A very long time ago, by a Chinese poet...
“You are assisting at someone else's birth. Do good without show or fuss. Facilitate what is happening rather than what you think ought to be happening. If you must take the lead, lead so that the mother is helped, yet still free and in charge. When the baby is born, the mother will rightly say, "We did it ourselves!”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
For me, perhaps the most essential aspect of my work is summed up in the abstract of this study:
Continuous support for women during childbirth
Continuous support in labour increased the chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth, had no harm, and women were more satisfied.
Historically women have been attended and supported by other women during labour and birth. However in many countries, as more women are giving birth in hospital rather than at home, continuous support during labour has become the exception rather than the norm. This may contribute to the dehumanisation of women's childbirth experiences. Modern obstetric care frequently subjects women to institutional routines, which may have adverse effects on the progress of labour. Supportive care during labour may involve emotional support, comfort measures, information and advocacy. These may enhance physiologic labour processes as well as women's feelings of control and competence, and thus reduce the need for obstetric intervention. The review of studies included 23 trials (22 providing data), from 16 countries, involving more than 15,000 women in a wide range of settings and circumstances. The continuous support was provided either by hospital staff (such as nurses or midwives), women who were not hospital employees and had no personal relationship to the labouring woman (such as doulas or women who were provided with a modest amount of guidance). Women who received continuous labour support were more likely to give birth 'spontaneously', i.e. give birth with neither caesarean nor vacuum nor forceps. In addition, women were less likely to use pain medications, were more likely to be satisfied, and had slightly shorter labours. Their babies were less likely to have low five-minute Apgar scores. No adverse effects were identified. We conclude that all women should have continuous support during labour. Continuous support from a person who is present solely to provide support, is not a member of the woman's social network, is experienced in providing labour support, and has at least a modest amount of training, appears to be most beneficial.
And Aristotle's ideas ...which I find pretty charming...
The woman attending childbirth "ought to be of middle age, neither too old nor too young, not subject to diseases, fears, or sudden frights; a lady's hand, a hawk's eye, and a lion's heart; to which it may be added activity of body and a convenient strength, with caution and diligence; not subject to drowsiness, nor apt to be impatient. She ought to be sober and affable, not subject to passion, but bountiful and compassionate and her temper cheerful and pleasant, that she may the better comfort her patients in their sorrow. Nor must she be very hasty, though her business may perhaps require her in another place, lest she should make more haste than good speed. But above all, she ought to be qualified with the fear of God, which is the principal thing in every state and condition, and will furnish her on all occasions both with knowledge and discretion."