When It Looks Like I'm Doing Nothing

One of my favorite moments as a doula was a time I was serving a client at her birth.  She was positioned on her hands and knees on the hospital bed, breathing through her contractions. I was standing behind her, literally standing on the bed, with a rebozo, a long, woven traditional Mexican shawl, wrapped and lifting up on her belly.  This helps to relax tight ligaments and support her belly during contractions. 

As a doula, this is what I do.

I will get in any position possible to support my clients - standing on a bed using a rebozo, squatting on the floor while massaging her lower back as she sits on the birth ball, bending over sideways so they can look me in the eye and encourage them through a difficult moment.

Apparently, one of the labor and delivery nurses hadn't experienced a doula serving her client this way before, and when she walked in on this abnormal scene standing on the bed scene, she mouthed to me, "You go girl!".

This moment of encouragement from the nurse is one I will never forget because I truly believe we all- doulas, nurses, loved ones, and providers, are there as a team to serve and support the birthing mother.

Birth photography by Shallin Blue

Birth photography by Shallin Blue

But there are times when I'm sure a few nurses have wondered what in the world my clients are paying me for.  It may appear that I'm sitting in the corner, out of the way, doing nothing.

When it looks like I'm doing nothing...

I am assessing the environment. 

Is the lighting too harsh?  I should probably go dim them again after the OB finishes the exam.  Oh ... her birth music stopped.  Let me go refresh the playlist and put it on automatic repeat.  I close the door to her room so the hallway noise doesn't distract her.  She's starting to sweat, she's too warm.... run down the hall and get a bucket of ice water and make a cold compress for her forehead and back of her neck.

I am watching her body. 

She's gotten quiet... she is breathing more heavily and focusing deeper on her contractions.  I can see her face scrunching up, and her shoulders are tense.  I need to put my hand on her shoulder... she will remember the tension exercise we practiced at her prenatal and will relax her shoulder when I rest my hand on it.  I squat on the floor and give offer counter pressure to relieve the tension.

I am in tune with her emotions. 

I hear her whispers and see the change in her mood... she is getting closer to transition.  She needs those words of affirmation and encouragement we talked about.  I quietly remind her husband that she expressed in our prenatal appointments that it was important for her to hear him say he is proud of her. 

I am honoring her birth plan. 

She wants to labor in the tub... let's get the tub ready. We help her get to the tub, she and her husband slow dance through the next contraction until it passes.  We get her in the tub.  The water level isn't high enough, it needs to be above her chest so she's floating and weightless.  I turn on the water, and monitor the temperature closely, it can't get too warm.  I crouch on the tile floor beside the tub, watching her closely, an arm length away if she needs me.

I am her doula. 

As she feels the urge to push, I am beside her, helping her hold her knee to her chest.  I am cheering her on, telling her she is most amazing mom in the world, that her baby cannot wait to meet her, that she is almost there...  as tears swell up in my eyes as that sweet, precious life is placed onto her chest, I take the pictures she hired me to take, because I too never want her to forget this amazing moment that she became a mom, that she was victorious in bringing new life into the world.

So, it may look like I'm doing nothing, but I promise you, I am. 

I am always doing something, even if I am physically not moving.  My mind doesn't stop working for one second as I am holding the space in that room for my birthing client to achieve the birth she desires.  While we know birth doesn't always go according to our hopes and plans, I am there to support her, her partner, and their growing family.  

And I can be there to support you.