What the Olympics Taught Me About Birth

By: Heather Delaney, co-owner, labor and postpartum doula

The Rio 2016 games have had their fair share of star power.  Simone Biles’ record three golds in women’s gymnastics, with not a soul close to her in standings.  Michael Phelps, hanging up his cap after an amazing 5 olympics with enough hardware in Rio to decorate any swimmer’s career goals.  Aly Raisman, who did not medal in London, returning to capture an all-around gymnastics silver.  Grit, determination, glamorous comeback stories. A lot like birth? Maybe more than you think!

What do these athletes possess that a birthing woman does? I know what you’re thinking; most of us weren’t star or even hopeful athletes prior to becoming pregnant, so how could our birthing bodies possibly compare to team USA, most of whom have been competing since they learned to walk?

Grace, perseverance, support. These make a great athlete.  These make a great birth as well!

Having support is fundamental to success for both birthing women and athletes.  In the games, athlete’s coaches and parents have to wait in the stands.  Their words of encouragement are only heard during the in between; most of the time their support is given silently with their presence, their bodies and hearts channeling to the athlete they have stood behind all these years, lifting them up.  A great birth team gives the exact same type of support.  We cannot birth for the woman in labor, but we can be there, silent or vocal during the in-between of contractions, helping by being present.

When plans or preparations veer off course, the deep breaths, knowledge of how to proceed and mental endurance are sometimes the difference between gold and a place off the podium.  In the birthing environment, in the ever-changing situation of sometimes unpredictable birth, knowing the training and education foundation families so carefully prepare in advance, coupled with the support of a doula and birth partner, can help maintain a beautiful and calm birth. 

Of course, the ultimate prize in birth is not a bronze, silver or gold decoration.  Babies are far more treasured than those trophies we can place in a display case. That feeling of hard work, focus and accomplishment are all born when a baby is placed in one’s arms and hearts. 

As you watch the second half of this summer’s olympic coverage, celebrate your own past and coming athletic accomplishments as you prepare to welcome your baby! If you need an additional member on your team who will provide unconditional support towards your birth, our doulas and childbirth educators will always be available to you for your training!

And for the unborn babies, here’s some gymnastics and swimming coaching tips: nail your turns, swim strong, and stick the landing!