Who should be in the delivery room
Back in the 1950s, doctors and nurses attended the mother in the delivery room, and dads weren’t allowed in. Thankfully, times have changed. In the 1990s, fathers are welcome participants in childbirth… not to mention your mom, sister, best friend and even your older children. Depending on where you plan to deliver and how many people your midwife or obstetrician (OB) allows, you have a decision to make.
Who do you want to attend the birth of your baby?
Doulas (women who support couples during labor) are becoming increasingly popular, offering a gentle womanly touch during the birth. They help the pregnant couple make decisions and keep comfortable, among other things. The same idea applies to having loved ones present with whom you have a strong bond. They may be able to offer an emotional support system like no other.
Your partner will no doubt offer comfort and love you will depend on, but having another source of reassurance nearby may give you even more strength. Keep your partner’s feelings in mind when making your choices. Although you will be the one doing the work, this is a special occasion for your partner as well. He may feel as if he can handle your needs without the support of others. Listen to his feelings, then help him understand that you will still be a team no matter how many people are there to support you. Assure him that he will be your number one helper, if that’s his desire.
Help for Mom and Dad
Sometimes, events occur that call for outside help for both Mom and Dad. When Sarah delivered a stillborn child, her stepmother and father were there to support her and her husband. When her next baby was born, her parents were invited again. “When my parents were there for the birth of our youngest, the sense of completion was overwhelming,” Sarah says. “We were a practiced team now, and we had a live baby to look forward to. It brought us that last little bit closer together as a family.” Sarah’s husband, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, was scheduled to be deployed right before her due date, so Sarah planned for her dad to be her labor coach. Some women were surprised when Sarah told them her dad would be in the delivery room. “My dad and I have always had a close relationship, and I trust him implicitly,” she says. “There was never a sense that he didn’t belong there, sharing in this incredibly important moment in my life and my husband’s. When my husband thought he would be out of town for the birth, it gave him some relief knowing that I would not be alone, and he trusted in my dad’s capabilities as ‘mid-husband.’”
Talk with your caregiver
After you have explored your and your partner’s feelings on the matter, it is time to find out what your pregnancy caregiver allows during delivery. It is important to know what they allow, as well as their personal view on having friends and family attend the birth. Because decisions you make about the birth are important to you, it is vital that your caregiver is supportive of your choices.
If you are planning to birth in a hospital or birthing center, you should call ahead and find out what rules or restrictions may apply to your plans. Some hospitals allow only two or three people to accompany the mother, while others allow more. If you are planning a homebirth, discuss who will be attending it with your caregiver.
Choose your supporters
Just as you carefully selected a health care provider, your choice of loved ones should be carefully weighed. Although a last-minute decision to let your cousin stay for the birth may be rewarding, if you are vague about who you would like to attend, you could end up sharing this momentous occasion with someone who doesn’t understand your needs. When you are actually in labor, it can be difficult to ask someone who shows up unexpectedly to leave. Cindy Johnson invited her mother and sister to attend the birth of her first child. These were the people she had wanted to attend, but her sister-in-law assumed their presence meant she could stay as well. “My sister-in-law wasn’t actually invited to stay in the room, but she came in to tell me something, realized I was busy and just stayed,” Cindy says. “I wish she hadn’t. Her comments afterward were not very nice. Hearing her say ‘Eeew, it was gross!’ really offended me.”
Cindy attributes these comments to her sister-in-law’s young age, but having someone say this about such a special occasion is just one reason to make your invitations known well in advance. So how can you avoid such situations? Be open and honest about who you want to attend when discussing it with friends or family. For those who are not invited, explain how their support and love is still important to you, and that your choices were made to best suit your needs. Remember that you have every right to be picky about who attends.
Anita chose her support system carefully and excluded some people who were very dear to her heart for important reasons. In the beginning of her pregnancy, she examined her relationships with friends and family. Their attitudes toward her decision to have a water birth at home were taken into account. Some of her family members were frightened of the idea of a home delivery. “I believe that fear is transferred, so that eliminated any of the fearful ones,” she says. Although she tried to educate them about her choices, she knew she could not include anyone who was uncomfortable with her decisions.
Instead, Anita hand-picked her “crew” by what they could offer her during this special occasion. She chose three lifelong friends to assist her, and another close friend to take care of her young daughter who would also attend. Each would offer support in different ways, understanding their roles and assigned responsibilities.
Delegating responsibilities may feel strange at first, but remembering that this is your labor and birth should keep you and your support members focused on your goals. It will be easier for each person to support you if you are clear about what you expect. Anita’s friend Robyn was the one who gave Anita information about homebirth. She had also studied photography in school, so Anita assigned her to take pictures of the birth. Another friend, Tracy, was given the role of “second supporter” after Anita’s husband. Tracy attended homebirth classes with the couple and provided support to Anita during the pregnancy. Anita’s friend Paula was responsible for smaller tasks, such as providing ice, cool cloths, music and water. Jodie, another close friend, was in charge of meeting Anita’s 4-year-old daughter’s needs.
Anita had prepared her daughter, Sydney, for the event by reading books and watching videos about birth. “Sydney’s understanding of the process was wonderful,” Anita says. “She wanted to be there, and although I wasn’t sure how she’d be when it came right down to it, I wanted her to be there too. I needed someone to be there for Sydney; someone that I wasn’t dependent on for my needs during labor, someone just for Sydney’s needs.” Anita felt comfortable with her choices because she knew what she wanted from each member of her team, and she knew that they would respect her decisions. As Anita puts it: “Everyone understood everyone else’s ‘job.’”
The joy of sharing
Having loved ones share this wonderful event can bring a sense of joy to each who attend. The feelings of those who witness the birth of new life often radiate throughout the room. Cindy felt a sense of pride while watching her loved ones during the birth. “The look on my sister’s face when the baby crowned was very inspiring,” she says. “She was in amazement. She had tears in her eyes, and to see the joy on her face gave me extra strength to continue pushing.” Looking back on her glorious experience, after all her planning and preparing, Anita also remembers how connected she felt to her supporters. “My support team was part of me; an extension of my will,” she says. “They anticipated my needs. I didn’t have to think.”
The type of support you will receive will be different from each person, which is why you benefit so much from having loved ones with you. Sarah is grateful for her family’s presence and knows just how much they helped her. “There is something almost magical about having a group of people cheering you on,” she says. “As long as you trust the people and love them and are secure in the knowledge that they love you, I think it can only be a good experience.”