Working with Partners at Births reminds me of characters on a show I watched as a child. Zan and Jayna were part of the Justice League on a Saturday morning cartoon called “Super Friends”. These brother and sister superheroes put their rings together and could take on the shape of a bucket and water to put out a fire! Or become any other combination of things all based on what the situation required. I consider them to be the ultimate super heroes!
I am often reminded of Zan and Jayna when attending births. I work very closely with partners and primary support people to be sure they have the tools to support the birthing Parent as needed. I encourage them to use techniques like light touch and resting hands to increase oxytocin levels and decrease discomfort in Labor. Could I do these techniques myself ? Of course, but they are often more effective when done by the partner. I will hop right in when support people need a break to eat or rest. But I believe it all works best when the partner is in very close proximity to the laborer. Birth can be an intimate time for a couple and I love to help encourage this closeness.
As Doulas we are there for reassurance, information and physical support. Often our reassurance is directed at support people. We are able to help them understand that what they are witnessing is normal and expected. We are essentially walking childbirth classes. We may give technique pointers or demo a comfort measure for partners right in the moment and then help them adjust to get it just right. At that point we can step back and let the couple do their work together. We are able to take the pressure of partners to know what to do next or what techniques, if any, to try. Removing this pressure from partners allows them to be fully present for the person they love as well as opens a door for them to have their own experience. I have also worked with partners who have some anxiety about birth or even general nervousness. Having a calming presence in the form of a birth expert can go a long way to help these partners feel calm and confident.
As I leave a birth, or I visit new parent’s homes after their birth, I often hear something like, “I can’t even really put my finger on what you said or did, but we are both SO glad you were with us!” To me that is the best compliment I can get. It says I did my job exactly as I should. I wasn’t the focus, I wasn’t absent, I was there supporting both the birthing parent and their partner, assuring they each had exactly what they needed. I imagine myself as Jayna, the bucket carrying the water to put out the fire. The water (partner) was the vital tool, the bucket simply helped carry the water to just where it was needed to be.