Birthing women tend to enter “birth brain” while focusing during labor–this is a more primal, instinctive, intuitive, primitive part of their brain and it tends to be fairly nonverbal. I often remind fathers-to-be in my classes not to ask their partners too many questions while they focus on birthing, because questions pull women out of “birth brain” and into the more analytical, rational side of the brain that we use in day-to-day life (this “thinking” brain is not as useful during labor!) Instead, I encourage birth partners to just “do” and then pay attention to the woman’s nonverbal cues (or short, verbal cues) about whether to keep it up–an example I often use is with giving her a drink of water or juice. Instead of asking, “do you want another drink?” Just hold the straw up to her lips! If she is thirsty, she will drink, and if she is not she won’t. No words need to be exchanged. Other reactions might be that she might push the drink away, say “no,” or shake her head.
As I referenced in a prior post, I recently finished reading through The Pink Kit. It has some more related thoughts to add:
Childbirth is such intense work that sometimes a woman just can’t get a full sentence (or even a short one) out of her mouth. You can’t read her mind. However, it’s not too difficult to read her body language…During labour, it will be easier for her to push your hand away, say ‘shhhh,’ grab you and hold on, or put your hand on some part of her body, than to talk. Often a woman can THINK something so loudly, she’s certain she’s said it aloud.”