Finding Your Voice in Labour

I have a distinct memory of looking at my husband’s face during my birth with James, with desperate eyes, pleading with him to read my mind – to get a towel for the floor, a hot pack for my raging bum, a drink of water, call the midwife and not to tell her she has time for a shower, wake up the kids and be ready to catch this baby because it’s coming NOWWWWWW. 

I’ve often wondered why partners were not endowed with the mind-reading gene when loving a woman. What’s with that? It would save so much marital chaos. Funny memories now, but at the time, I could not convey what I wanted and what was happening – even though I teach this stuff! A powerful reminder of how vulnerable women are in labour. 

The rational brain has taken a holiday, only to be left with the primal instinctive brain who is not big on words.

Finding your voice in labour starts well before labour day. This requires engaging with your health professionals in a way that suggests you would like to be a part of the decision-making process. 

Who is making the decisions?

Health professionals are great and know stuff you don’t, but you need to appreciate that they work under a lot of different forces that will influence their decision making. When people hand over their power, decisions can be made on your behalf that are not always in your best interest or even about you. Hospitals are busy places, and the logistics of handling many women in labour at the same time can be incredibly difficult and hard to manage.

How are the decisions being made?

Many of the decisions being made will be based on hospital policy, which may or may not be relevant to your individual circumstances. These practices come from research (of which remaining ‘current’ is difficult as there is new evidence coming out all the time) that results in policies being made that can indicate trends in managing risk factors. Treating all women with gestational diabetes, or advanced maternal age, or IVF conceptions the same way is not overly accurate at assessing risk. You need to look at the woman and her pregnancy as a whole. 

Get to the What

Communication between both parties is the key to making good decisions based on your own unique situation. This requires you to get educated and ask questions. It is also important you can identify the difference between a medical necessity and a choice. Here are some good questions to start;

  • What are the risks?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • What else might she need if we do this?
  • What would happen if we waited?
  • What would happen if we didn’t do the procedure?

Getting educated and understanding the birth process will help you to make better decisions and get clear on what is important to you.

I also encourage my families to create a birth map (Bella Birth) of how they would like to approach their labour. Keeping in mind that things can change, and you are open to renegotiating. This puts you in partnership with your caregivers, communicating clearly, and usually leads to a much greater level of satisfaction with the outcome.

Finding your voice in labour starts well before labour day, and having a partner or birth support person who can communicate this will be gold. This really does help women to get on with the job of birthing if they know that their voice is safely in the hands of someone who loves them, at least until we learn to read the minds of women in labour. 😊