The Power of our Words (Tips for Doulas)

The arrival of our third child was scary, to put it mildly. Throughout the pregnancy we did not know how bad things were going to get, and if our son would survive and if we would ever be able to have another child. We were beyond fragile - the most kindly spoken words were enough to crack my barely held together facade. A thoughtless word would make me come completely unglued. I was emotionally and physically falling apart.

Our son did survive, and physically I began to slowly heal. Emotionally I did not - it was a long, slow process to even articulate the many stages of grief and shock and guilt and horror and fear. We realized I had PTSD and sought treatment, I had an incredible support team loving and encouraging me, and we did heal. We wanted so badly to have another child, but my fear was crippling.

Tonight I had a chance to share my birth story, a tiny version of the long months of terror. As I talked about it with two birth professionals it struck me again how crucial my care team was in my healing. Throughout that high risk pregnancy, and the pregnancies since, I was surrounded by my husband, my midwife, several OBs, two high risk specialists, birth assistants, our doula, and close friends and family. Every single one of them was expressing love, confidence, assurances, and faith. I'm sure they each had moments of doubt, and I know our care professionals were very candid when they were scared - and oh, we scared them!

But they also expressed faith. They were open about the fact that they were praying for us - our doctors and midwife. They held our hands and shared our tears and hugged us. Their faith was crucial in supporting ours.

We did get pregnant again, and you can imagine what an emotional mess I was. I refused to take the pregnancy test because I was so scared... I couldn't face the possibility of another loss. Our son had survived, but I couldn't face the idea of another loss or another premature arrival...

While we had been planning a birth center arrival for our third child, obviously plans changed and we ended up with the best high risk specialists possible for our very necessary emergency birth. We anticipated that we would once again be labeled high risk and would need a closely watched high intervention arrival. Which we would have done, in a heartbeat, without hesitation! Anything to get our baby safely here.

You can imagine our surprise when those same high risk doctors told us - nope, stay with your midwife. She's the reason your little one survived. (Which she denies, she claims no credit for our miracle - but we know differently.) Then we saw the OB asking for input - what was our best course of action? He smiled and wished us well and said to stay with our midwife. She's your best shot. We were (of course!) seeing our midwife throughout all these other visits and she just kept smiling and hugging us and expressing her confidence that all would be well. She kept close tabs on us, and we saw her along with our high risk doctor - until he said we were so "boring" that he didn't want to see us anymore and he hugged us and asked us to send him a birth announcement when our big, healthy, full term baby arrived.

Power Words Birth Doula Inanna DentonDuring the entire pregnancy we were surrounded by this constant stream of encouragement and faith. I'm sure they had concerns, somewhere in the back of their minds if not more front and center! And if at any point there was a serious issue they would have immediately told us. But what I remember best is the unconditional faith expressed - the words of support. When I was doubting myself, my body, my ability to safely carry this baby I had a care team around me saying all would be well.

Throughout the birth itself I remember my husband, midwife, the birth assistant, and my doula all smiling and reassuring me that everything was okay. When I was scared they were not, when I needed encouragement they provided.

The words we say to a pregnant woman, most especially during her birth, are powerful. As doulas we must be so mindful of our words... during the pregnancy, during the tender postpartum stage, and most important in the sacred space of birth. Be mindful of your words.

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