This topic may be a point of contention for many, but it is something that deserves being aired out. I’m just going to go a head and say it. The last thing a labouring person (potentially you) needs in the delivery room is a support person who has no clue what is going on. Whether it be your mother, partner, husband, sister, aunt etc. Let me repeat it. The LAST thing a labouring person needs in their space is a support person who has no clue what is going on.
Now, lets set a few things straight. I’m not saying that a grandmother or father shouldn’t be in the delivery room. No, indeed they should be there, if that is what the mother wants. However, let’s unpack this a little bit.
Labour is no joke, it’s hard emotional work, hard physical work and spiritually a transformation is taking place as well. When you are learning to do new things, you need leadership; we all know that the type of leadership makes a world of difference.
There are good leaders and bad leaders. In labour, people need a leader with a clean emotional slate, someone with support skills, someone who is comfortable enough and not phased by labour that they could eat a sandwich during the process. I don’t advise eating a sandwich if you are a support person unless you’re on a break though.
If your main support person is your mother, fine. However, be mindful of what she is bringing into the room. Her energy will set part of the tone. Consider this, what type of birth did your mother have? What type of birth are you trying to have? Do your birth ideas align? Same, if your main support person is your partner/father, fine, but have they actually attended a live birth before? If not, how do they know how to support you? Personally, it's an unrealistic task to ask of someone. If you say "how are you going to support me" they are likely to reply with "by doing whatever you want/need." The trouble and truth of it is, they don't know what you need. It's impossible to know unless you have experience.
What often happens is they do their best, they really do. They try and support you, but often times, upon looking back, most people say that they didn't really know what to do and wished they had additional support and continuity of care. Think about it, it's a BIG ask to put your sole trust in someone with little or zero experience. My advice, have a honest conversation about whether your main support person feels comfortable advocating for you, feels comfortable navigating the medical institution, feels comfortable enough to eat a sandwich while watching you crown, is able to detach emotionally and provide objective support. The conversation may surprise you. This is an excellent book, The Birth Partner, for you and your main support person to read.
In addition, when working with clients as a labour doula, one benefit is that I am not emotionally involved on an intimate level. I mean shit gets intimate, fast, but I’m not bothered when a labouring mama cries out in pain. The difference is, I or the medical staff can suggest a new position after a long labour stall and she will likely comply, whereas if her partner were to ask, she will likely tell him to fuck off. Moreover, partners and grandmothers are blinded by love. Their emotions often cloud the support that the labouring mama really needs.
Want to know more about a doula? Watch below...
The point being, women in labour need leadership, the last thing they need is sympathy or empathy from a bleeding hearted grandmother/partner. Don’t get me wrong, women need sympathy, love, empathy, but that only goes so far. As a doula, I have the privilege of giving all of the above, but you also have the ability to coach the family. To help them through the difficult moments by holding space, by encouraging them, by believing in them, but more importantly, you do this from a clean emotional and objective state. I am honoured to hold clients hand, to wipe their tears and to witness the magic of birth.
If you think you can't afford a doula, or find continuity of care through a provider, do your research, the options in your community may surprise you. Many hospitals have doula programs that are free, many local doulas work on a sliding scale, sometimes even free or for a trade in services. Don't be shy to reach out and ask....all people in labour deserve to have a grounded, humble and supportive guide.