Recently for the Bakersfield BirthNetwork, I was presenting on comfort measures for birth. Expectant families, as well as doulas, come to these gatherings, and I love being able to offer information that is not only helpful to parents, but also information other professionals can take to their clients! As a Lamaze-certified Childbirth Educator, I am always putting together ideas in an unusual way to help make learning about birth fun!
The inspiration for this started when I had a few ideas I wanted to squish together into an activity:
1. Update the stages of labor to reflect an additional pre-labor phase at the onset of the first stage
2. Scaffold the stages/phases of labor by choosing and practicing supports meant to intertwine with the key emotional and physical events occurring
3. Provide a handout which not only helps visualize the opening of first stage, but also serves as a cheat sheet to labor happenings, timing, and ways to cope
What I came up with, I call the "Spinning Circles of Womb." Just kidding, I don't. But I think it works, and it's pretty simple, and that's all that counts -- no frilly title needed. Basically, here are the supplies:
I can't remember a time when I sat participants at a table, but for this activity we did, indeed, sit at a table. Surrounded by Mr. Sketch Markers, paper circles, and stickers, I began to share the stages of labor by tacking three sheets of (laminated) paper onto the wall. There is relief when an expectant parent realizes there are only three stages of labor (I did have a dad once who suggested there were 14, but that was his lucky number, and I asked him to take a guess!).
Three. That's not hard to remember, right?
Then I tack up two more papers, which you can see below, right. I share how some genius decided to break the first stage of labor up into phases, which is another word for, let's just insert more stages into this stage and call it good.
On the front of the circles we write things like average length of that phase, approximate cervical dilation achieved, contraction action, and more (note: I don't show all of that in the picture). The pinnacle of this is affixing the face sticker to the appropriate phase, as a handy visual reminder of what a laboring person might be feeling in that moment.
While we are moving through the phases with markers and stickers, we are also brainstorming what comfort measures might be beneficial at what time, and those are added to the back of that circle. We practice these comfort measures as we go. If we expect people to feel comfortable with different physical ways to counter the strong sensations of labor, we can't expect them to get there from a picture alone! Would you step into a ballroom, ready to dance in front of judges, simply from pictures you saw in a book? We need to actually show families what these positions and movements look like, how they feel, and when they help -- or they are of no help at all.
At the close of this activity, families walk away with their concentric circles of information, a piece of pool noodle, and an information sheet which shows about 20 different physical positions of a laboring person and partner working together.
Not a bad way to merge my three goals! A handy takeaway that can be utilized easily during birth.
In my classes, I have an activity I am pretty sure I learned in my Passion For Birth training where parents are encouraged to draw their ideas for birth. Taking left-brain concepts (hospital stays and medical procedures) and using right-brain-directed activities (drawing and coloring) blends our thinking and enables us to synthesize ideas, versus analyze them. What's the difference? When you analyze something, you have a singular focus on it and it alone.
Imagine being worried about having an unneeded, unwanted, unwarned-about episiotomy. Analyzing this can lead to worrying it might happen to you, without much recourse or thought into the bigger picture of how to prepare to avoid it. Synthesizing takes many pieces of information and plugs them into a bigger picture. In the case of episiotomy, you can learn when they are medically necessary, ways to prevent them during labor (for example, avoiding getting over-hydrated) and second stage (avoiding purple pushing and being more upright), your doctor's opinion and habits, and your birth location's statistics.
Here are pictures from students in my Chico, CA classes (I currently offer Lamaze childbirth classes in Bakersfield, Visalia, Hanford, Tulare, and many places in between and beyond).
I like the labor length and time-line for being home and being at the hospital.
A collaboration by Mom and Dad. I loved what I called The Parthenon -- it actually did represent support! What a great way to draw such an intangible idea!
Very neat and organized! All we need are some boxes next to each item and this would be a great packing list!
Another picture a mom and dad drew together. See the stairs? They are scaling the wall. The rainbow on the right Dad said, "represents God's love and presence." So many great symbols!
"Ninja Birth." A dad-to-be drew this. He and his partner were on the same page of wanting a normal birth free of unneeded interventions. She was gentle and calm in her desires -- he pictured worst-case scenario, including ninjas and Chinese stars.
So of course, sometimes these pictures get silly. But when you remember the role of the partner is one of protector, it makes sense. As a group we process and interpret the images, and families share why they chose what they did and what it means to them. These pictures serve as a jumping-off point so parents can not only discuss what's important to them, but also how to achieve these goals.
And I promise, this last picture? This family had a lovely hospital waterbirth with a midwife -- and no ninjas were needed.
I have lots of fun goodies I use as an educator and doula. Sometimes these look like toys, and sometimes they are purchased in the toy section, but I promise, they are not toys, they are props.
What's the difference? How do Hot Wheels track pieces change from toy to prop once absconded from my kid's room and placed in my childbirth ed supplies? What changes a kitchen utensil to an educational model? Dollar Tree junk to demonstration delight?
Here is a sampling of toys, and how I use them!
And my current favorite! This was an impulse buy when I stopped into a local store, Planet Bambini. I had to have it! I can't wait to use it! It would be great to help a sibling understand basics of how babies grow. Am I the only one who could imagine a contest between birth partners in a childbirth class -- maybe teams -- to see who can assemble all the layers the fastest?
One thing's for certain, it isn't going into the toybox at home! I let my little guy (21 months old) play with it, heavily supervised, for about 30 minutes, before I packed it up and put it back in its box. I know, I've got problems, you say -- it is, after all, a kid's puzzle! I own my issues. Just like we encourage when it comes to precious personal objects: it's my special toy and I don't want to share it.
I added links to similar posts...
Some years back, I attended a conference where Diane Wiessinger was one of the keynote speakers. She shared information about breastfeeding and birth. In the course of one of her presentations, she showed a picture of a beautiful house by the water where her family spends vacations. Everything in the picture reflected calm, peace, and escape from the world. What she shared, though, was revealing: "Whenever I am here, at this home away from home, it takes me a few days before I have a bowel movement." (Yes, I know I just put poop in your pretty picture -- hold that for a minute.) Her point? If this is how a body responds and readjusts to a different (beautiful, serene) environment as displayed by bowel habits, how does that translate to pushing out your baby in a hospital room, surrounded by many strangers (and loved ones)?
I love this scene from "Open Season." I think it is a humorous, disarming way to illustrate the point. Enjoy! And my apologies to Diane if I got things wrong -- it's all open to interpretation!
There are so many videos out there for the childbirth and breastfeeding world, and many come with hefty price tags -- it's hard to know what would fit your classes or clientele. Needing to make a concise list of my material anyway, I am taking the opportunity to also share what I have, how (if) I use it, and where it can be obtained.
One video I use at the beginning of every childbirth series is Lamaze's "Everyday Miracles." It is about 8 minutes long and for me, it sets the tone for my Lamaze-created curriculum, to let parents know what to expect and to introduce them to Lamaze as a philosophy (healthy birth practices) versus the older method (breathing). It follows three ethnically diverse couples through their labors and births with lovely, uplifting words detailing emotionally what the couples are experiencing. My only gripe is, they do not place the babies skin-to-skin with the mamas, but that is more about the time than the idea -- skin-to-skin and kangaroo care were just starting to get attention. Although this isn't a brand new video (2002), it is still relevant and the families shown look relatable. Two women have their babies in upright positions in bed, while a third births on a birthing stool. It is available to watch on Lamaze's website, and it is available for purchase for the very amazing price of about $13 through InJoy.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)