Walking the Path. Are you a Fixer or a Facilitator?
By Sophie Fletcher
Are you a fixer? Most of us are, when someone seems to be struggling, we all want to jump in and rescue them, we never want to see people we love in pain or suffering. Isn’t it our role to help those we love share burdens, to take as much of their load as we possibly can?
This is especially true when that burden may seem greater than we know, or is something new and different. The terrain is unfamiliar not only to them, but also to us; the path ahead hugged by a forest, or darkness, the path meandering between hills and mountains. Just as they can’t see where that path is heading, we too cannot see or know where that path will go. The unknown may hold unimaginable fear; even the benign promise of an exciting adventure into the unknown may hold fragments of apprehension.
When in this place, we must always remember that it is not our path, it is theirs. If we crowd them, they cannot have the space to focus on their steps, to make firm solid, steady steps that keep them centred and present. If they are crowded and distracted by too many interruptions, their focus may shift, they may become unsteady and they cannot connect deeply with their path. Not doing things but being there, allows someone the space for their own feelings, for their thoughts to come to surface, for them to feel safe and held in that process of transformation.
Our role as family or friend in times of transformation and change should be not be as fixers, but as facilitators. We can lay a chair quietly by the path so they can rest, if they choose, walk silently beside them in the darkness, carry nourishment so, if they need it, it is there. Our role is to listen, to be beside them, to show loving kindness and warmth but not to carry them or walk the path for them. We cannot do that however much we may wish to.
Birth is a journey, an unfamiliar path, we do not know where that route will go, how our journey will pan out. A birth partner cannot fix things, but they can facilitate. Being present doesn’t mean doing, it means being. Being there without judgment and without allowing our own fears to overwhelm them or us.
Learn from your own responses. Are you trying to fix the situation, to ‘fix’ the unfixable? Or are you trying to make yourself feel better by doing something. These are challenging questions. Do you need to look deeper at your own fears and feelings? Be curious, look beneath the reasons why you feel the urge to fix, is it because you cannot bear to see the person you love in pain? Are there other reasons? Sometimes fixing is about making ourselves feel better rather than actually helping the person. Look beneath your surface and learn about yourself, be interested, do not judge, this journey can also teach you many things about yourself.
As a partner you can only interpret what you see, based on your own fears and experiences. You cannot know fully, what that person is really feeling, what they really need, and what you don’t know you can’t fix.
As a woman walking the path of birth, comfort arises from the sense that someone is beside you, knowing that people you love are there if you need them, but also that you are discovering something extraordinary about yourself. However challenging that may be, it is transformative. As a partner you can facilitate this experience. It’s like Jung’s hero myth, the hero sets out on a journey that is tough and challenging yet the journey ends in a form of consolidation, a reunification of the person, in which wholeness is re-established on a higher level.
“On a deeper level…….the pregnant woman is undergoing an archetypal experience. She is undertaking a rite of passage, an initiation. Like the Hero in myth.” – Benig Mauer
One of my favourite quotes from a mother is this quote taken from Mindful Hypnobirthing:
“It was most amazing experience I have ever been through. It took me to a deep place and made me realise who I really am and what I am capable of . I now know that I have spent the last 37 years working at 75% of my true potential but giving birth has shown me what I and truly capable of.”
So what can you do as a partner to facilitate not fix?
- Statements such as “I love you, I care for you, I am here for you” can be much more powerful then “do you want pain relief”
- Being gentle and quiet, set aside chatter
- Be present, not distracted with electronic equipment
- Be mindful, learn mindfulness techniques that can help you observe your own feelings
- Instead of moving around restlessly e.g. pacing be still
- Try not to suggest things. Instead, listen and reflect
- Be kind and loving, a warm hug and a smile give strength and reassurance
- If you feel anxious or upset, ask someone to stay with your partner while you leave the room and re-centre yourself. Fear is contagious, far better that you nip out for a ‘drink’, or to the ‘loo’ than allow adrenaline to mount.