What Sex and Comforting Touch Have in Common.
When people come to my Comforting Touch classes, their main objective is to learn techniques to support their clients or partners while giving birth. The presumption is that I will teach them something new. That I’ll give them something they don’t already possess. That I’m the expert who knows something they don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t come to my workshops, that you won’t learn boatloads of new things, but one of the most valuable things I end up teaching is, ultimately, to trust yourself.
It’s like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, traveling the yellow brick road to Oz, only to learn she had everything she needed all along.
A lot of the time when we mean well, what happens is we end up spending a lot of time in our heads, busy trying to figure out, is what I’m doing right? Does what I’m doing feel good?
And of course we should all care if what we’re doing feels good to the person we’re touching. The problem is, that when we’re focused on getting it right, instead of feeling, we’re thinking. (P.S. I think this is true for a lot of things we do where we'd be better off feeling our way than thinking or certainly overthinking!) But I think most of us would agree touch is all about feeling, I mean, the recipient doesn’t THINK if something feels good (or bad for that matter), they FEEL it!
In my opinion, when a touch-giver focuses on what feels good to their own touch, to their own hands, in their own bodies, most of the time this translates positively for the touch-receiver.
Occasionally, something that feels right to me may not land that way for you, and you can (and in labor most definitely WILL) let me know and I can adjust accordingly. But I think this occasional risk is worth it for the qualitative difference it makes when I trust my instincts and go with what feels right to me. (Of course, we are completely speaking in the realm of consensual touch. More later on Comforting Touch and consent.)
By being in our heads we remove part of ourselves in a way from the person we’re aiming to comfort, and ironically end up being less comforting than if we’d stayed more present in our own bodies.
It’s not that different than what it’s like when we’re having sex. If I spend the whole time in my head wondering if what I’m doing feels good to you, it’s going to make for infinitely less good sex, than if my partner feels how thoroughly I’m enjoying my own pleasure. If they want something different on occasion I can respond to their expressed desire, I can even ask if they “like this” or “that”, but for the most part we feel most connected the less we’re in our heads and more we’re in our bodies.
On a final note, I tell students if you ever feel unsure, you can always check in with the person you’re touching. It’s ok if you don’t have 100% confidence right out of the gate.
My best advice here is first to check in BETWEEN contractions. Laboring people don’t have the bandwidth to engage outwardly during contractions.
Second, instead of asking if what you’re doing is okay, try telling them to just let you know if they want anything different. This way, they don’t have to respond unless they need something else, and if it feels good, they can stay focused inward.
I hope these tips help you feel more confident and trust you know more than you think, especially since the real trick to providing Comforting Touch is FEELING, not thinking.
Click here to join me for an upcoming Comforting Touch for Doulas training near you!