It’s only a switch!

A couple of weeks ago, I was called to support a couple for the birth of their second baby.  I had been present for their first birth experience and remembered how amazingly calm and focussed the mother was and what a wonderful waterbirth she had.  When I joined her in hospital, things looked very different from last time.  Firstly, her first labour had happened mostly at home.  She stayed home while contractions were building up and enjoyed a calm comfortable environment meaning she gave her body the chance to build up her oxytocin level in the best way.  This time, she suspected her membranes had ruptured and therefore headed to hospital while her contractions were still few and far between.  Although she was keeping active and upright to encourage gravity and help her contractions become more regular and efficient, we could not ignore the fact that the environment was less favourable.  So, as soon as the midwives left the room, I turned the lights off!  I left a little side light on for the midwives to write their notes but apart from that the whole room was plunged in darkness.  Then I noticed how the mother started to zone into her contractions in a more focussed way.  She asked for her music to play some relaxation tracks which somehow fitted better with this cosy atmosphere than when the lights were bright.  I also noticed that the midwife and her student started talking to each other in whispers.  The midwife even took her shoes off when she entered the room because they were squeaky.  When the health professionals wanted to check some information, they would get my attention and mouth the question to me.  Every effort was made not to disturb the mother.  I went to quietly talk to the first year student midwife and I asked her what she thought of me turning the light off.  She answered that it was only a switch, yet it was so powerful in changing the whole atmosphere of the room and more importantly the way everyone acted in the room.  She said she was surprise of how something so simple would make such a difference.  I asked her why she was acting differently and she said “because in the dark, we assume people are asleep and we don’t want to disturb them”.  I wish all the chatty birth attendants realised that people who sleep are not the only people one should not disturb.  Labouring women should be left in peace to focus on their labour and feel what their body is doing.  So maybe it is not only a switch after all but an important step to a better, more oxytocin friendly environment.


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