So you are going to have a baby!! The time is approaching and you are beginning to think about WHO is going to be present for the big event. Will your mother be there? Your best friend? Your partner/husband? Did you hire a doula? What will your nurse be like? What midwife/doctor will be on call?
While to some these may seem like simple questions for others they cause extreme stress and anxiety. The wrong people can create uneasy conflict in your birth room while the right team can create harmony and peace. There are two primary categories of people who make up your birth team; your health care providers, and your family and friends. The ultimate goal is a winning team where Together Everyone Achieves More, and where they work together to create a conflict free birth room filled with peace, happiness and love.
Let’s quickly talk about the people on your team:
Your midwife/doctor: IF it is very important for you to KNOW the provider who will catch your baby, you want to be sure you pick someone in solo practice or choose a group with only a few providers. Make sure you are able to meet everyone of them more than once during the prenatal period. Keep in mind, everyone needs a day off sometimes, so even with a solo practitioner there is the off chance that your provider may be unavailable. However, if this is VERY important to you, you can minimize the chances of having a “stranger” in your delivery room if you choose the right provider prenatally.
If it is important to have your provider present throughout your labor, providing support and encouragement, be sure to talk to them EARLY in your pregnancy about your wishes to determine if she/he is the right provider for you. Generally speaking, if you really want your provider to give you labor support you should choose a midwife. While not every midwife provides labor support, in general a midwife is more likely to be with you in labor compared to a physician. The bottom line about your birth attendant is knowing that you cannot wait until labor starts to choose the right provider for your labor and delivery team. This is a process that MUST begin the moment you find out you are pregnant. Your provider is an integral part of your birth team and you want to be sure you are happy about your choice.
Your nurse: If you will be birthing your baby in a hospital, your nurse will be a critical part of your birth team. She will likely spend more time with you than anyone else. Not every nurse is the perfect fit for every patient but with a little patience and open communication, you can make the relationship work. Know what you want, and be prepared to discuss it with the nurse upon admission. Having a written birth plan is not a bad idea but it is not required. The most important thing is to know what you want and to have a CONVERSATION. With open communication, your nurse can become your biggest advocate and friend. There are times when regardless of communication, you and your nurse are not a good fit. When this happens, you can ask for the charge nurse on duty and request another nurse. While this is not always possible due to various staffing and time constraints, it is worth trying if all else fails and there is a definite conflict.
Your doula: Doulas are not just for women who want to “go natural.” While this is where they are primarily used, they can be a valuable asset in any birth room. Like your prenatal provider/birth attendant, it is important that you meet your doula BEFORE labor starts. It’s important to choose someone who you feel comfortable with. You want a doula that is going to respect what YOU want, without trying to push her values and beliefs about birth onto you. You want a doula that has the skill to speak up for you without alienating the staff at the hospital. Nurse/doula relationships can create some of the biggest conflicts. Be sure to communicate with both the nurse and the doula to make sure they are a part of YOUR team, not in a competition.
Your family and friends: Some women feel obligated to let anyone into their birth room who says they want to be there. I have seen women become visibly stressed out about trying to decide who should be there and feeling some obligation to allow this one or that one in the birth room although she really doesn’t want that person present. Some of the relationships that I have seen create the biggest conflicts for women include in-laws and friends especially friends where she was present for their labor and birth. Birth is a special time for the mother her partner and their infant. Just because you were invited to her birth room does not mean she has to be invited to yours. Those wedding/party “rules of etiquette” don’t have any place in labor and delivery. This is a very different experience and should be treated as such. It is a private event and should include only the people you REALLY want to be present. Remember that during labor and birth, much of you may literally be exposed and if you are a having a natural/unmediated birth you will be in a vulnerable state. EVERYBODY does NOT need to be there. Labor and birth is not a spectator sport yet when you have LOTS of visitors during the process just “waiting for the baby,” this is what your precious birth experience has the potential to turn into. When you are trying to work with your contractions or rest after an epidural, the last thing you need is your family/friends standing around “speculating, and watching.”
To avoid in labor decisions/conflicts be sure to have these discussions with your partner, mother, in-laws, friends and doula BEFORE labor ensues. An easy way to avoid some of the conflict is to keep your “I’m in labor” phone calls to a minimum. After you have the baby and you have had time to rest, THEN you can make all the calls you want. If they don’t know you are in labor there will be no stress about uninviting them from the birth room.
If you do end up having lots of people coming to visit, I encourage my patients to send non-essential visitors HOME. Let your nurse or your doula be the “bad guy” to send them on their way. It’s like you are the quarter back and we are the offensive line. We protect you. Ask us and your wish is our command.
After delivery, you will want to rest and spend some private time bonding with your newborn. Encourage your friends to come over to your house AFTER you are home. You will feel more like normal and be more open to visiting. As a side note, I also make the suggestion that you ask friends to come bearing edible gifts!! Who has time to cook with a newborn baby! While they love us the most, family and friends are often the ones who create the most conflict. Be careful about who you choose to invite/allow into your birth space.
When it’s all said and done, you are the captain and your partner is the co-captain of your birth team. Together you have to decide what other team members will help you win. Be sure to Choose Wisely because your birth team can have a profound effect on your birth experience.
In Birth and Love
Nicole ~ Follow me on twitter @SistaMidwife