TRIMESTERS Massage Therapy Education

The Power of Birth

This article originally appeared in Massage Therapy Canada, Summer 2003 issue.

Reproduced with permission.

by Cindy McNeely, M.T., co-founder of Trimesters

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So what, exactly does a labour support provider do, and how do we, as Massage Therapists fit into this spectrum of care? By definition Doula/Labour Support Providers are people who attend to the birthing process of their clients in a way that provides ‘continuous and supportive care’. Clearly this demands a more intensive commitment and therapeutic interchange than that required in a one hour massage therapy session.

Being asked to attend a birth is an honour bestowed from families who demonstrate a faith, trust, and desire to engage the personal and professional skills of the attendant. It is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who are unable to give themselves to the commitment of long hours, physically and emotionally challenging work, as well as to engage in the incredible beauty that is involved in participating in helping a tiny, beautiful new person enter into the world.

When I attend the births of my clients, invariably there are moments or hours where I am filled with awe of the courage and spirit of my families, and in particular the women who are giving birth. There is no mistaking the profound efforts of women who work so painstakingly to bring their babies into the world.

Many M.T.’s become Labour Support Providers for their clients as a result of their intense curiosity and desire to learn about and understand the birthing process, and from a hope to assist families in their goals for a wholistic and pleasurable outcome to this journey.

Historically, many M.T.’s/Doulas fell into the situation of attending births without formalized training. They may have dared to utter the words out loud: “I would love to attend a birth some day.” These words echoed into the thought processes of our clients, who would consult with their partner, return for another prenatal massage visit, and ask the question which resonated into another echo: “Would you attend the birth of our child with us?”

With no other background than the exquisite hands-on knowledge of Massage Therapists, we might be sufficiently helpful in creating positive birth outcomes. However, the day comes quickly when all M.T.’s attending births reach a clear understanding that further training is necessary to make them the best Labour Support Provider possible. We can all be thank-ful for the role Doula’s of North America (D.O.N.A.) has played in providing courses for laypeople and professionals alike with an aim of improving our understanding and sensitivity to the skills that are needed to provide family-centred care while working within the multi-disciplinary milieu of birth.

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