You're in labor. The hospital allows 3-5 guests in the Labor & Delivery room. Who to invite?
This question comes up with every doula client and in every childbirth education class. How do you know who to invite to your birth? What if you hurt someone's feelings? What if you change your mind? How will you know if they are the right person to have in the room?
Let's be honest. The birth of a baby is a frikin' miracle. Who wouldn't want to witness or take part in that? But, birth is not a spectator sport. The way our bodies work best as mammals when we're birthing is when we feel safe, unobserved, comfortable, and can stay focused on what's going on inside of you, rather than around you.
A couple of quick questions to ask yourself before inviting anyone to the birth of your baby--
1. Will this person have a ROLE? For instance, your partner's role is to be supportive. Your doula's role is to provide additional support and expertise. Your photographer's role is to capture memories. Your nurses and care providers roles are to keep you and baby safe and healthy. What role will an additional person serve? Maybe your mother is incredibly supportive and will be the person most comfortable holding your hand. Maybe your friend has had many babies and knows what to expect at your hospital, and may be helpful when you and your partner are alone in the room laboring. But, if you cannot identify a role for each person in the room, what is their purpose for being there? And will they be making your experience better in any way?
2. Does this person make you FEEL GOOD? Plain and simple: If you don't absolutely love their company when you're *not* in labor, how the heck are you going to feel when you ARE?!
3. How supportive of your choices is this person? I, unfortunately, have attended births where the family of the birthing mom is pressuring her to make decisions that she's uncomfortable making. If you're planning to invite someone, are they aware about your birthing preferences? Do they support them wholeheartedly (even if it's a decision they wouldn't make!)? If the answers are no, then what can they offer you? If support isn't on the table, what else is there?
4. How vulnerable have you been with this person in the past? It sounds crazy, but unless there is a deep level of trust in your relationship, it will likely be difficult to be vulnerable in labor. Can you imagine yourself feeling uncomfortable being physically exposed or making noises in front of them?
5. Will you regret this decision? If you're not sure, perhaps you can invite them to wait in the waiting room and if you decide during labor that you'd like their presence, you can invite them in. And then, if you want them to leave, simply ask them for some privacy for a while. None of these decisions have to be set in stone! Ultimately, if you can potentially see regret at the end of this tunnel, it's best not to enter.
6. Will you be EXCITED to call them when the time is here?! I remember when finally going into labor with my second daughter (41 weeks and 5 days!), I called my doula with the news. She asked how I was feeling and I replied "I have butterflies in my stomach" because I was so excited. Side note: I later regretted feeling excited for that labor in general, because shortly after that phone call I felt as if I was being run over by a truck. #worthit. If calling someone while you're in labor to join you feels like a chore or just something you need to check off your list, maybe they're not the right person.
Ultimately, whoever you invite to join you on this big day should be aware of your wishes beforehand and understand what to expect on your birthing day. Bring them to your childbirth education class, invite them to a visit with your doula, share your birth plan, or bring them to the hospital tour. The more comfortable they are, the more likely that they will be able to focus on you!
What do you think? Who are you considering inviting to your birth?