Everyone at a birth needs to be employed.
No, that doesn't mean that only birth professionals should be there (sorry, Auntie May, you've gotta go!), but from my experiences as a doula, I've come to believe that anyone who's not contributing something is likely to be keeping things from progressing as they should. Too many women allow unwanted visitors to this rare and marvelous experience -- which can have consequences ranging from an annoyed birther to a stalled labor, and all that that entails.
Before inviting someone to attend your birth, consider:
- What energy does this person bring to a situation?
- Can s/he handle intense situations calmly?
- What can s/he do to help me/my partner/my children during this time?
- Do I actually want this person at my birth, or do I feel I should want them?
- Do this person want to attend my birth? Will they feel they can say no if I ask them to attend?
- Am I comfortable with this person seeing me naked? In pain?
Birth is not a spectator sport. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a room full of people, if that's what makes you feel safe, warm, and loved. Just think about the roles everyone in that room can play. Don't be shy about assigning duties to everyone from your doula to your mother-in-law. Remember, people are also more likely to get flustered during a long or intense labor if they don't have something to do -- they will likely be glad to know what's expected of them!
Here are some suggestions for jobs you can give your support team:
- Birth photographer or videographer
- Caterer (keep you and the rest of the team fed and hydrated)
- Massage therapist
- Babysitter/Kids' doula (keep the kids occupied or help them understand what's going on)
- Reporter (keep a log of the event and write a beautiful birth story!)
- Birth tub maintenance technician
- Clean-up crew (homebirth)
- Mediator with medical staff (hospital birth)
- Hand holder (perfect for someone with a warm presence that you just want to be there for you)
I've started teaching childbirth preparation, and this is something I've covered with both my classes. It seems to be well-received, though I'm sure I'll step on someone's toes with it eventually. What do you think, gentle readers?