Last birth (at home) I kept things simple and didn't ask anyone to come be with me. DH was there, of course, and my mother also ended up there (although I don't remember actually calling her to come, she just lives close by and I think dropped in). Then there were my two midwives. In the end, a third midwife came in to help when things weren't progressing (I hadn't met her, but just loved her wise presence). Then, at the end, there was the ob/gyn homebirth dr who came to give me IV fluids so I didn't have to go to the hospital.
In all, it was meant to be a small group (just DH, midwives and me) but felt like there was a lot of people coming and going.
This time (homebirth again), DH will be around but doesn't want to be with me in labor (it was VERY stressful for him last time). Mom will be there too for taking pictures and video. Mom and DH's primary role will be being companions to DD (age 4).
The midwife for this birth has two students who will both be coming along.
So, that is already 5 people.
I am strongly considering asking a dear friend to come be with me too. We have known each other for 25 years and she lives in the same town now, although we only see each other a few times a year. Still, I am very comfortable with her and we have been with each other for all of our significant life events (marriage, death of a parent, etc).
But I am hesitant. Her son was an emergency c-birth at 26 weeks. It was very hard and traumatic. She had been out of town on a business trip when it happened and was stuck in a distant town without family or friends near by for the months he was in NICU. Luckily the baby was fine and he is a thriving 13 year old today. But she was not able to have more biological children after that. I know that she has really grieved the loss of the birth experience she had hoped for. I think she has come to peace with it now, but it was difficult for her for many years.
So, she hasn't been through the experience of birthing naturally. I don't know how it would be for her to companion me through that. I don't want it to reopen grief for her, and I guess my hope is that it could be healing in a way. She would be able to be a part of the wonder of birth that she didn't get to have. I'd really love to share that with her. And, of all of my friends, she is the one that I would feel most comfortable sharing the intimacy of birth.
I also don't know if it would be better for me (if I were to bring in another person) to have someone like a doula, who just knows what to do to be of support. Since my friend hasn't been through birth herself or with other women, it will be completely new for her. I'm using hypnobabies, so perhaps it is more straightforward to share with her the things she can do during labor, like the cues and scripts. But I don't want to have to think about the people around me. I just want to be able to rest on their energy and feel nurtured and cared for.
So, I'm really going back and forth about this. Having 5 people in the house already sounds like a lot. I've heard the more people you have around, the longer labor can be. But I also feel like this is something that I would like to share with my dear friend. But mostly it feels like a beautiful gift that I could give to her (more than something for me). I feel great about that idea right now, but just now sure how I will feel about it when I'm actually at the time of birth.