How to Speak to a Laboring Woman
Recently I was this reading article by Dr. Buckly about the hormones of labor, how they function, and the purpose of this amazing cocktail during the course of labor, delivery, and postpartum.
” This exquisite hormonal orchestration unfolds optimally when birth is undisturbed, enhancing safety for both mother and baby. Science is also increasingly discovering what we realise as mothers – that our way of birth affects us life-long, both mother and baby, and that an ecstatic birth – a birth that takes us beyond our self – is the gift of a life-time.” -Dr. Sarah Buckley
Laboring mothers need their space, mentally and sometimes physically too. The natural ebb and flow of hormones changes throughout labor and delivery, but so should the way we speak with and interact with a woman in labor. If left unmedicated and undisturbed, and if a woman is confident in her body’s ability to birth her baby, she will mentally shift away from everything going on around her. She might hear questions from a support person but mentally, they don’t quite register the same. She might notice little noises that previously hadn’t bothered her. She should be able to follow her body’s natural instinct to fall into a comfortable position and rhythm so that she might best handle her contractions; when we disturb a laboring mother, we pull her away from this instinctual need for comfort.
Have you ever come across a laboring mama cat? Once as a child, I flipped on the light and noticed our cat laboring in my closet, in a cozy little nest amongst my dirty clothes. Being the animal lover that I am, I sat and watched and even messed with her (oh how I hate to admit that now!). Guess what happened? She stopped laboring. She left her nest, and found a safe place to have her babies the next day (in the front seat of our van!). The fight-or-flight hormones are instinctual, and if you create an unsafe place for a mama, she just might shut it all down.
Laboring mamas need a quiet, safe space. They need empathy, not threats to perform a certain way. I am a firm believer that an important message can be conveyed in an empathetic and compassionate way!
If you are pregnant, consider the way your care provider speaks to you now. Is it with compassion and understanding? Or with arrogance and demands? How about your partner and support team? Are family members aware of a laboring mom’s need for quiet and solitude? Have you considered the hormonal effects of an interrupted labor, and how that could potentially effect the outcome of your birth?