If I had to pick just one thing I learned from reading Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner, it would be the Three Rs. These are relaxation, rhythm and ritual.
I also learned in my that I want to help a woman accomplish the Three Rs, which will help her cope. Because I do not want to interfere with labor progression if a woman seems to be coping well, I appreciate this quote from her book.
"Sometimes the best thing to do is to simply be there, quietly standing by while labor unfolds and the mother searches within herself for her best way to respond."
A great way to help a woman to relax during prelabor and early labor is to distract her by doing something she enjoys. My husband and I bought all of the seasons of Boston Legal while I was still pregnant, and we decided to save the last season for when I was in early labor. Needless to say, I never had time to watch the last season until after the birth.
When contractions start to take a woman's attention in order to get through, distraction will no longer work. She will still need to try to relax during and between contractions. This would also be a good time to start using rituals, which are generally rhythmic in nature. As labor increases in intensity, the thinking part of her will give way to the instinctual part of her. This is great and means she is coping well. "It is a good sign when a woman goes into a more instinctual state, almost a reverie." It is my plan to follow a mother's lead for awhile and try to help her get back on track with her rituals if she loses focus. If that doesn't work, we'll try something else. My goal would be to communicate with as few words as possible.
This is so great! If I needed to summarize what my job as a doula during labor would be, it would be this. To help women with the Three Rs.