Crowd birthing is the new delivery room trend that sees friends, family and even neighbors crowding in for a peek at the birth, but is there strength in numbers?
When Lindsay MacBeth"ª, 31 of Middleton, Del., gave birth to her son, Kaden, her husband was right by her side. So was her mother. And her father. Her brother and sister-in-law were there, too. Plus a friend who wants to be a midwife and was excited to witness her first live birth. Combined with multiple doctors and nurses, "I had a freaking zoo," MacBeth jokes.
It used to be that just a laboring woman and her partner were in the delivery room, along with assorted medical personnel. Now, if we are to believe the folks at mommy vlogging website Channel Mum, everyone has courtside tickets, from grandparents-to-be and in-laws to siblings and friends. Crowd-birthing, as it's being touted, means no one gets left behind. (Imagine Oprah shouting out, "YOU get to attend the birth! And YOU get to attend the birth!...")
Mate plus eight
Like many cultural phenomena, the crowd-birthing trend may have started with a Kardashian; Keeping Up With the Kardashians fans might remember Kourtney's televised births, including the arrival of daughter Penelope, during which no less than eight family members were present, including mom Kris, sisters Kim and Khloe, brother Rob, half-sisters Kendall and Kylie, son Mason, and the baby's father, Scott.
In a survey of 2,000 women conducted by Channel Mum, moms reported having an average of eight people in the room at some point during the birth. True, the women surveyed were in their teens and twenties, but is this really a trend?
Alyson Lippman, a certified nurse midwife in Milwaukee (and prior labor and delivery nurse), says she's seen delivery rooms turn into party rooms for as long as she's been practicing.
"More often than not, there's more than just the couple there," she says. "Maybe it's the woman's mom, mother-in-law, sometimes a sister or best friend." Aside from a male partner, Lippman says men typically aren't present unless a woman has gone full-throttle and invited her entire inbox—which does happen. "And then," Lippman says, "it's brothers, cousins, friends from down the block."
Strength in numbers
One advantage of having a few extras in the room, according to Lippman (who had her husband and mother by her side at all three of her births)? "They can offer additional emotional or physical support, both for you and your partner. It's sort of the same idea as having a doula; you're inviting another person into this personal experience because you need or want the support."
Lynnea Molina-Strunk, 33, of Tuscon, Ariz., invited her mother, mother-in-law and sister to join her and her husband during the birth of their daughter, now four years old. "I had always planned on my mom being there for support," she explains. "My mother-in-law had all three of her kids via C-section and never seen a vaginal birth before, so my husband and I invited her to be in the room if she wanted to; she excitedly accepted." Molina-Strunk's younger sister was hesitant at first, but wound up attending, as did a close friend who took photos immediately after the birth—some of which proved to be Molina-Strunk's favorites. "Honestly, there are so many random doctors and nurses coming and going that I didn't really care," she recalls. That said, when their second child was due, only her husband and friend joined her—again to snap pics.
The cons of company
Downsides to having lots of cooks in the kitchen? "Birth is intense, unique, and you don't know how it'll go," Lippman explains. "Having people present may make you feel guarded, and labor is a time to not be guarded. You don't want to jeopardize your experience."
Channel Mum founder Siobhan Freegard attributes her website's survey results to a growing obsession with broadcasting all things once-private on social media. "The younger generation are used to sharing every aspect of their lives, so why not birth?" she told The Telegraph. "Many women feel it is their biggest achievement and so want to share the moment with all of those closest to them."
If you do decide to send out a Paperless Post for your delivery, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Know the rules. Some hospitals cap it at four people; birthing centers or home births might not have a limit. There may also be limits on videotaping the birth, so look into that ahead of time and give your friends and family a heads up.
You can change your mind at any time. Just because having your mother-in-law hold your leg seemed like a good idea at 39 weeks doesn't mean you have to follow-through. Feel free to ask anyone to leave at any time—they will understand. Or, ask your OB/nurse/midwife to be the bad guy. "Whoever is attending the birth will always be willing to ask someone to step out," Lippman reassures.
When handing out invites, ask yourself, "Would I mind pooping in front of this person?" If the answer is no, by all means, hand them a golden ticket. But if you'd rather they not see your vagina, butt, or anything that might come out of either one, think twice.