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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Many woman have high hopes and expectations of their birthing process often having created a birth plan that mirrors these desires. Sometimes events occur either during the pregnancy or birth that result in a change in the anticipated outcome. Examples of this during pregnancy could be the onset of high blood pressure (also known as pre-eclampsia), the experience of preterm labour, the position of the baby at term in a breech position, or the decision of the careprovider to induce labour if the woman has gone past 41 weeks of her pregnancy. During the birthing process the baby may not ‘descend’ as per the expectation of the careprovider, the baby may show indications of fetal distress, the woman may decide afterall that she wants an epidural either due to the length of labour and her fatigue level, or due to a pain level higher than she feels able to tolerate.

The doula maintains a supportive role regardless of the situation encouraging the family in any way possible.

Having an epidural or a C-section does not preclude the presence of the LSP. There are hospital policies or attitudes of the care providers however that may make the continuous presence of the doula more challenging. Constant consultation with the family and staff, the professionalism, flexibility, and calm attitude of the doula goes a long way during these situations to ensure they are a valued part of the team.

It is very exciting to have families give you feedback after the birth, and the wonderful aspect of the Massage Therapist as doula is that she/he can provide Postpartum Massage and Infant Massage Instruction whenever requested by the family. This is a very worthwhile benefit for families -- not only because of the obvious physical and emotional aspects of our work, but also because it once again gives time for the family to discuss their experiences, ask questions, and process their experiences with someone who understands and was present during the unfolding events of the baby’s entry into the world.

There is no greater satisfaction than hearing words such as: “We couldn’t have done it without you!” “We will always remember you” or “Whenever we celebrate the birth of our baby, the impact of your presence will be a part of it.” As well, having comments from midwives and obstetricians such as: “Thank you so much for your contribution during the birth.” or “You were a very big help during x’s birth.” can’t help but add to the sense of commitment and pride one feels in one’s massage and labour support work.

To conclude this article, I am including a quote from a recent client. I have contracted to attend their birth, however due to the SARS outbreak, no Labour Support Providers were allowed into the hospital at the time that they went into labour. Despite that, and because of the fact, that I had an ongoing therapeutic relationship with this client during her pregnancy, I received a thank you card regardless. This is what it said: “Hi Cindy: We just wanted to drop you a line to thank you so much for your support and guidance during our pregnancy. The massages were a life saver, but even more than that, it was so wonderful having you in our corner as the big day drew near. It was such a shame you couldn’t be with us during labour, but with your help we felt really relaxed and prepared. Thank you for helping to make the whole pregnancy and labour such a positive, enriching experience. Your generosity was amazing. ….. P.S. We will be in touch soon about infant massage!!!!!”