doulas, midwives, networks, parents

What does ‘support’ in childbirth really mean?

I have been thinking about the use of the word ‘support’ in relation to childbirth and wondering if it is not just being paid lip-service to lately, a bit like ‘natural’ childbirth.
Folk say “Yes, of course support is important’ but do they understand what this really means?  What kind of support we are talking about? Or why it can make a difference?
My wise doula sister BB tells me that Michel Odent is not a fan of the use of the word ‘support’ which perhaps suggests there is something to this discussion. Yet what term are we to use instead?
For me, this poem by Anonymous, really sums up what I mean when I talk about childbirth support, or any kind of emotional support I suppose:

What is Support? 

Support is unconditional 
It is listening
Not judging, not telling your own story

Support is not offering advice …
It is offering a handkerchief, a touch, a hug … caring. 
We are here to help women discover what they are feeling … not to make the feelings go away. 
We are here to help a woman identify her options … not to tell her which options to choose. 
We are here to discuss steps with a woman … not to take the steps for her. 
We are here to help a woman discover her own strength … not to rescue her and to leave her still vulnerable. 
We are here to help a woman discover she can help herself … not to take that responsibility for her. We are here to help a woman learn to choose … not to make it unnecessary for her to make difficult choices.

Although written as if for mothers, if we replace the word ‘women’ for ‘men’, it becomes a poem for fathers too.

So let’s be mindful of how we use the word ‘support’, let’s notice when and where we use it and what we really mean by it, and if we hear it being paid lip service to, let’s feel proud to quantify the true value of its existence.

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