Recently I heard of a couple who went into labor and birth without telling a single person beforehand. When the contractions started, they didn’t call their parents, nor did they call any siblings or friends. They went to the hospital and had the baby. It wasn’t until they were on their way home that they told their families. When most think of birth now, the trend is to think of you and your husband in this private moment. When you are pregnant, the mama bear in you is as strong as ever. You want to protect this baby and grasp at any control you might have over your baby’s entrance into the world. Trust me, I get it, but I’ve also learned after three babies that pregnancy does not have to be so private.
When I had my first baby, I was adamant that it was going to be only my husband and I in the room. In my mind, this was a “magical moment” that would somehow be ruined if others experienced it with us. Except, as all of us moms now know, it’s not just your partner and you. It is you, your partner, the doctor, your delivery nurse, a med student or two, and the other nurses that show up just as you are about to have the baby. I know it isn’t always that way, and there are many birthing alternatives available, but I wanted a hospital birth, and this is how it went for me. My parents and my in-laws were in the waiting room, and they eventually got to meet their first grandchild.
Once it was time for the second baby to make his grand entrance, it was much of the same scenario. This time, however, while I’m laboring, my mom was in the room. The time comes to push, and the doctor asks, “Is grandma staying?” I said no; I didn’t really have a moment to think, and it just came out. A few moments after she left the room, the baby was born. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but in the days after, I started to really think about it: why didn’t I let my mom stay in the room? What harm would it have done to let the woman who carried ME for nine months (before pushing me out of her body) watch me do the same thing?
So, as you can imagine, when baby three was ready to make his appearance, and I was in labor, my mom was there. This time I told her to stay. I had my husband on my side holding my hand, and my mom got to experience the whole thing. She has eight grandchildren, and this was the only birth she was able to witness. Even letting my mom in the room hasn’t left me totally guilt-free. At this point, dare I say it, I wish I would have let my mother-in-law be in the room, too, since I know it would have meant a great deal to her, as well.
Women surrounding women during birth
We have all seen the movies with the 1960s charm of a father waiting impatiently in a room with other anxious dads-to-be. A pocket of cigars and maybe even a drink in hand, too. Then, your local midwife, neighbors, elders, etc., all women, would help women bring life into the world. Lately, I tend to find that with experience as a mother, I’ve let my guard down with other women. When someone wants to touch your stomach, I’ve realized they aren’t trying to invade your space (even if they are). They want to feel the life you are creating. They want to feel that maternal glow and energy that radiates off you even when you are feeling your pregnancy worst. Many women feel a connection to total strangers through pregnancy, and longing for that far off time they once carried a baby, too.
In the end though, your pregnancy is yours. The beauty of being a mother is that you get to be in charge of your body AND your babies. Next time someone wants to join you in your experience in some small way, maybe don’t be so quick to slap that hand away and guard yourself. Its OK to let people in, and in the room, as well.