F is for Family
Who should you invite into your birth environment?
What a question, right? I've heard a lot of arguments for why extended family members and even sometimes the partner should or should not be involved in the birth experience. There also is some debate about whether children will be comfortable in that environment and witnessing the journey of labor unfold.
Some people feel that their family members are very supportive, will encourage them when things get hard, and be a source of calm throughout the experience. Other couples adamantly insist that more people would just make it more stressful if they were in the room!
How do you know what to expect?
Listen to your gut.
If your mom is usually your rock through thick and thin, and you love to talk with her about things, and she has an incredible way of calming you down, she may be a wonderful asset to your birth team. I have seen mothers instantly go into "mama bear" mode when they see their little girl having difficulty.
Some (if not most) mothers innately jump right in with soothing words, stroking their hair or massaging their hands, probably remembering little things from when their babies had upset stomachs as kids. But guess what, it works! Every client who has that loving response from their mom calms down and can focus better on her contractions.
If you and your mom sometimes don't see eye to eye when you're stressed out, it's good to plan for her to have another role like keeping everyone updated, house sitting and preparing for your return, or watching older siblings during the birth. There are ways to keep your family involved but not present and affecting your state of mind during the birth.
Okay, so what about everyone else?
Sometimes best friends, sisters, cousins, and grandmas want to attend the birth as well. You can think through the positives and negatives of anyone you might want to be present, just as I described above. It will always come down to your gut feeling. They want to love you and your new family, but this is a very special day for you and your partner that will be vivid in your memory forever. Take your own feelings into account, no matter who it is.
As far as your older children, there are many examples of family supported home birth that turns out to be actually quite beautiful. Sometimes the little ones add a bit of laughter to the situation by giggling and pretending to be having contractions, too! It can be a magical, maybe once in a lifetime opportunity for them to see their baby brother or sister be born, but could also be stressful depending on the situation.
It's a personal choice for you and your family, but a good suggestion is to have an extra caregiver or support person available so that if they do become overwhelmed or concerned about you as labor progresses, the extra support person can care for them separately and calm them down, keep them busy and play, etc.
A common phrase used in birth planning is "Every additional support person adds one hour to labor."
This is a misunderstanding in my opinion, beyond the father or partner and a main support person such as a Doula, there are still roles that can be filled. The partner needs support just as much as the mother, and with more support your team is likely to be able to take breaks and support each other.
As I mentioned above, I have witnessed beautiful support and rather short births with 3-4 support persons in the room. I have also witnessed births with just the partner and myself present who lasted longer than expected. Every birth is different, what makes you comfortable and happy is always going to be the best choice in planning your birth.
For more information on Doula Support in Hampton Roads, read some testimonials and check out details here. Leave a comment and let me know who you chose for your childbirth support team!