Some women envision their birth-day as a time to invite anyone who is close and dear to them into the birthing room—mother, sisters, partner/husband, children, in-laws, next-door neighbor—and yet other moms feel most comfortable with only their husband/partner in the room. Ultimately, there is no one right way, but rather, the way that is best for you.
Choosing who may attend your birth can be a challenging task for moms who receive pressure from friends and family. This is a time when you have permission to be selfish! While your mother may assume that she has a front row seat during your birth, you may not feel comfortable birthing in the same room with a woman who has a long history of nagging and criticizing.
When considering who to allow in your birthing room, explore your relationship with the person.
Ask yourself some questions:
> How do I feel about this person?
> How does this person feel about my birth preferences?
> How did this person respond the last time I needed their support?
> Write down five words that describe this person. How do those words make you feel?
Continuous support (emotional and physical) during labor and birth has been shown to result in healthier birth outcomes and a more positive birth experience.
What does positive support look and sound like? First and foremost, the person(s) supporting you during labor and birth must be familiar with and comfortable with your birth preferences. A good support person will offer words of encouragement and compassion, and refrain from passing judgment. “Just get the epidural, honey—there’s no need to put yourself through this kind of pain,” or “I birthed all three of my kids naturally; there’s no reason you can’t too,” are not the kinds of feedback and support you need anytime, and especially not during your birth.
What if you just can’t say no?
Sometimes, even if we know better than to allow our aunt/grandma/mother-in-law in the birthing room, we do it anyway. If this is your situation, plan for additional support. Appoint at least one other trustworthy person to be your primary support during labor and birth. Ideally, this person is very familiar with your birth preferences and will be your advocate and spokesperson—including speaking up to your sister/mother/aunt who insists that you ask your doctor to break your water, because that’s what she did in her births.
You also may consider hiring a professional labor support person, called a doula. Doulas are trained professionals skilled in providing physical, emotional and psychological support to a woman during birth. A doula does not replace your partner/husband’s role during birth, but rather supplements their support. Doula fees average $600, but can be as low as $250 in some places. You also may be able to contract free or significantly reduced fee doula services from a doula in training. Often, doulas will accept payment in installments and certain company flex-spending accounts can be used to cover doula fees.
Having the right support person during your birth is a critical component of your birth experience, and in some cases, it can mean the difference between a good birth experience and a traumatic one. As with any life goal or achievement, putting measures in place for success provides room for success to happen.
Giving Birth with Confidence, the online community created by Lamaze International, provides articles and tips written for and by real women (and men) on a variety of topics related to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. Their goal is to help women achieve healthy pregnancies and safe, satisfying births by offering a meeting ground to obtain information and support from other women, Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educators and knowledgeable experts.