Finding Center: The Best Gift We Can Give Our Clients

So often as a doula we are helping others find and maintain their sense of center. A huge aspect of being an effective doula is teaching others to mindfully respond to all of the stages of pregnancy. From before birth, to the delivery room, to the hours and days following baby’s arrival, being able to come back to center, something I would describe as an internal compass, makes a world of difference for our clients.

As a doula it’s important to check in with this internal compass. Before we can coach someone else on finding their center we need to make sure we are working to cultivate our own. We all have this internal compass; however, like anything it takes time, practice and nourishment. It also takes truly understanding the concept of centering.

This idea of centering has become common language in the birth world, as well as other modalities, including yoga and meditation. As an avid practitioner of both I hear this idea all the time, often followed with little explanation, and the assumption that we understand what it means. As I mentioned, my personal translation of your center is comparative to an internal compass and placing intuitive trust in the body and mind.

Of course, this is an intangible place that some find synonymous to the core and a deep sense of self. To find this you can start by checking in and asking yourself a few questions. What do you need right now? Are you aware of your innate goodness? What do you need to feel nourished and cared for? It is also commonplace for me to relate my sense of self to my center. As it goes, getting clear on a sense of self creates a deeper connection to your center. I also like to think of the center similarly to how I think about my home, which elicits feelings of comfort, safety and intimacy. For me, my home is my sanctuary, something I pine for after being away for too long. Similar to coming home after a long day, you can come home to your center any time and in any situation.

When we think about this in terms of birth, the importance of guiding clients to their center becomes obvious. Birth can pull you in so many directions and centering helps to refresh and refocus whenever you need to. There are so many ways you can teach clients to find center. Some techniques include mantra, breath work, meditation or visualization. They can also be simple, as simple as closing the eyes and remembering to breathe. Or maybe you have established a mantra to use during birth. Or maybe everything you talked about previously has gone out the window. The idea is to subtly bring a sense of control in situations where control has been lost. After a particularly tough contraction, for example, try placing your hands on the client’s shoulders and gently remind them to breathe, rest and restore. Time and time again remind them to return to center, or whatever sense of home they have cultivated, so that they can continue forward.

In order for you to help someone find their center, you have to establish this within yourself first. This can be especially difficult for a doula who so often takes on the role as caretaker, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. This time can be wonderful, but it can also be trying, for both the client and the doula. In order to sustain yourself the ability to quickly drop into your center-to find renewal, restoration or whatever it is you need in the moment-is invaluable.

Hopefully by now I have brought some understanding to what it means to find your center and why it’s important. Ultimately, how you cultivate this is very personal. If you’re feeling off balance or like this is a difficult task here are a couple techniques I use:

  • Deep Breathing – If you’re familiar with Ujjayi breath from yoga you can also take this off of the mat and into the real world. This breath is balancing, comforting and brings warmth to the whole body, which I find especially helpful during chaotic or stressful times. Simply inhale through your nose and exhale through your nose while contracting the back of your throat. This creates a heavy, vocal quality to your breath that in itself is soothing. If this doesn’t work for you try taking a deep inhale and focus on the expansion of your belly, chest and lungs. As you exhale elongate the breath and feel everything decompress. Do this as many times as you need to, in any situation, to find your center.
  • Loving Kindness Meditation – This is another practice that can be done anywhere without needing to sit in meditation. The idea is to direct love to yourself before directing it to others. It involves repeating the following, or similar, phrases, “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be at ease.” Start with a few clearing breaths and repeat these phrases as many times as you need to until you feel centered. Eventually you can extend it out to others by changing the phrases to, “May you be happy. May you be well., etc.”

Theresa Church is a birth and postpartum doula at Blooming Tree Wellness, located in Boulder, Colorado. She attends graduate school for Environmental Leadership and teaches multiple styles of yoga. She is passionate about supporting women throughout pregnancy, as well as advocating for women in any situation. Her experiences with meditation practice have been life changing and relate to her ideas about centering and grounding.


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