Who will be invited to your birth?
This question can be a loaded one for expecting couples. The amount of stress and anxiety around who should be at your birth can be overwhelming.
Can you relate to any of the following scenarios?
You’re not sure if you want your mother in the room, but she’s your mother, so shouldn’t she be there? And if she’s going to see her grandchild’s birth, it’s only fair that your mother-in-law should be there, too, right?
You really want one sister to be with you but your other sister will be loud and obnoxious while you’re trying to concentrate on labor. But how do you explain that you want just your one sister in the room?
You don’t want anyone in the room except your care provider, your partner, and your doula. And both sides of the family are making you feel guilty. What should you do?
Here are some things to consider to help you make a decision on who will be invited to your birth space:
1. Identify the most important person in the room. The person having the baby, the one whose usually-clothed body parts will be exposed, who is experiencing one of the most physically and emotionally challenging events of their lives, is the ultimate decision maker. Some couples will negotiate who will be allowed to visit during or after labor, and the partner’s need for emotional support can definitely be a part of that discussion. But if the laboring person has a strong desire to include or limit a particular person’s presence, it’s important for that to be respected.
In birth, it’s imperative for the laboring person to feel safe and supported. The hormones involved in labor are directly affected by whether or not this is the case. When it’s not, it can impede labor progression. An unhealthy emotional state can have physical implications for both the pregnant person and the baby.
We want oxytocin to flow in labor— this “love” hormone has a hand in contracting the uterus, breastfeeding, and in creating attachment with baby, and its production is supported when the person in labor feels safe and supported.
Also keep in mind that some survivors of trauma, or those with severe anxiety, are managing more than just their contractions when they are in labor. Creating a birth space that puts their emotional and physical safety at the forefront is necessary for their own well being.
2. Build your birth team mindfully. Approach the decision from a standpoint of value instead of a “should.” A “should” comes from an external pressure or rule. Someone who brings value to your birth space is a true part of your birth team.
Your care provider and assistants bring their medical expertise to ensure you and your baby are physically healthy. Your doula brings knowledge about birth, comfort measures, and continuous care, to ensure you are emotionally and physically supported in alignment with your goals and values.
Think about the other people you and your partner are considering allowing into your birth space. What function will they serve? Will they bring joy, humor, welcome distraction, a shared bond? Or will their presence bring anxiety, discomfort, intrusion, negative energy, or doubt about your personal choices?
Anyone who is making you feel guilty for not including them in your birth is not acting like a teammate; they are not adding value. They are imposing their “shoulds” on you. As I recently wrote in my blog The Should’s of Pregnancy, make sure you are acting on your own core values, and not someone else’s.
3. Know the why’s. When you have information, you can make informed decisions. Once you know that labor can be impeded by an unsafe or uncomfortable environment, because of the hormones at play, you can make a decision about keeping out people who make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
If initiating breastfeeding is important to you, and you know that it can be a challenge to learn how to latch your new baby, you may limit visitors for a few hours after birth so you can get uninterrupted practice.
If you know that you the wound inside your body after birth is roughly the size of a dinner plate, and you want to focus on resting after birth, then you may opt to limit the number of visitors you receive at home.
4. Consider timing. Sometimes, you welcome or can tolerate one person’s presence in early labor but you don’t necessarily want them there while you are pushing. Or, you may feel there are several people who would bring you positivity throughout your labor, but having them all there at once would be too distracting.
It’s okay to require flexibility from those you may want to include in your birth. It’s okay to impose rules, and it’s okay for you to change your mind at any time during labor.
5. Practice setting boundaries now. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to pregnancy and parenting. Whether you are making decisions on breastfeeding, bottle feeding, medical decisions for your baby, bath products, types of diapers, who can hold baby, who can watch baby, who can visit you postpartum and when, where baby sleeps, etc. you will no doubt come across somebody close to you with a differing opinion. Sometimes those people can be outright disrespectful of your choices.
Who you allow into your birth space can be a new parent’s first act of boundary setting, and it can be uncomfortable. But after your baby is here, there will be many more opportunities where setting boundaries is necessary, for the well being of you and your new family. Why not practice now, and take steps to ensure you have a more positive birth experience?
Even when you set boundaries, not everyone will respect your decisions. So here are some tips to fend off unwelcome visitors during labor, or when you are home after the birth:
You are entitled to a birth environment that will allow you to feel loved, supported, and safe, and to include or exclude anyone who doesn't contribute to that environment. Think about how you want to feel in labor, what you need to recover postpartum, and surround yourself with those who will help make that happen.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa and the greater Treasure Valley.
Have you thought about who will bring value to your birth team? If that includes a doula, let's talk about how I can help you feel safe and supported as you birth your baby.
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.