In the past week it has been hard to go anywhere online or offline without seeing something about the new netflix show Tidying up with Marie Kondo. As a doula, passionate about helping women through birth, watching the show I immediately noticed that Marie’s approach and presence with each client is so similar to the way a great birth partner - trained or untrained - behaves at a birth.
While a doula will do all these things automatically, an untrained birth support person like your romantic partner, mother or sister can learn a lot from Marie.
She honours the process
She knows how big a deal this is. She knows it’s a rite of passage. You need to go through the different steps, through all the emotions. Some parts will be harder than others but you will come out on the other side. A great birth partner will know this.
She lets you make all the decisions
Marie can’t tell her clients what items spark joy or don’t. She can’t tell them what kind of lifestyle they should choose. You need to make the decisions. You need to decide if you want a waterbirth or not. You need to decide if you want to use a TENS machine or some nitrous oxide gas or neither. A great birth partner will not make decisions for you.
She doesn't judge
OMG, has anyone else noticed how much bloody respect this woman has for her clients’ feelings and decisions? You want to let go of it? Great! You want to keep it? Great! You know best what brings you joy. A great birth partner won’t judge either. You decline to have a vaginal examination? No problem. You've got every right to. You feel like you can't keep going and would like to try the gas now? Your body, your baby, your kind of birth. I support you either way, mumma!
She can't do the work for you
In one of the episodes the client repeatedly said something along the lines of: “I've been waiting for you to come and do your magic!” Marie was not impressed. She's not here to do magic. In fact, she's not going to do any of the hard work. You are. Even the best birth partner won't be able to do the contractions for you. They'll be guiding you when you need it. The rest of the time they'll be slipping into the background.
She shows empathy, not sympathy
Letting go of belongings you identify yourself with can be tricky. Does Marie sympathize? Nope. She acknowledges her clients feelings, “I understand how tough this is for you. I’ve felt the same when xyz happened…” Then she helps by simply being by their side. Can you imagine the same empathetic responses in a birth suite? “I’ve been there. I remember how hard it is. I’m here with you.” What birthing women don’t need is sympathy and pity along the lines of “Oh, you poor thing! You shouldn’t have to go through this.” Those lines will only inflict self-doubt and self-pity - something no labouring women needs. Like Marie Kondo, the best birth partner will show empathy.
She makes you work as a team
Marie believes that creating an organised home is a job that should be shared between the members of the household. She only rarely talks about being respectful with each others decisions and helping each other emotionally. She simply demonstrates these skills and then slips into the background. And… surprise, surprise… the partners jump on board and support each other in the most beautiful ways. Same goes for birth if you work with a doula. Your birth partner (i.e. romantic partner, mother, friend, sister, etc.) will see what your doula is doing to help you get through contractions. Next thing you know they’ll be doing a hip squeeze on you while breathing and moving in your rhythm.
She makes you think about your values
At the beginning of every episode Marie Kondo asks the clients what their vision of their finished home is. How do they want it to feel? What kind of lifestyle do they desire? A great birth partner will discuss this with you before the birth. Of course you can think about what pain relief or what birth position you'd like to use. But what you'll remember most is the way you felt during the birth. So why not start with that? How do you want to feel? How do you want to be cared for? How do you want to remember it?
She tunes into each house and client
Everytime Marie Kondo sits down on the floor to greet the house I tear up. The sincere connection she establishes with each client and each home is heart-warming. Many doulas will take a moment right before walking into a birth suite where their client is labouring. A moment to take a deep breath, exhale slowly, get ready to tune into her needs and support her 100%.
She bends the rules if requested
Marie has an exact order in which she tackles items in the house. Most clients go along with that plan without questioning it. However, one lady who had recently lost her husband asked to do things differently. She needed to get through the hardest, most sentimental categories before she could start on the rest of the house. Of course, Marie saw her clients pain and her needs and agreed that it would be good for the client to do it her own way. A good birth partner will bend the rules for you. The labouring woman comes first. Her needs and wishes are our command.
She shares your joy
When her client picks up a t-shirt and says, “Yes, this one sparks joy!”, Marie's eyes light up. She feels it too. When the clients do the proud walk through the house at the end of each episode to show Marie how hard they worked, her eyes won't stop beaming. She laughs and literally jumps with joy. A birth partner who truly cares about you and your experience will share your feelings. I still have tears in my eyes every time a mum holds her baby for the first time and gives me the “I did it! I just birthed a baby!” look. (And that's why I'm addicted to being a doula!)
I wish I could tell you that every partner and doula, every midwife and obstetrician is as mindful and respectful as Marie Kondo, but I know from experience that that’s not the case. So to make sure everyone who walks into your birth suite gets a reminder to be as awesome as Marie Kondo, print our “Please remember…” door sign and pop it on the door to your birth suite for everyone to read before entering.
I wish you all the best with your birth and your baby.
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