Updated: May 11
I am a private person and prefer to have a minimal amount of people in my own birth space-just my husband, children, and birth team of my choosing. However, we are all different in our preferences so my ideal birth space may not be the same as someone else.
My favorite saying is "birth is not a spectator sport", but some may just feel more comfortable surrounded by loved ones. If you as a friend of family member have the privilege to be allowed into someone's birth space, here are some reminders that can ensure that things go more smoothly.
Wait for an invite, don't feel entitled to attend someone else's birth.
If she wants you to attend her birth, she'll ask. Don't guilt trip, tantrum, or pester to be allowed in. Birth is as intimate as an act as the one that created the baby. She may have a great relationship with you but still only want her partner and/or birth team because that is what makes her most comfortable. If she invites her mom but maybe not her mother in law(or vice versa), this is because that is how she feels safe. This isn't the time to throw a fit about "fairsies". Remember this day is about the birthing family, not you. Respecting boundaries is of the utmost importance.
Address your prior birth trauma and triggers.
Sadly, obstetric violence is the norm in our country and in many others. Most have been the victim of unwanted procedures, provider bullying, scare tactics, and more. It is important that you process these things. I have seen way too many relatives tell horror stories even DURING a mama's birth. Again, her birth is not about you. Her birth is not the time to work out your trauma. Her birth is not your birth.
Know her birth plan and respect it.
Don't try to talk her out of her decisions. Don't demean or trivialize her wishes. This is important to her. If you are going to be in the birth space, you are there to support HER and HER wishes. Don't gang up on her with the medical staff. Don't wait for a moment of weakness to manipulate her into consenting to a procedure she didn't want. Support her and her plans. Period.
Research physiological birth and variations of normal.
Knowledge is power. Researching physiological birth can also help you understand and process your own prior birth(s). When you learn of the hormonal dance and cardinal movements of birth, you can also feel more confident which will help mama and her partner feel more confident too.
Don't be disruptive to the birth space.
Discuss your role in the birth space with the birthing family in advance. You may have different expectations, and that needs to be hashed out beforehand.
Each birthing family is different in what they want but some general no nos include:
*constantly texting other people labor updates and having your phone notifications pinging. Turn your phone on silent. Better yet turn your phone off and be present in the moment.
*Constantly asking mom questions. Birthing women really need to be able to tap into their primal brain, and bombarding them with words and questions disrupts that.
*Conspire against her birth plan or betray her by manipulating her into things she didn't want because of your own discomfort.
*Interupt mom and partner in the golden hour when they need to connect and bond as a family. If and when they are ready to let you hold baby, they'll offer.
Take nothing personally
During birth, a woman retreats into her primal brain. She may recoil at your touch or demand that you leave the room. Sometimes I as a doula even recognize that the thing a couple needs most is privacy because any presence of people is disrupting what needs to happen. It may simply be best for the process and mama to leave. It isn't personal. Again, this is about her and what she needs most at that moment in time.
Being in a birth space is a privilege, not a right. This is a great time to show the birthing family that you respect them and your relationship to them by honoring their boundaries. The best way to be in a birth space is to be calm and quiet. You can help by preparing healthy food, wiping mom's and/or partner's brow, caring for other children and/or pets in the home, giving a cold drink, darkening the room and turning on quiet music. The most important thing to remember is to follow mom's lead and adapt to what she needs at that moment in time as she does the hard work of bringing baby earthside.