Have you ever heard the saying, “The tension was so thick, you could cut it with a knife”? You’ve probably been in a situation like that, and you know what I’m talking about–there is this intangible something in the room–some combination of your feelings with the feelings of other people, and even without a word being said, you know that something is going on. This can be a good tension (like waiting for the “victim” of a surprise birthday party), or a bad tension (like waiting for your husband to come home after you’ve wrecked the car). Sometimes you can walk into a room and instantly sense that something has just happened there–the people already in the room are suddenly quiet, or the looks on their faces indicate that all is not right. Even if you don’t know what’s going on, you can pick up on that tension, and then suddenly your good mood vanishes and you become tense or nervous. You make small talk, trying to lighten the mood, but nothing really changes.
When you’re in labor, this same sort of thing can happen. It may be the unfamiliar surroundings of the hospital–weird beeps and noises, strangers coming in and out of your room, weird machines hooked up to you (or at least waiting in your room). Perhaps it’s the hospital staff themselves–always busy–maybe even too busy to talk to you and ask you how you are doing, and only checking the machines at intervals. Maybe your labor-support team isn’t quite as unified as you would like (your mother-in-law wasn’t invited but refuses to leave; your mom is still mad at your husband for that joke he pulled at Christmas; your sister is watching an annoying show on TV). If there is tension in the room, it is likely to increase your anxiety level, too. But when the people around you in labor are cheerful, upbeat and positive, then you are likely to feel better about your labor, feel better about how you are doing, and actually make faster progress.
Nonverbal communication is very important in labor. A lot of communication can happen in a touch. A cheerful smile or encouraging expression on the faces of those who are attending you in labor can calm you and make you feel better. Choose your birth attendants wisely and carefully, and make sure that they understand the power of words, and also nonverbal communication.