Recently Dave, a colleague of mine, had a beautiful baby girl. When we were talking about the preparations he and his partner Kathleen had made for the labour he mentioned that they had invited both his mother and Kathleen’s mother to be there for the birth of the baby.
The thought horrified me. My own labour was not suitable to have any onlookers besides those directly responsible for my behaviour (my husband), or those medically trained in how to deal with it (midwives and the OB).
But Dave and his partner are not alone. Many women choose to have friends, mums or sisters in the room with them when they have their babies.
How to choose who you have in the birthing suite
So how do you know what kind of person you are? The kind that likes to have others around, or the kind that wants just one person present? The important word here is ‘choice’.
It was Kathleen who suggested that they invite her mother-in-law into the birthing suite.
Dave explains, “She knew what a great grandmother she was (we have a two and a half-year-old niece) but she felt that it was a bit sad that she hadn’t been as involved with the birth of her first grandchild, so she thought it’d be really nice to involve her the whole way through, from the very first scan through to the birth!”
Birthing is such an individual experience, and every woman has her own ideas of what will work for her. I had a friend who was driven to distressing anxiety by the insistence of one person that they would be present in the birthing room.
The upshot is to make sure it’s your decision and you aren’t being pressured by others to include them in the birth.
Who is going to offer you the best support?
For many new mums, the people invited into the birthing suite were the best support team they could muster.
Sigrid had both her mum and husband for her first birth, and plans to have them present for the second, “They both provide me with different types of support, and I couldn’t make it through without both.”
Dave said that both the mums were an enormous help during labour.
“Having both of them there made us feel very supported. On two occasions I had to very briefly leave the room and wouldn’t have felt okay to do that without them there. Kathleen’s mum is practical and knew when to leave, when to come back, when to talk to Kathleen or when to talk to the midwife. And my mum was supportive of me! There were a few times where I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and it was great to be able to just get a quick hug from my mum.”
Other women choose to have sisters or best friends by their side. Still, other women would rather be on their own with a medical professional.
Jodie says, “I chose to have no one but the doctor and the midwife in the room. It was awesome because I was completely focused on what I needed.”
Is it the right place to bring other children?
When my son was due, I arranged for our daughter to spend the night at my parents’ place. My go-to response to contractions is to moo like a cow. I didn’t want to freak my toddler out, so decided to make other plans for her.
But for some people, involving their other children is an important part of the experience.
Sarah says, “I had my husband and my two daughters, every girl should be educated in the experience of childbirth, as well as witnessing their baby brother come into the world. It was so lovely having them all there.”
For Peta, it was really important that her 12-year-old son be there when his brother was born. “He was so excited and couldn’t wait to meet his little brother. He’d been waiting years for this day. He did get a bit squeamish as the baby was crowning so had to step out for air but came back in just after bubba was born. He cried and got to hold his little brother straight away, it makes me emotional just thinking about it.”
It’s about what works for you
A good birthing experience is one where you feel in control and supported by those around you. Whether it’s your partner, mum, sister or the whole of your family, it’s whatever works best for you.
Dave accepts that having both mums present during childbirth wouldn’t work for everyone.
“I think it’s a really nice gesture for the grandmothers-to-be, but it has to work for the mother. If the relationship isn’t totally solid, it obviously wouldn’t work. Also, it very much depends on the personalities of the grandmothers-to-be. If both were the type of person to try to be overly involved, it would be a total nightmare! But if you all have a great relationship and they’re the type of people who are happy to sit back until called upon or can find ways to quietly be helpful and supportive, then it’s a great experience.
“Having everybody in the room in those mind-blowingly beautiful first minutes with baby was so, so special.”