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PSA For People Attending a Birth – The Etiquette of Labor Land

Birth has a very definitive set of etiquette, some of which is quite different than that which you would find in normal social interactions.  Many people wonder what is ok to do and say at a birth, especially if they have not had any formal training as a birth worker.  Here are a few simple tips that could help you keep mom in her labor zone and keep things running smoothly.

– Moms usually like to labor in quiet, dark spaces and do not like to answer questions or process information at births (especially during contractions)…it pulls them out of their primitive brain, which is exactly where they need to be.  If you must speak to mom, keep it short, gentle, and to the point.

– Be willing to change plans.  If mom told you that she would be happy to have the entire extended family in the room during her birth, be prepared (and help the family be prepared) for plans to change.  The mom may need something different while she’s in her primitive brain than she thought she would when she was in her analytical brain.  Wear a thick skin and let it roll off your back.  

– No chit chat unrelated to the task at hand.  If you have something to say that doesn’t pertain to the birth, step outside to have your conversation.  

– It is rarely a good idea to talk about your own birth at someone else’s, unless the mom specifically asks about your birth.  Even then, keep the details about your birth minimal so as not to unwittingly project any fears or expectations onto the parents.  This also goes for sharing information about other births you have attended.  Unless you are convinced that this story is really going to help the mom get through her labor, keep it to yourself.  Honor their sacred space, the fact that their own unique story is being written today, and let today be about the laboring mom.

– Do not offer your opinions about the birth.  It isn’t helpful for mom to hear that it was the longest labor you’ve ever been to, or that you were alarmed by how loud she was during labor.  Some well-intentioned people will go on and on about how great the birth was.  Even this can be damaging.  If mom didn’t think the labor went very well, you could be invalidating her perception of it and unknowingly denying her the space to process her feelings.  A simple, “Congratulations! You did it!” will suffice.  She will almost certainly have some things to say about her own labor.  Let her direct the conversation.

Love yourself and love the parents.  Forgive yourself for past mis-steps.  Do your best, keep it simple, and enjoy witnessing the miracle of birth!


Nikki Shaheed CD(DONA)                                                                                                                                                      Certified Birthing from Within Mentor

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