Farrah Deselle, MSN, RN, CLC, CBE (BFW)
Perinatal Education Coordinator
The Mom’s Place at Catholic Medical Center
Inviting Others Into Your Birth Space – Culture, Relationships and Decision Making
One of the most common concerns of parents-to-be is who should be present for the birth of their baby. Parents-to-be may ask:
· “who should be with me in labor, or with us when our baby is born?”
· “my mom (or sister or friend) wants to be with us during the birth of our baby, but I am not sure I want that, what do I do?”
· “everyone wants to come see the baby right away after birth, I am not sure that is the best thing for me, my partner or the baby?”
Last year Melissa Charles wrote an article in XOJane.com titled, Unpopular Opinion – Childbirth is Not a Spectator Sport. On Social Media it received lots of likes and comments of various opinions. Most people agree with her, but the comments about how and why to keep childbirth “private” vary greatly. There is disagreement about who is to blame for inviting others in to the birth room, and who is responsible to make childbirth private. It can be confusing. Our culture sends mixed messages about who should be present in childbirth, and our biological predisposition may encourage us to welcome others in. Across all cultures and as far back as there are records by drawings, women have been attended to by other women in labor, birth and postpartum. In addition, as we prepare for parenting, our relationships are changing. This can make having conversations with those we love about what we want and need in labor and birth difficult.
From a cultural perspective, we have been exposed to various stories through TV, movies, social media and from friends and family. There are so many images of labor and birth imprinted into a women’s psyche by the time she is getting ready to have her child, she will be wondering which way is the right way or the best way for her. This curiosity about who will, could or should be with her in labor and birth can be a very rich part of her childbirth preparation and can lead to self-discovery as she redefines relationship roles in her life.
When the mother-to-be is preparing for birth, she is also preparing to be a mother. She is preparing to change her role in life and others in her life are also experiencing a shift in their relationship with her. For example, the mother of a new mother-to-be now must see her daughter as not only a daughter, but a mother herself. This new role of the mother, who must protect her child, make decisions for herself and her family, and think about ideas and beliefs in her own way, can be difficult for a mother (the mother of the new mother) to embrace. Developing a new view of the mother-to-be as mother, must also occur in other relationships, such as with family of the partner and with friends. And of course it occurs with the partner and his or her relationships as well. The newly developing role and the renegotiating of these complex and usually life-long relationships can make it difficult for the parents-to-be to decide who should be with them during labor and birth. They may simultaneously want support and privacy. They may want assurance that someone will be there for them, and flexibility to decide what is right in the moment.
Parents-to-be have had a lifetime of being the child (even as an adult they are still someone’s child), and the usual pattern of the parent-child relationship is for the child to want to please the parent. Often, parents-to-be do not want to disappoint, or cause family members to be upset with them. They want to keep peace, or they fear conflict or disagreement will cause a breakdown in the relationship at a time in their life when they intuitively know they will need this relationship the most. It’s no wonder that parents-to-be may find it difficult to consider, make decisions about or have discussions with others about who will be present during labor, birth or early postpartum.
Pam England, author of Birthing From Within says “worry is the work of pregnancy”. If parents-to-be are discovering that they are worried, concerned, curious, thinking about, dreaming about or wondering, who to have with them during labor and birth, how to make the decision and how to communicate the decision (often the most difficulty piece) there are some things they can do. The first is to acknowledge that this decision is complex, can be difficult and comes with layers of feelings and beliefs that have been laid out over a lifetime of relationships and cultural influences. Parents-to-be can reflect on and discuss what is most important to them and how they know those things to be important to them in labor and birth. Parents-to-be can journal questions, discuss them with each other, or with another trusted person. Sometimes the childbirth class mentor/educator, midwife or other provider, or a doula can be helpful. Some questions that maybe useful are:
· How do I know to have someone (name of person) there, or not?
· How do I know to have the discussion with (name of person) or not?
· What is it about so-in-so being there that is appealing to me? Or that is a problem for me?
· How would having this person in our birth space impact my partner?
· If it is important for you to have this person involved but you do not want them present at the birth, what are some other meaningful ways they can be involved without being present at the birth?
· What does this person really want to know or experience that they believe they will receive from being present at the birth? What are some other ways they may be able to receive this (for example, know you love them, that they are special, that they are connected to baby etc.)
Whether you take a class, read books, journal, practice mindfulness or do some art to prepare for your birth, take the time to explore your worries and wonderings about who will be there with you in labor and birth. What you discover may be the seed of valuable personal growth and awareness that may serve you in birth and life.
At The Mom’s Place, our classes are developed using the Birthing From Within ™ model (BFW) preparing parents in the body, mind and heart for the full range of childbirth. Our childbirth educators are nurses who work at The Mom’s Place and in our Special Care Nursery and have received training as BFW mentors. If you want to learn more about our offerings or schedule a welcome visit, call (603) 626-2626 or check out our website www.catholicmedicalcenter.org/moms-place.
Farrah Deselle is a Certified Birthing From Within ™ mentor and coordinator of Childbirth and Parenting Preparation, Education and Support Programs at The Mom’s Place at CMC. She teaches many of the classes and works at The Mom’s Place as a lactation consultant. She has a Master’s of Science in Nursing: Health Systems Leadership. For more questions email Farrah at:firstname.lastname@example.org.