Before we say goodbye to November and Prematurity Awareness Month, I would like to introduce the November 2017 Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators activity idea that helps families to understand all that is happening at the end of pregnancy that impact the labor and the baby. The Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators monthly series is a collection of teaching ideas that engage and educate families on safe and healthy birth. If you have an idea for a future post, please let me know. - Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility
There is so much focus on the due date and when the baby will actually arrive that I think families lose sight of the fascinating dance that occurs in the baby and in the parent's body in those last weeks, days and hours. I completely understand that the last few weeks of pregnancy can be uncomfortable, stressful and fraught with all the emotions. I want families to reconsider why it is important to respect the process of the baby and the parent physiologically preparing for and going into labor and what happens when that process is interrupted. I use "Penny's Arrow - Events of Late Pregnancy" as a guide for an interactive learning task that is both fun and effective at helping families understand the benefits to wait for labor to start when the baby and body is ready.
When to do this activity
I do this activity in week two of a seven-week series. I do it early on in the class, and that same evening we also cover the six ways to progress, the hormones of labor, stages of labor and the possible and positive labor signs that they might see. The entire activity through debriefing takes about 30 minutes.
- Penny's Arrow for reference - one for each person is ideal
- Lots of props - families can use anything I have in my classroom.
Items families have used in the past include:
- Birth balls
- Tulle in assorted colors
- Moby Wraps
- Hand weights
- Balls of many sizes - tennis balls, ping pong balls, beach balls
- An inflatable microphone
- Bottles of water
- Cushions and pillows
- Streaming music
How to conduct the activity
I introduce the activity and share that many important but subtle things are happing in the last weeks and days of labor to the uterus, the fetus, the parent and the placenta. I divide up the entire class into four equal groups: fetus, parent, uterus, and placenta. Sometimes I keep couples together and sometimes I mix them up. Everyone gets a copy of Penny's Arrow. I ask them to create an activity to represent the changes that are happening to their assigned role and present it in the general order that those events occur.
I let them know that skits, songs, cheers, poems, interpretive dance, stories, charades, newscasts, or any kind of presentation is expected and entirely appropriate. I share that the goal is to make the presentation memorable for the other groups, so they will recall the important events. I extend an offer to provide any type of prop that they might need as I have a classroom and several closets full of useful items. As an alternative to that, I might collect items that I think might be useful and keep them in a large basket for them to go through as they need them. Because I teach in my own classroom space, I have access to all my teaching tools and props right there, so I pull out things as they ask for them.
The groups are given about ten minutes to improvise their presentation and they all head to a different space in my classroom or kitchen area to work in their small group. I circulate amongst all four prompting, providing gentle suggestions or brainstorming props with them.
We come back together as a large group and the presentations start. Each group really takes just a minute or two to offer up their activity. We laugh, we cry, and sometimes they are asked to do them again because they are just that good! Before we move on to the next group, all together we identify key activities and functions that really can make or break the process.
After every group has presented, I facilitate a discussion about how everything works together. We talk about what happens if the process is interrupted or not allowed to proceed. What might be left out? How does that impact the baby, the labor or the parent? I close with an activity that I believe I learned from Barbara Hotelling, where I ask people to hold the arrow horizontally and fold the paper back and make a crease. Open up the paper again, and look at the crease line. What if the baby came at that time, either spontaneously or by induction or planned cesarean? Everything to the right (toward the arrow apex) of that line might not have a chance to happen. What impact might that have on the baby? On the birth?
At the end of this fun activity, families really understand the importance of letting everything work in synchronicity on a natural time schedule. They appreciate the relationship between all four systems and the impact of interfering with the process. Best of all, they can recall this information in the future and we can really build on the foundations we laid down in this class about how when everything works together things go much more smoothly and the outcomes are improved.
What do the families say
Initially, some people are aghast at the idea of "performing" in front of the class, but I work hard to make this a fun and enjoyable activity for all. After a few minutes, they loosen up and are deep in work, creating activities and refining their presentations. There is so much laughter, cooperative discussions and thought that I simply love to watch develop. Everyone enjoys seeing the other presentations and feedback from the class afterward was that they both appreciate the process and understand it a lot more after this activity.
My final thoughts
I have to say that this is one of my favorite activities of all my childbirth class ideas. Time after time, I see the magic of people really understanding this complex dance and I really don't have to do anything. Since this activity comes early in our series, it creates a great community and breaks some of the tension of working with strangers. I look forward to doing this every series and am constantly amazed at the creativity and ingenuity that comes out of this activity. Please consider doing this yourself and letting me know how it goes.