When a person is deep in the throes of laboring, they may say things or ask for support in a way that catches the birth team off guard or by surprise. This short and sweet Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators idea was developed by by one of the most creative people I know, Teri Shilling, MS, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA). It is the perfect opportunity for partners to develop a deeper understanding of how the birthing person might be feeling and be ready with a helpful response. You can find all the Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators ideas here, and if you have an idea you want to share on the blog, send it my way.
As labor progresses, people may tend to need more support and more reassurance. Their support team may be required o step up their game to match the new level of intensity they are experiencing. The birthing person could be surprised at the strong sensations as they get closer to birthing. They may express their feelings with some pretty direct commands and/or requests for help. Letting partners and other support people have an idea of what might be communicated in advance of the actual labor and birth can help them to be prepared with a suggestion or reply that is both helpful and sincere.
This learning activity offers an opportunity for support people and the birthing person to discuss what a helpful response might sound like, and what are some good "go to" phrases to use if these situations arise.
a set of phrase cards for each pregnant person (see image accompany this post, as an idea and use your own favorites)
You could have them work alone as a family, or break into small groups for them to work through a card set together. A third alternative would be to discuss these as a class. The number of sets you need is dependent on how you plan to conduct the activity.
When to conduct this activity
This activity could be a great icebreaker before a class when you are discussing emotional support through labor. I cover the Roadmap of Labor on week three of seven, and this fits in nicely there too. You may want to use it when you discuss the Healthy Birth Practice: Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support. It could also be used as part of a review at the end of a class or series.
How to conduct this activity
Introduce the activity by discussing that laboring people may experience a variety of emotions and physical sensations during their labor and birth. This may be communicated in different ways. Partners and support people need to be prepared to respond no matter what comes up. This activity will help them understand what they may hear. After deciding if the class members will work individually, in small groups or as a whole class, share the card sets appropriately. Encourage the pairs/small groups or class to discuss how they might feel if the birthing person were to say these phrases. How might they respond? Ask the birthing person what response might be helpful to them in the specific situation. What type of responses might not be helpful? Facilitate a discussion on appropriate responses and next steps. The conversation around this activity should be lively and thoughtful.
How this activity is received by families
This activity is a lot of fun. The suggested phrases elicit a lot of discussion and consideration. Many times, the partners and support people express that they had no idea that the laboring person might say these things. At reunions, it comes up that many of these exact phrases were uttered during labor. The families also appreciate the short and sweet nature of this activity while finding it incredibly useful. Everyone has something to add to the discussion.
The "What Did You Say?" card set is a fun, easy and effective way to help families feel prepared and equipped to respond to key points in labor that may require additional support. The necessary materials are easy to make and the activity can be done one on one with families or in small or large groups. Would you consider using this activity in your childbirth education class? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks Teri Shilling for another creative and amazing idea.