Comfort at Any Stage
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.
So, hey – hi – I’m a mammal. And if you're reading this, chances are you’re a mammal, too. If you remember back to grade school, two characteristics mammals share are 1-they have hair, and 2-they feed their young milk obtained through mammary glands.
I checked -- I have both. How about you?
As mammals, we are further divided into three groups. Unsure about what type of mammal you are? This might help:
No matter what category you fit in as a mammal, you are biologically programmed to nurse your offspring (if you are female). While some mammals may not feel comfortable watching other mammals feed their young via mammary glands, it is an essential part of our make-up: Mammal young are fed milk from their mothers.
Why is it distressing for some to observe this normal act of feeding? In his classic, 1967 book, The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris writes:
So there he stands, our vertical, hunting, weapon-toting, territorial, neotenous, brainy, Naked Ape, a primate by ancestry and a carnivore by adoption, ready to conquer the world....For him, the main troubles will stem from the fact that his culturally operated advances will race ahead of any further genetic ones. His genes will lag behind, and he will be constantly reminded that, for all his environment-moulding achievements, he is still at heart a naked ape (48).
Meredith Small furthers this nature versus nurture argument in What's Love Got to Do With It? The Evolution of Human Mating: "Although our American and European culture has highlighted breasts as something sexual, the reaction...may be more culturally molded than based on a biological urge" (28).
You (general "you") see, as mammals, there is no need to be offended by the sight of a nursing baby -- it's just your (general "your") cultural beliefs and personal biases leading you (general "you") to feel how you (general "you") feel. I have learned, when it comes to communication and problem solving, when conflict arises, one examines who owns the conflict. Let's break it down:
Who has the problem? Not the Mammal or her Baby. So if you (general "you") are bothered by the sight of a baby feeding, YOU (oh, this is getting tiring! General "you") own the problem -- it's your (yes, still general -- but I'm about to get specific!) problem. Furthermore, our government in the US has provided protective laws in the case a baby may need to eat outside the home. This means, it is illegal to ask a mother to stop, go someplace more private, or leave an establishment if her baby is eating -- yes, even if it is bothering someone (show them this diagram and help them own their issues, to add to the rest of their baggage, I would guess).
So it is plain to see, if we need to normalize breastfeeding, we must also normalize hair, single-bone lower jaw, nucleus-less red blood cells, diaphragmatic separation of the abdominal and thoracic cavities -- and the list actually goes on. As we like to say (sing) in our family: "It's natural, it's nature, it's part of nature's natural process..." By virtue of just being a mammal, these characteristics and abilities are inherent to our design -- they're built-in -- so let's not waste another second asking people to accept what is already basic biology.
But you know who really needs to normalize breastfeeding? Birds. Think about it – they have neither hair nor mammary glands. As such, birds do not produce milk, nor do they feed milk to their babies. How will birds wanting to step out of the biological dictates of their class move past these cruel obstructions? How can they break through evolution's glass ceiling? I mean, they can already fly, and beaks are pretty sharp, but they still need our help.
We must work for change. Every bird should be free to move toward choosing to nurse her young -- through time (I don't know how much time, I am not a biologist), birds might become the missing link between traditional mammals (specifically prototheria) and avian (and if we really came from reptiles, there is a connection between birds and snakes, right? I've seen Jurassic Park, after all).
I BELIEVE WE CAN MAKE THIS HAPPEN!
Sign the petition contained within the "comments" section below. Let's make that robin's red breast into something more than just poetic decoration. And if you think this is a futile battle, watch this propaganda video for the cause.
Happy World Breastfeeding Week. Next year let's hope our feathered friends can join as well.
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If It Didn't Come from My Head, It Came from Here:
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)