For those of you that went to colleges with large sports programs you already know what a “yell leader” is. For those of you, like me, that didn’t attend such fun filled madness - a yell leader can be likened to a cheerleader of sorts. Someone that stands on the sidelines facing the crowd, coaxing college kids into chanting fight songs, battle cries and the like. Although I never attended a school that had such festivities, I too was a yell leader once.
My yell leader days and likeness have been portrayed in countless movies, commercials and sitcoms.
I am the person that stands on the sidelines, and faces the crowd of one. One lone pregnant woman in a bed with her legs bent at the knees, lying on her back, anticipating the next contraction. “Here comes one now”, I would start as a contraction was just warming up, “now take a deep breath in…chin on your chest…no noise…and push! Hard!” And then I would start the proverbial chant, slow and sure, “One, two, three, four…” and so on.
Oftentimes, husbands, partners, family or friends would chime in on my go, and viola –I had an entire stadium screaming a push count.
It seemed that the harder we wanted the patient to push, the louder we got. Like we could literally yell that baby out of there.
I once took a travel nurse position to Michigan. My Texas twang was astounding to those Midwest nurses. They would camp out, just outside of the door just to here me get to ten. I have to admit; my drawl was a lot heavier at this time of my life, so the word “ten” became more like, “taaaannnn”. I caught several of them once huddled up close, pressing their ears to the door, as to not miss my crescendo of “taaannnn”.
So it was of great surprise to me in midwifery school when I was “corrected” at the start of one of my yell sessions. My beloved teacher and mentor--the ever great, Carolee Dunivan, CNM--wrinkled her face in disdain, and moved her head side to side in an almost imperceptible movement.
“Midwives don’t count”, she uttered in a disapproving tone.
This completely confused me. What do you mean they don’t count? I had worked in Labor and Delivery wards in various states, in numerous hospitals –and everyone counts! So instead, we waited patiently. And you know what?
The patient pushed her baby out without all of my yelling, screaming and the usual yell leader’s fanfare.
I was surprised.
So on our next birth, I kept my mouth shut - I didn’t dare count. And you know what? That lady pushed her baby out as well. My paradigm officially shifted.
Women know when and how to push, if you just leave them alone.
Women don’t need coaching, yelling or even an instruction manual. Us ladies have a built in reflex, known as the Ferguson reflex. It makes your body push even when you are willing it not to--even comatose patients have it. The Ferguson reflex doesn’t fail.
Some of you may have had the experience of feeling the baby coming out, but the provider may not have been there or been ready. The nurses are yelling, “Don’t push!” You’re yelling back, “I’m not pushing, but I can’t stop!” That is Ferguson reflex.
We really have done such a disservice to women and the process of birth over the last century. Birth is a pure process. It doesn’t need all the fanfare, all the yelling, and all the theatrics.
Women just need opportunity to let their bodies do what they need to do, in a manner that feels comfortable to them.
Push when they want to push, position themselves for their own individual comfort, not for the comfort of the staff, provider or those God forsaken monitors!
So consider me a rehabilatated yell leader. I am so grateful to the art and science of midwifery. I am grateful to the women that have let me experience their birth with them. I am always in awe of the purity of it. The simplicity. If you are pregnant and you are reading this, embrace the perspective that your body will do what it is meant to do. It is a reflex. You won’t be able to stop it even if you wanted to. Will it make you push for a count of taaannn with your mouth closed and chin on your chest? No, it won’t. Will your body require it to be told that it is ready to push? No, it won’t. Do you need to be on your back? No you don’t.
I trust that your body will be able to push out a baby. All you need is for YOU to trust your body – and maybe a rehabilitated yell leader at your side, to experience yet another normal, peaceful birth without all that ridiculous fanfare. A birth controlled by the most powerful creation known to man--a woman’s body.
Hi, my name is Traci Santangelo! I am a Certified Nurse Midwife, a self-proclaimed birth geek and a momma to two of the cutest kids on the block! I am fiercely loyal to those that I love or consider as friends, and I’m lucky enough to be married to a man that “gets me completely”. My family continues to be highly annoyed with my true crime TV addiction, but I can’t get enough of it! If you want to see me annoyed, tell me about a provider that didn't treat you right or lied to you. Although I consider myself a darn good nurse midwife, I really think I should have been a travel writer – after all, “vacation” is my favorite word.