The Worst Is Over: What to Say When Every Moment Counts—Verbal First Aid to Calm, Relieve Pain, Promote Healing, and Save Lives
by Judith Acosta and Judith Simon Prager
[2002, San Diego, Jodere Group; 240 pages, paperback.]
[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 100, Winter 2011/2012, © 2011, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Joni Nichols.]
The subtitle says it well: “Verbal first aid to calm, relieve pain, promote healing and save lives.” If that isn’t enough to spur you to acquire this book then read on.
While this volume is not about pregnancy or even childbirth, it clearly demonstrates how our words affect healing and how their absence or even harmful words can seriously compromise health. Acosta and Prager emphasize the interplay between thought, emotion, belief, imagery and the biochemical process. They write, “Beliefs are translated into chemistry and chemistry is translated by the system. Ultimately what this means is that what we think and feel literally changes our genes and our chemistry.”
Can you imagine how different the lives of women who have been injured by their childbirth experiences would be if someone had taken the initiative to reach out to them with a soothing sound, a loving gesture or a supportive word? What if a person had the skill to use their words and gestures in a way that supported healing, balance and hope? This book gives examples and scripts for accompanying anyone in a moment of vulnerability and/or pain, and clearly shows how to use those altered states to create rapport and use them as a portal to healing. The simplest of therapeutic suggestions can lead to healing and comfort and help prevent posttraumatic stress disorder.
In the few weeks since I first picked up this book I have seen my verbal healing skills grow. One mother who feared her labor precipitating a recurrence of her panic attacks birthed quietly and determinately. I helped guide a woman who couldn’t sleep to new ways of finding peace in the wee hours of the morning. When my father was hospitalized for the first time in his 96 years, I used some of the techniques to create an environment of calm and healing rather than a stress zone. I was introduced to this book by Karen Strange, a midwife who is much admired for her neonatal resuscitation course. I highly recommend The Worst is Over for all of us who are in contact with women in those vulnerable moments of pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Reviewer Joni Nichols is Midwifery Today’s Country Contact for Mexico. She is a childbirth educator, doula, labor assistant, activist and partera who co-founded the pioneering waterbirth center, Nacer en Plenitud, in Guadalajara. When not working with pregnant families, attending their births, making presentations at conferences, or participating on online forums about birth, she is reading something birth related.