheartedly. Unconditionally. Lovingly.
Are they squeamish? That’s okay: many people’s first instinct is to cling to the edge of the room and look on in horror when they witness the magnificence that is childbirth. But these wall-clingers can still do a lot to support you. They can refill your drink (or your delicious ice chips). They can rub your shoulders or play with your hair. And when it’s just all too much for them, they can quietly step out of the room until they regain their composure.
Hired a doula? No problem. A doula’s not there to take anyone’s place. They’re supposed to “fill in the gaps” in your birth support. A doula can show your partner how to perform amazing comfort measures like the double-hip squeeze. They can make sure your best friend has a steady stream of cool wash cloths to place on your forehead. They can massage one foot while your mother massages the other. They can help your friends and family become the spectacular labor support people that they were always meant to be.
And what if someone is unable to do physical work? No worries. Emotional work is just as important. If they can say, “You are doing a great job” or “I love you,” they are more than able to support you.
All they need is love.
For real. This is it. Love.
They should speak from love. Act from love. Think from love.
Birth support is love. And when your friends and family members are all about that love—no cattiness, no judgment, no comparisons, and please, no chili cheese fries—they are on their way to being the best birth support people they can possibly be.