I want like 6-8 people at the birth but a lot of people have told me it's not a good idea. Every single one of the people I want there are VERY suportive in their own way.
This is your first baby?
Really, it depends on you. Personally I'm a private person and did NOT want anyone there - no mother, no sister, no friends. Just the midwife and DH. But I have friends who had "party" births and loved it, so!
Some things to keep in mind:
-They will very possibly see you poop. And vomit. And scream. And use language that would make a sailor blush. And gush fluid. And expose your delicate areas (even if you think you won't, you may have the overwhelming desire to strip stark naked for several hours during labour). This is fine if you're comfortable with it, but think of each person "Will I be able to look him/her in the eye again afterwards?".
-Where are you birthing? Is there room for that many people? Is your midwife/OB comfortable with such a crowd? Do they all get along with each other (no drama or bad blood that might cause unnecessary tension)?
-Will they have the tact to leave if you decide halfway through labour that you want to be alone after all? With no hard feelings?
-If you want them to have specific roles - the cutter of the cord, the massager of your back, the offerer of sips of iced water - it'd be good to sort that out ahead of time. You don't want everyone fluttering over you trying to do the same thing at once - or have 4 people sitting around when you need something!
Honestly, I don't think birth is a spectator sport.
Both my mom and mil were wild to be there but I told them to stay away. I have a beautiful yoni but it is very shy.
Me, hubby, CNM and the hospital required nurse were the only ones in the room. Both births were glorious, natural experiences.
This was an excellent list of things to consider. If you DO decide to have more than a couple support people, I would definitely make sure they understand, "Birth is unpredictable. I may change my mind & want to be alone - I can't know in advance with certainty how I will feel, so please understand it's nothing personal if I get into labor & end up wanting fewer people around." Anyone who isn't totally understanding of this fact - and it's true - shouldn't be invited.
I didn't like the idea of ANY unnecessary people (i.e. no student nurses or MWs). I ended up doing most of my laboring totally alone at home & loved it. I'm not even hiring a doula for my HB & I'm glad my MW only brings one asst. But that's me. If all these people truly make you feel loved, supported, and not in the least inhibited, then their presence could be beneficial for you.
I agree with Smokering.
I would wait until you are in the birth process before you decide. No matter how great people are, it can still really hold you up to be watched. It's really hard to know how you will feel until you are in it. I know for me, with my first, I wanted everyone to come over right away. Once I was really in active labour and the baby was coming, I felt really uncomfortable with people looking at me and talking to me, even the midwives... but I did not feel capable of expressing that in the moment.
I recommend not promising anyone anything unless you can really trust them to give you space if you need it.
Honestly, it's really up to you. If you have no issues with any of them being there right now (because who knows how things will go when the time comes), I don't see why you can't! But I do recommend that you let them know that you may NOT want some/all of them in the room at certain times or even during the entire time. If they can understand that a labouring woman may need a certain amount of space and that it's nothing personal, then it shouldn't be a problem. I would be weary of anyone who takes the warning personally, but if they all seem to understand then go for it!
I had 5 people at DS's birth...my mother, father, two sisters and niece. If you count my midwife and her assistant, that's 7 (though the assistant didn't get there until shortly before DS was born - apparently no one expected it to go so fast and they were afraid the assistant wouldn't even make it in time, haha). My niece apparently wasn't even around for most of it (but stuck around for the pushing/birth phase) and my midwife was often in and out of the room. Honestly, I was SO deep into lalalabour land that I never even noticed who was or wasn't there! I could have cared less.
This time I will have at least 6...same family members, plus DS. I may also have 1-3 additional people (1-2 extra friends and possibly someone to photograph the birth if I can get one of my photographer friends on board). I'm not so sure on the extra 3, so we'll see...but at least the 6 family members for sure.
ETA: I'm also well aware that I may have different feelings this time from last time and that I may end up kicking some people or everyone out...who knows. I assume I probably won't, but I'm keeping my mind open just in case and everyone understands it's a possibility.
I think it depends on the kind of birth you want and whether the people you want to invite are on board with that. My poor SIL invited her parents and her inlaws (my DH's parents) and the latter felt uncomfortable and spent most of the time in the waiting room, and her parents were very distressed at seeing her in pain. Her father bullied her during contractions to get an epidural, let them break her water, and have a c-section! (He's an asshole under the best of circumstances IMO). Her mother cried and said, someone please help my daughter. Her labor was long, yes, but it was her first baby and she was very determined to have an unmedicated birth and did (other than a whiff of pitocin at the end to help move a cervical lip that any midwife would have held aside manually .... grrrr). But no thanks to anyone who was there other than her husband and her sister, who both were wonderful and supportive.
Personally, I have never wanted anyone other than DH and midwife & assistants at my births, but I view birth as a private event. My SIL wanted to share the experience and ended up regretting it because she didn't have everyone on board with her birth plans and didn't anticipate how a long labor/seeing her in pain would affect her parents and in-laws (my MIL was embarrassed to be there and felt that they should not have been invited). Fortunately she did not cave to her father's demands -- I mean he was seriously screaming in her face that she couldn't make her own decisions and needed to listen to the doctors, etc. -- but it could easily have ended up differently. Lesson being: know your people well!!!
I think it depends on the individual. With my first son who was a hospital birth I had my DH, mom and dad (other than normal hospital staff) with me when I gave birth. With my second son who was a homebirth I had my DH, mom, MW and second MW with me. I had planned on having my dad there too, but he left to go eat and then got caught up with household chores at my parent's house.
I've been with women who've only had their partners, only labored/birth by themselves MW and Doula, and women who had several people. It all depends on who you are and what you're comfortable with. I haven't noticed any problems when there were a lot of people at the birth, but they were all homebirths and had things to do (weren't just sitting there watching her like it was a movie), so that may have been a difference.
I had both sets of grandparents in addition to my husband, the doc, and the nurse. The dads were only there for the pushing phase, and my FIL mostly came in just before crowning.
Everyone was very supportive of me and very gentle with me and I wouldn't change a thing.
My father has opted not to be in the room this time, because it was very difficult for him to watch me be in such pain without being able to do anything about it.
It's totally up to you who you want. I will say that if someone is there who you're aren't comfortable with, than it can stop labor in it's tracks. I think giving certain people jobs is also a big help. DH was my main support, and he took a break for about 5 mins with each birth and my mom relieved him. My MIL was also there and she was my water/ice chips woman. However, she stayed out of everyone's way and was a wall flower the rest of the time, which is her nature.
This is a really interesting question. I don't consider myself a very "private" person*, but I've never imagined being with anyone other than DH, my midwife and my mom (an MD who has had 2 unmed births herself). I'm planning homebirths, in case it wasn't obvious.
It only recently occurred to me that the midwife will likely have an assistant/partner, which I guess is fine with me, too. But beyond that? I mean, MAYBE my BFF or some similarly supportive, sweet, laid-back person to take photos, although I assumed one of the midwives and/or my mom could do that, since I don't want a ton of photos anyway. I know more hands can be better (to a point), but it just seems like a lot to coordinate, and a lot of bored people sitting around chatting about snow tires and/or Oprah. I'm sure when I'm in laborland, I won't care one way or the other, but...?
Maybe I'll feel differently after my first, but I just don't see wanting a big group and/or a party atmosphere? Even if they're all supportive and close to me? Maybe I just don't want to dedicate the mental space?
I guess if I think about it, I've also assumed there might be (maybe not-- but at least as an option) some slightly "sexy" things about my birth, if that helps me (masturbation, etc.?) Which I have no problem with DH witnessing/participating in, or telling the midwives about... and while it would be slightly uncomfortable mentioning it to my mom, it would only be slightly uncomfortable. IDK... I guess I have a hard time seeing the appeal, at least for me. I mean, at this point (though I could certainly change my mind), I find myself excited about calling everyone right away after the baby is born, especially having my dad over ASAP after birth, but during the birth?
I guess it just isn't intuitively appealing to me.
*In fact, not only am I an extrovert, tell everyone all my business, etc., I am also a full-time figure model for art schools, so there you go.
Smokering's advice is fabulous. At DD1's birth I had XP (DP in those days), a BFF and 2 midwives. At DD2's i had DP, a MW and a student MW and my dad. For me any more would have been too many. You MIGHT be in "labourland" and not care if people are talking, or you might be like me and be unable to "switch off" and labour properly when you have people talking audibly (everyone had to shut up/whisper when DD2 came, just so i could have decent strength contractions, it turns out she had a knotted cord and i don't know if that's the reason but my whole labour was like that, if i wasn't 100% able to focus on the baby and the contraction it just wasn't happening).
Yes, everyone is supportive in their own way - are they supportive in the SAME way? Because you don't want to have G'Ma screaming at BIL that you DO SO need an epidural while you're trying to be mellow and integrate your contractions, and you don't want very pro-homebirth-but-not-very-knowledgeable people arguing with your MW if the rare circumstance of a need to transfer arises. People can be incredibly supportive in different ways, so it might be good to get everyone together at least once and see how it goes. Will they be able to sense when you need them to encourage, when to support, when to go away and leave you alone? Will they all be able to allow your MW/ob the respect she needs to care for you and not try to "protect" you from her (for example the MW says you need to walk a bit as the baby is malpositioned, you, nearing transition, cry and wail and say you can't and beg her to leave you be - you don't want some well-meaning person to step in and "defend" you from her, you know?). Do they all understand normal birth and have faith in the process? Will they all be able to deal with scary situations without panicking?
If all of your people believe you can do it how you want to do it, will not be shocked or "put off" by seeing you labouring in the way you want to (and yeah, you will probably poo, likely vomit and perhaps scream, swear and have moments of incredible belligerence/terror - my first birth was really one of the hardest things i'd ever done, and i'm glad everyone i knew in my normal life wasn't there to see me face up to that, it's wasn't pretty and it wasn't something everyone who knows me could deal with - i'm known for being really unflappable, calm, "in control" and during transition i leaned over the side of my bathtub and SCREAMED for an ambulance, for an epidural, for a c-section, my BFF was shocked, my DP was terrified, my MW hadn't arrived yet. Luckily they didn't call an ambulance and my MWs came and then DD1 came!)? And are you comfortable with any or all of them possibly seeing your anus dilate as you push (i'm sorry, that's graphic, but birth is VERY graphic!)? If you're going to be worried about what people might be seeing or thinking about what they see you are going to have tensions in your body which might cause problems, from slow dilation to higher-risk-of-tearing (sphincters don't open when they're judged!), and will potentially inhibit you to the point that it changes the whole mood of your birth.
FWIW at DD1's birth both XP and the BFF were VERY supportive of me, believed i could do it (in the abstract) and were happy to be there, but still, they were scared by how different labour made me, they wanted ME to be the strong one, and i couldn't be (it was my first time afterall, the 2nd time was way easier) and it terrified them. Their fear, even though they never voiced it, tried hard not to show it, fought it, made my first labour and birth feel, to me, like a VERY serious, dangerous, sombre undertaking. My second birth, with 2 men who KNEW i could do it (having done it already once before) was literally a party by comparison. So while i wouldn't say "don't do it" i would say "choose VERY carefully".
when I was pregnant with DD I debated for quite a few months if I wanted my mom present for the birth. eventually I decided that I didn't want her present. the big reason being that I knew if she was there I would feel inhibited. my mom is wonderful, and had 4 unmedicated births, two at home, but I'm a very private person, and I just didn't feel comfortable with anyone other than DF and medical professionals seeing me without clothes. I wouldn't even have medical professionals there if DF wasn't completely freaked at the idea of a UC. a good friend of mine was the complete opposite, she had like 5 extra people at her birth, and is completely happy that they were all there.
This time I will need to have someone on call to help with DD, but there will be very specific ground rules of that person staying on the main floor, while I labor and birth upstairs.
My partners have 4 DD's who I'm hoping will be open to the idea of watching me give birth at home. I think for young girls it's a strengthening experience that will help them when it's time to have children of their own. I want them to have that positive, uplifting energy in their minds to balance the fear mentality that seems so prevalent otherwise in our culture.
I really enjoyed laboring in near solitude. I knew I wanted that from the start, and it was awesome. DD's father was there of course, but he mostly slept on the couch in the corner and didn't talk to me at all, or ask me if I was "fine" or pester me with unnecessary questions. Not because he didn't care, but because he has this sort of unflappable confidence in me that is almost unbelievable at times. So he was the perfect person to be with me. It might have been nice to have someone to give me a really awesome back massage or acupuncture, or something, but eh, what are you gonna do? Really if I do it again, I just want a great big tub, lol, and my love.
I was surprised though by how much I loved having dozens of friends and family stop by to see us (& hold the baby!) in the hospital a few hours after DD was born.
I think you should do what makes you feel good and safe when you think about it, and reserve your right to change your mind at any time.
Smokering's advice is excellent.
And as other people have said, be flexible and make sure anyone you have at the birth is willing to be flexible as well. Have another place (a room if you're at home, a waiting room or nearby 24 hour restaurant or something similar if you're at a hospital) where they can go and be comfortable and wait if you decide you want to be alone.
I think a lot of it also depends on your labor pattern, which of course you won't know until it happens. DS2's labor was lightning quick and very intense. The President of the United States could have walked in and pulled up a chair and I would not even have noticed. If things had taken longer, I might have been more self-conscious. However, we aren't very close to the family we have living nearby, so it was just the midwife, back up midwife, apprentice midwife and a doula that we hired to be with DS1 during the birth. Everyone was a birth professional and had seen it all before, which was nice.
I would also add, especially if you're having a homebirth, make sure anyone you have there is also willing to do something helpful afterward, too. Start a load of laundry or the dishwasher before they leave, do a grocery/meal run, bring you a bottle of water or a snack, etc.
my niece had 6 people with her at her home birth, 2 midwives, her mom, me and my other sister as well as her bf. But she absolutely loves attention and wont turn down any that comes her way lol, we all did help in different ways though and were able to give each other breaks when needed.
I think if it feels comfortable to you then do it.
I plan on having four-five people there- My midwife and her assistant, my husband, and one of my friends. That way there is always someone to provide labor support, someone to take pictures, someone to take care of my daughter, and someone to be a go-fer and be getting things ready.
I invited four people to be at my HB -- DH, the MW, my mother, and my SIL. My father and MIL showed up at some point when I was still in early labor -- they just couldn't stay away, and at the time they came I actually was happy they were there, so I didn't send them away though I probably should have. So there were six people in the house. (Eight, if you count me and the baby who was trying to be born.)
The extra people actually helped at first, because before they arrived my mother was a basket case (she was not very supportive of my HB and was really anxious, though she tried to hide it from me). Having MIL and dad there helped distract her. But I had a long, looooong labor and I think having everyone there in the house, waiting for something to happen and getting more and more anxious when it didn't, made my labor even slower. Then a second MW (who I'd never met) showed up late in my labor, saw how slowly it was going, and swooped in trying to "fix" things, which just kicked everyone's anxiety (including mine) into full gear. And nine people (even with one in utero) was way too many people for our house to hold comfortably.
I ended up transferring to the hospital after two full days of labor. I got an epidural, slept a few hours, and then pushed the baby out under my own steam. Could I have done it at home? Probably, IF I had managed to rest during early labor (rather than spending all of it trying to get my family to relax and not come over yet because things were going slowly, and then dealing with them when they all ignored me, came over anyway and started making a fuss). And IF I could have had some peace to lay down and rest later, rather than feeling anxious and frustrated because my mother was sobbing in my bedroom doorway at the MW's that it was taking too long and I was in too much pain and this wasn't normal and we needed to go to the hospital now.
In hindsight, I would say that having all those people around during early labor was more exhausting than I realized, and it took too much of my energy that I should have been using to concentrate on giving birth. As a result, I ran out of energy before I got to the end of my long labor. I also suspect that my mother and DH's fear about homebirth, while they tried valiantly to hide it in order to be supportive, ended up being very negative, scary energy in the house that ended up stalling my labor. I would never again try a HB without every single person in the house being 100% on board with the plan -- that was awful. I'm birthing in the hospital this time specifically for that reason -- because I can't go through that experience again, and I can't give birth without DH, so I have to try something else where his fear won't interfere with my labor so much.
In short, would I (knowing what I know now) invite so many people to be at my HB the next time? No way. I would have done the following things differently:
1) I would have waited to tell ANYONE I was in labor until MUCH later in the game -- I got excited and called everyone too soon, instead of resting through early labor and conserving my strength.
2) I would NOT have allowed for a plan in which the backup MW was someone I'd never met. Her style was NOT what I needed and there was no way to know it ahead of time, and my MW needed someone to take over for her (she'd been awake for 2 days too) and there just wasn't anyone else. (Another reason to go to the hospital this time -- if I have to fire a nurse whose style isn't working for me, there's going to be someone else around!)
but most importantly for this thread,
3) I would NOT have allowed six people to hang out in the house all day. I enjoyed having them around (I wasn't embarrassed about them hearing me scream, or anything like that), but it was way too many people and it took my focus away from birthing. I felt like I was supposed to be entertaining, instead. Nope, this time there will NOT be a party -- I need to focus!
I think another thing is to have a list ahead of time of something everyone can go and do when there's not a lot going on. Things you want cleaned, fold baby clothes, make the beds, scrub the bathroom, do dishes, whatever. Just for when you need people out of your face, that way they don't feel useless or bored.