In Israel, medical clowning is serious business and experts point to research to back up its place as a legitimate therapeutic tool.
Until recently, however, clowns never ventured into the delivery room.
Then one day, nurses asked a Dream Doctors clown, who happened to be at the hospital at the time, if she could stay to help a delivering mom.
“We had a female clown who happened to be present while a woman at Poriya was in her last 20 minutes of labor, and the woman [and nursing staff] wanted her to stay for the delivery,” said Tsour Shriqui, Dream Doctors project manager. “This is how the need came up.”
After the first time chance success, the Dream Doctors clowning team decided to start a pilot program and train a small group of female clowns to help moms in labor.
The clowns participated in a six-week training program with a midwife to learn more about birth and how they could adapt their clowning skills to the delivery room.
“It’s a bit different than our other work,” explained Shoshi Ofir, who now works with the moms. “You have to consider not only theatrical timing but also medical timing because labor has stages, and every stage has specific hormones that are released, like adrenalin and oxytocin. We don’t want to interrupt the process of labor but just help the mother.”
Ofir uses various props to put her patient’s at ease during the long labor and delivery process and hopefully make them laugh.
“The main thing I do with my clowning is building a connection with the patient, and through that anything is possible,” Ofir stressed, pointing out that many moms have responded favorably to having clowns in the delivery room.