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Doulas and the 3 R’s

June 19, 2014

Relaxation. Rhytm, Ritual.

I remember first reading about the 3 R’s during my doula training in a handout called, “The 3 R’s in Childbirth Preparation: Relaxation, Rhythm and Ritual” by Penny Simkin (this may have been when my doula-crush on Penny Simkin started). As soon as I read it and reflected on my own births and the one birth I had done as a doula at that point, I knew it rang true. The gist of the handout was that when you observe women who are coping well with labor you see a variety of coping techniques but you do see some similarities in those techniques as well. One similarity is that these women are able to relax during and/or between contractions. A lot of times, these mothers will let their muscles go limp (dropping their shoulder, relaxing their jaws, etc.) either during or between contractions- sometimes for both. The other observation is that when a woman feel safe, secure, and supported she will often develop repetitive rhythmic activities which helps with coping. It didn’t take long after I started attending births that I noticed this ALL THE TIME. Whether is be the client who wants me to fan her during each contraction and stop as soon as it is over or the client who wants the rice sock applied to her back while she bounces through every contraction on the ball.
Among other things, I have witnessed swaying, stomping, rocking, moaning, cussing, counting, singing, humming, toe-curling, finger-tapping, and tongue-clicking.
As a doula, I notice that I seem to develop my own repetitive ritual while supporting a client. Usually trying to fall in sync with what both the mother and her partner are doing I notice myself saying the same things over and over, swaying and breathing rhythmically while making “low, deep noises” myself with the mom. Sometimes the “pattern” I fall into is a hush where I am silent and just placing a firm, steady hand on mom’s shoulder during a contraction. I see dads pick up on patterns and they are often included into the pattern that mom has discovered (she will want dad to hold her a certain way, put pressure against her back, say a certain phrase, etc.)
When I see a laboring woman start using rituals and repetition- I get very excited! It makes me happy because it lets me know that she has found a personal way to work with her labor. Her own personal coping technique is usually the best way for her to work through labor and works better than any other thing I could suggest. It also lets me know that she feels safe, secure, and supported… loved. She is not too self-conscious with her labor and has allowed herself to surrender to the process and to her body’s natural coping techniques. When I see a mom starting to use her own coping techniques I try to stay out of the way and to encourage her with what she is doing. Usually a simple, “that’s it”, “that’s the way”, or “beautiful!” is all a mom needs to let herself do what she needs to do. If you would like to read more about the Three R’s – you can find Penny’s article here

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