I spend a lot of quality time with my clients prenatally. I find this kind of careful attention pays off in the birthing room. It is important for me to know who they are.
I find there can sometimes be attachment to certain "methods" of labour support. Some doulas love Hypnobirthing, some love Bradley's, some love the Bonapace Method. And that is great! All of these methods contain wisdom and value. However, and it is very important to keep this in mind: one method does not address the needs of all people.
In my doula training, a good chunk of our time is dedicated to the art of conducting prenatal meetings for birth preparation. What do you talk about, and when? How to you bring in the great coping skills you have learned along the way to impart to your clients? The best way? Listen!
Along with the important discussion topics, such as health history and talking about choices in childbirth regarding hospital routines and interventions, I like to ask: "How do you deal with stress and pain in your every day life?" Discovering how someone copes with these things can give you decent insight into how they may like to deal with contractions.
For example if a woman replies, "If I stub my toe I like to jump around, swear really loudly, and then get a hug," this might give you the clue that your client may potentially process the sensations of labour in a kinesthetic (moving around and holding tight to people) and auditory (making noise) way. If you wanted to explore her visual processing capacities, ask her if it would ever occur to her to visualize riding the wave of pain, or whathaveyou. If she looks at you sideways, you realize she may not be much into imaging. There is nothing to make a mother feel inadequate in learning coping skills if her natural faculties don't resonate with them. Some women upon stubbing their toe will go silent, breathe deeply, and stare at a space in front of them. USE this information to tailor personal, meaningful coping skills with them. Many women HATE counting breaths, others need someone to speak to them gently through each contraction, and others would labour smack you if you opened your mouth made a sound. While things can flow flexibly in labour, and as a doula it behooves you have many coping tricks up your sleeve to help your clients prepare for and cope with labour if they wish, knowing who they are can give you amazing insights into where to start.
What are some other questions? I like to ask, "How do you envision your labour?" or, "what concerns you most about your birthing experience?" Exploring hopes and fears are important ways to discover what your clients' deep, internal resources are, and how you can activate their motherwit when the going gets tough. Is it the pain she's afraid of, or is it a fear of the loss of control? Do her expectations seem realistic given her chosen place of birth? Is your expecting her partner to be super hands on and whisper sweet nothings in her ear appropriate when that is simply not the nature of their relationship? Be so so sensitive to what THEY say, not to what you think they SHOULD do. If they don't seem into what you're suggesting, move to something else. There will always be one coping technique somewhere that will make a mom say, "Oh, yes, I think I like that one!" Sure, sometimes women end up needing things they'd never expected, so be prepared, but having attended births for a long time, I believe they usually turn to the things they enjoy. And those things they enjoy are usually things that are akin to how they naturally process the world around and within them. Why would she want to spend time "hoo hoo-ing" and "ha ha-ing," and looking at her partner count off with his/her fingers when everything in her longs to chant, "OOOOOOOOOPen" while keeping her mind on a still point? Or vice versa? It is all good.
The greatest satisfaction in my work comes about when my clients are holding their babies happily and they tell me they felt deeply heard, and deeply honoured for their unique expressions. Feeling understood and validated leads to emotional safety, and this safety is the cornerstone of doula work.