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The Monkey & The Fish: Navigating the Birth Support Role & Helping Without Hurting

When we attend births, we witness a wide spectrum of emotions and experiences. Sometimes, it can be hard to watch someone as they appear to suffer through the intense work of bringing forth their baby. It can also be hard for partners, families, and friends. And in the hospital setting, staff are often quick to swoop in with interventions meant to alleviate apparent dysfunction that is often simply a manifestation of physiologic birth.

As humans, we are blessed and cursed with empathy. We go into helping work because we want to do just that: help. But, in the wise words of Whapio, it is not our place to know another person’s destiny, and it is not our place to try and control the outcome. We must know when to intercede and when to simply watch and wait. In an area of human existence that is all-to-often unnecessarily meddled with, we are charged with the honor of maintaining a safe environment for the mother and baby to traverse their birth together in whatever way they were meant to.

This doesn’t mean we don’t offer support, assistance, education, or wisdom. When a mother reaches out her hand to us for help, we’re right there in the current with her. We’re navigating her experience together, following her labor and also her lead as often and for as long as possible.

We swim beside her in the river.

PLEASE NOTE that this advice is meant to be taken when labor is occurring naturally and physiologically with the respect (or at least acquiescence) of all those present. If you are at a birth and witness obstetric violence or abuse, or the violation of your clients rights in any way, STEP IN AND SPEAK UP! These things never have a place in anyone’s birth experience and can lead to long-term trauma. Please intervene if you see anything like this occurring or if you have a feeling things are heading in that direction.

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