Supporting our People on the Journey of Growing our Families
By Claire Merritt, RN
“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”
Hello Dar a Luz family! My name is Claire, and I am one of the nurses here at DAL. This summer I will celebrate my 4th year working here, and let me tell you, I think this is the best place EVER! Besides working with an amazing team, I also have the pleasure of teaching our condensed birth education course which allows me to get to know the families in my classes a little more in depth. It is a great place for me to learn about our clients and their needs. One of the questions I am most often asked is, “What advice do you have for my partner and birth team to better support me in labor?” There are so many different ways for our support people to take care of us and show up for us in labor and as we grow our families. What this support and presence specifically looks like varies for each family and each relationship.
This adventure of being pregnant, experiencing labor, and life with a newborn and beyond is a rollercoaster! It is thrilling, it is scary, it is full of ups and downs and twists and turns. It is wonderful and messy at the same time, and we need someone (or several someones) to be at our side during this time. We need connection to support us on the journey and we find connection in our relationships. Relationships, in my opinion, are one of the most beautiful experiences humans have. We have relationships with our co-workers, our friends, our families, our partners, our community members, and more. Just like rollercoasters, and life, relationships are constantly changing. It is so important to support our loved ones as our lives change and as our families grow.
Some people use the term ‘showing up’ to describe what support looks like within a relationship. But what does that mean? What does showing up for your person/partner/ family member or friend look like? Author Rachel Wilkerson Miller teaches that ‘showing up’ “means connecting with others in a way that makes them feel seen and supported.” Showing up is about emotional availability, presence, and doing things that show you are loved, valued and seen. This looks different within every relationship because we are all so beautifully unique, as are our connections, interactions, and relationships.
We are on a journey from pregnancy to newborn, and there are many ways people can show up, or support you in helpful ways. What each of us need varies from day to day and from relationship to relationship, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need! I know, easier said than done sometimes, but communication really is key.
While we are growing our babies our bodies are going through so many changes. In the beginning we often feel tired and possibly nauseous, hopefully it gets a little easier in the middle, and by the end we are tired in a whole new way, not to mention we have to pee ALL THE TIME! Every minute of every day our bodies are so busy growing our babies. It is more than a full time job, and we still have to do all the other things life demands of us day to day. Having a community there to support us is so important. Below are some ideas and ways to support our loved ones while they are pregnant.
Ideas to Support our Pregnant and Gestating People:
- Go to visits, get involved in the process and care
- The more involved you are in the journey of growing your baby, the more you will be able to help
- Go to classes, we have some pretty great ones!
- Classes are a great place to learn and ask questions
- Cook/bring dinner (especially near the end of the last trimester)
- Give or gift massages or other self care treats
- Offer to watch older kiddos for some much needed self care/pampering
- Go on a date night
- Offer to watch older kiddos for the parents to go on a date night
- Draw up a relaxing bath
- Make a belly cast together and paint it (you can take pictures of the baby inside the cast after they are born, which is super cute!)
- Do things together that will be harder to do once the new baby arrives
- Talk about birth preferences: What you want labor to look like, what is important to you, how can you be an advocate for the birthing person?
- Do you want a doula?
- Do you want photos or a video of the birth?
- Who do you want at your birth?
- Who do you want to catch your baby?
- Who do you want to cut the cord?
- Listen (don’t underestimate the power of really listening)
- Be patient and kind, remember there are so many physiological and hormonal changes happening in a person’s body to grow a baby
- Ask questions, ask your people what they need, ask questions about pregnancy, labor and postpartum
The next thrilling and amazing part of this rollercoaster ride is labor and birth. Having a supportive birth team can make such a huge difference in our ability to cope and progress smoothly through labor. Don’t be afraid to offer things and give suggestions. Be mindful of your energy and what you are bringing into that sacred space, and be mindful of matching the birthing person’s energy. Some people like to talk and even joke between contractions, if that is the case, lean into that, distraction is definitely a coping mechanism. If your birthing person needs quiet and is fully immersed in “labor land” honor that space with calm quiet too. This list is not all inclusive, but below a few ideas to help support your person while in labor.
Ideas to Support our Laboring People:
- Go to classes and ask questions about how you can participate
- Help plan and pack a bag for labor (our nurse Olivia wrote another great article filled with great ideas of what to bring to labor/birth)
- Bring snacks for yourself and the birthing person
- Time the contractions
- Take care of yourself so the birthing person does not have to
- Go to the bathroom when needed
- Drink water and feed yourself
- Step outside if you need
- The more you take care of yourself, the more you will be able to support your laboring person
- Don’t be afraid to get messy and get involved in the birth process
- Offer suggestions on positions and/or coping mechanisms learned in your birth classes
- Remind your person movement and changing positions is good
- Offering words of encouragement
- You are doing this
- I believe in you
- You are so strong
- Breathe with them, remind them to relax their jaw and make low pitched sounds
- Put on music or meditations
- Offer water and snacks during labor
- Wipe off sweat with a cool cloth
- Fan your partner
- Massage cramping muscles
- Remember that you know this person intimately, you can advocate for them and anticipate their feelings and needs in a way no one else can
- Advocate for your partner
- This may look like asking questions about possible interventions, or it may look like reminding your partner of a special thing they wanted to do in labor like reaching down to feel the baby’s head when pushing.
Your journey does not stop once the baby arrives, on the contrary, you are really just beginning a whole new rollercoaster ride full of its own unique thrills and wonders, twists and turns, and highs and lows. The first 4-12 weeks postpartum are sometimes referred to as the 4th trimester, and the continued need for support from our communities and families is just as important. Whether this is your first baby or your seventh baby, the family dynamic is going to change. Check in often, communicate, and be flexible and patient. Once the baby arrives, it is easy to want to give all your attention to that soft squishy wonderful little being, but don’t forget to give extra love and support to the person who made the baby and birthed this baby into the world. Below are some more helpful suggestions of ways to offer support once baby is earthside.
Ideas to Support Families in the Fourth Trimester:
- Start a meal train
- After giving birth your main focus should be resting, healing, bonding, and feeding yourself and baby. Having others provide meals is incredibly helpful
- Have friends and family come over to cook, clean and do laundry
- Offer snacks and water frequently
- Hold the baby so the birthing parent can take a shower or a nap
- Check in regularly with their emotional state and how they are coping with the changes of having a newborn and be patient with big emotions
- Plan special activities with older siblings
- Change as many diapers as you can
- Offer to do night time feedings with baby
- Draw up a sitz bath to help with relaxation and healing
- Go to postpartum visits
I hope you have found this letter to be helpful in your journey. I would love to continue adding on to this list and maybe do a part two with additional suggestions and personalized stories from you, our Dar a Luz families! If you are interested in sharing your helpful hints and stories please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sending you all the love and support on this crazy wonderful rollercoaster ride we call life!
Claire Merritt, RN and Birth Assistant has been with Dar a Luz since 2018. She is passionate about her work and being able to support families in an environment she truly believes in to her very core. When she is not supporting families in her many roles at the birth center, she is exploring all the beauty of the world with her wonderful family and amazing friends.