Women’s health rights

Mamas on Bedrest: Whatever You Feel is the Right Way To Feel!

October 30th, 2013

“The Caregiver’s Motto”

She has a very good reason for:

Believing this way

Behaving this way

For feeling this way

I may be the target, but I am not the reason for her behavior.

~Penny Simkin, PT, Author, Doula, Childbirth Educator



Physical Therapist, Doula, Childbirth Educator and Author Penny Simkin

This past weekend I had the great privilege to learn from and train with 2 extraordinary childbirth professionals. Penny Simkin is a physical therapist who helped developed the modern day doula profession and co-founded Doulas of North America (DONA) now DONA International. Jennie Joseph is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) a Licensed Midwife (LM) and the Executive Director of The Birth Place-CommonSense Childbirth in Florida. These two “birth giants” shared their wisdom, their expertise and their vision for the future of childbearing. Comparatively speaking, I am green as grass, so I soaked up their words of wisdom like a sponge, and the message that I have carried home with me is, “Any way a mama feels is the right way for her to feel and it is my job to support her right where she is as she (prepares for and) gives birth”.

Is this what you hear when you go to your OB visits? It wasn’t what I heard. In this country, we have morphed pregnancy and child birth into this high tech, monitored and micro-managed phenomenon, and we Mamas on Bedrest are probably the ones with the most invasive experiences. Now I want to make one thing clear: I AM NOT advocating disregarding the medical advice of your obstetrician or midwife. You’ve been put on bed rest for a reason and most of  you have needed the medical attention that you are receiving. But what I am saying, and what gave my heart leaps of joy when I heard it this weekend is,

“At no time is it EVER okay to disregard the human being in our presence, the one whom WE SERVE,  in favor of our medical expertise!”

Perhaps it was because I was sitting in a room full of doulas, midwives, childbirth educators and lactation consultants that such phrases were embraced and acknowledged. But for the first time in a very long time, I felt at home discussing my concerns for birthing women and got a rousing dose of support and suggestions for how to make things better for the women that I serve.

When Penny Simkin presented The Caregiver’s Motto, she was in fact speaking about the care of survivors of child sexual assault who were pregnant and/or laboring/giving birth. However, as we continued our discussion, we all realized that this motto was valid across the spectrum of childbearing. How many of you have felt frightened, confused and anxious and lashed out or perhaps fallen apart, or maybe simply questioned the recommendation of your health care provider during an office visit? At that moment, did your health care provider become defensive and “write you off as difficult” ? Would it serve the greater good if he/she could at least try to relate to what you are feeling and going through? Applying this motto to Mamas on Bedrest, it’s easy for me to see how a mama who may be crying or yelilng or even swearing may be feeling. She is scared. She’s worried that her baby may not make it (and she may have similiar concerns for herself!). Isn’t that more than a little bit of a reason for her to be “less than courteous” in the moment? Sure, we should all endeavor to be courteous to our fellow (wo)men, but if that person just told you, “Your baby is in danger and you must go home/to the hospital right away and stay in bed and we’ll hope for the best”, can’t you see how that may cause her to react in a less than conscientious manner?

Jennie Joseph-Color

Professional Midwife and Executive Director of The Birth Place-CommonSense Childbirth, Jennie Joseph

But I think Jennie Joseph summed it up best when she said,

“It’s not midwifery care that impacts birth outcomes (Jennie’s Birthing Center has a very low preterm birth rate, only 1-2 per year!). It’s the love that we give our women. When we treat her with respect and the expectation that she is a mom and that she will deliver a healthy baby, she rises to the challenge.”

Jennie made no mention of being upset if a mama yelled at her, if she missed an appointment or if she did not follow her instructions to the letter. She understands that many women face huge obstacles-both while pregnant and when not pregnant-and she simply meets them where they are. However, as the women learn that Jennie and her staff will never “fire them” or “chastize them for not doing right”, the women become more “compliant”, doing what they need to do to take care of themselves and their babies. And Jennie and her staff work with her mamas, many of whom are in extreme circumstances, to get the best prenatal care possible.

So I just want to take a moment to say, however you are feeling is exactly the right way for you to feel. Bedrest sucks and if you’re questioning whether or not its really the best thing for you right now, I’m not going to tell you, “You want a healthy baby, don’t you?” Nor will I say, “Do you want your baby to die?” These “scare tactics” are just that. They serve no real purpose but to invoke fear and cause distance between health care providers and the women they serve. My experience is that often mama’s strongest feelings are when she first learns about her situation, and as time goes on, she does much better. I have also learned that the more she is informed and educated about her situation and what she can expect, the better the pregnancy goes. It’s not rocket science folks, just common courtesy and respect.

So go ahead mamas, feel what you feel. Let it all hang out! Here, it’s okay to feel what you feel and to express those feelings. Share your feelings in the comments section below. If you have other questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to send them to me at info@mamasonbedrest.com.