Q is for Quiet

Quiet Time: The Benefits Of Silence As A Woman Works To Birth Her Baby

Talking Is In My Job Description As A Doula

When a family hires me to be their birth doula for the birth of their new baby, they know I’m going to talk to them. In fact, they encourage it. “Words of affirmation and encouragement” is pretty high on the list of services I offer. It would be strange if I didn’t talk at all. But there are times during labor and the birth of the baby when it is best to be silent.

Silence During Contractions

When a woman is in the middle of a surge or contraction, she is hyper focused on the sensation she is feeling. She is mentally working through that contraction with her body and her baby. If she focuses on anything external to that process, it needs to be the knowledge that everyone in that room is there to support her. It’s impossible for a woman to even understand the full extent of a conversation that is happening around her during labor. She’ll remember later that someone made her laugh, and someone else craved pizza, but she won’t remember the order or the details. If a person is speaking directly to a woman in labor, during a contraction, it needs to be a moment of silence to let her work through that surge, or to offer moment by moment support that is focused on her goals in that moment – to get through the surge. In the breaks between contractions is the time to ask her, “Are you comfortable?” “Would you like some ice.” “Steve is in the waiting room, and he made every one Team Baby shirts.”

Silence During Pushing And The Birth

It sounds kind of woo-woo, but the moments leading up to the birth of her baby are the most connected a woman is ever going to be to her body. And it’s sort of like a rite of passage. Our bodies really know how to give birth. By the time the baby is being born, whether vaginally or cesarean, the woman has done all of the hard work to get to the point where baby is ready to be born. In that moment, allow her to feel the power of her body. Allow the silence to be heightened by the sounds of her baby crying for the first time. The second that her baby leaves her body, all women have one single thought. “Is my baby okay?” Let her have that moment of knowing that her baby is here.

Give The Family Space

When the baby has been born, I step back. I stay in the room, but on the perimeter of it. Maybe I was holding a leg or a hand. I was close. But when that baby is born, that is not my space anymore. That is the space for those parents and that baby to get to know each other. When prospective clients ask me, “How do you help the dad in labor?” What I always respond is, “When you think of this story in five years, I want you to remember that I was there and I helped you. But I don’t want you to have a lot of memories of looking eye to eye with me. I want you to have a lot of memories of getting through labor looking eye to eye with your partner. I want it to be a dance that you do together. You just know that you were enveloped in a bigger system that cared about making your birth experience feel secure, safe, and as comfortable as possible.”


My Recent Experience With A Midwife

Recently, I was the doula at a home birth with a midwife. That midwife was amazing. Just being around her, you could tell that she’s been a midwife for a long time. She understands not just the medical aspect of birth, but cares about the whole woman. She can look at a smile or a grimace and just know where in labor a woman is. I’ll be honest when I say that I think transition is a big deal. A natural and normal event, but a big deal in the laboring woman’s mind. That is the part of labor when women feel like they cannot have their baby. And they stop wanting to. They want to shut labor down and go home. And that’s the point where I feel, as a doula, where I’ve got a woman most. That’s the time for, “Baby is coming. I know you don’t believe me. You don’t have much longer.” So, there I was, sitting on the floor next to the birth tub, holding the mother’s head in my hands and wiping stray hairs from her face. And I was encouraging her and telling her that she was doing great. And the midwife looked at me and said, “Talking adds time to labor. Silence shortens them.” I’m obviously an advocate for silence. So I stayed silent, and held that mother, and learned an even further lesson in letting that woman have an extra moment in her own mind. Still present with her, still supporting her, but letting her bask in the power of her own mind and body.