Birth is really cool. It is exciting, and it is the sacred opportunity to witness a living miracle. It is also as intimate as making love. Who you invite to your birth is an important decision to make. And there are a number of factors to consider. Let's take a look at a few of them.
Is this person there to serve you? One of the first questions I ask my clients when we talk about who to invite to their birth is this question. When a birth is happening, there is nothing else going on in the world that is more important than the work the laboring mom is doing. It is hard. It is intense. It takes all of your focus. A laboring mom's needs come before everyone else (which is one of the amazing benefits of midwifery care - your midwife prioritizes you!) And your needs might be very demanding - like pushing on your hips for hours, or quietly wiping your brow without a word spoken, or reminding you with every contraction that you've got this. Believe it or not, the physical strength, the quiet discipline and the repetitive encouragement can be demanding. Will the person you invite be there to serve you in your time of need?
Does this person have birth trauma? Many, many people have birth trauma. As a sad comment on this culture, birth trauma is as American as apple pie. Will this person be able to see your birth as your own experience, without projecting their own experience or fear onto your birth? I have heard many birth stories in my years as a midwife, and many of them are shared after a support person witnesses to beauty of a homebirth. It can be very healing for a person to witness a beautiful, natural birth. But their healing is not your priority.
Does this person support your desire for homebirth or natural birth? This is very important. People on your birth team must believe in you, your desire for a homebirth and your ability to have a natural birth. It is ok that doubt seeps in, we are all human after all and doubt is very natural. But fundamentally, this person must support your desire. To have everyone in the room all unified in their focus is very powerful for the laboring mom.
Are you comfortable being vulnerable in front of this person? Birth is hard. The strength and repetition of the contractions serves a great purpose. It is to break down the defenses and compensations we have built in our lifetime to bring the loving bond of the baby so deep into our soul, nothing gets in the way. It is a profound thing that is taking place. But there can be a lot of vulnerability that comes with this work. So you want a birth team that you trust, who you know will have your back, who will protect and defend your birth space, so that you can open, soften and drop into that powerful and vulnerable birth flow.
Are you comfortable being naked in front of this person? This is an extension of the previous inquiry, but it is an aspect to consider. Many women loose their inhibitions during labor, so it is often a non-issue in the moment. However, many women may feel very private about their bodies. The baby comes out of a place that we rarely bare to the world. And when you are giving birth, this place opens, and becomes the intense focus of the whole room. Also, many women have experienced trauma or pain in this area of the body. You want people around you who will be respectful of you and your space.
Will it affect your relationship with this person if you change your mind about their presence or participation in the birth? There are times when birth can get really hard, and the mom just needs to eliminate all stimulating factors to focus on this work. Sometimes that includes even me, the midwife, leaving the room. I never take this personally, because I am there to serve the woman and what helps her get through this hard work. However, this is an important conversation to have with your birth team. If you need privacy, they can not take it personally. They must give you the space and the support you need to birth your baby. And sometimes, support can take the form of sitting in the other room. This is why I bring knitting.
What about kids? There are a number of things to consider when inviting kids into the birth space - their age, how they cope with stress, how they handle seeing mom working hard, how bored they might get, etc. It is very difficult for little kids to be there. They are too young to understand what is happening, and it is scary to watch this intense adult work. But there are some older kids who do great at births and who benefit from being present. Take time to consider it.
The birth of a baby is a joyous time for you and your whole family. Family members need the opportunity to meet this new person and form their bond. These bonds are what strengthen communities, families and remind us of the loving support available to us. It is even more essential now in this world of disparities, separation and individuality.
And it is equally important to balance the hard work ahead of you with your own personal needs as the birthing mom. To request privacy and solitude during your birth is to be like every single other mammal who gives birth on this planet. Because, after all, we are mammals. But some mammals seek out those who they know provide them comfort when they go into labor. Either need is completely understandable.
Be strong, don't feel obligated and be open. It is part of the work of laboring...and mothering.
Peaceful birthing to you all....