Who you decide to have with you, or decide not to have with you, when you give birth is a very important decision that only you and your partner can make. (but the one pushing out the baby counts more in the particular subject)
Why does it matter?
To put it simply, your body relies on a cascade of hormones to progress in labor. A body that feels safe and as undisturbed as possible allows those hormones to work uninterrupted. If you have people in your room that you don't know, don't like, don't feel comfortable with, it could affect the way your labor progresses!
This starts when choosing the right provider. Don't feel like you have to stick with the first one you go to. You should find a practice that shares your values or at least will accommodate them. Research the right questions to ask to see if you will be a good fit, maybe that should be another blog post! You can choose to switch providers at any time. I've heard stories of women changing providers at 40 weeks!
We know we don't get much say in a hospital setting to control who is there or who isn't. (but you can totally request a different nurse or CNM if one is messing with your birth vibes) This is where continuity of care with a doula, or birth keeper, becomes so much more important. The ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) has this to say: "Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by support personnel, such as a doula, is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor." source
So you may decide to look into a doula.
But, what about your partner? Your mom? Your sister? Your BFF? Your MIL?
I mean, I'm going to go out on a limb and say you should have your partner be there if they can be! For everyone else, that is a personal decision. Think seriously about how those people make you feel.
Do they bring you comfort?
Do they make you feel safe?
Do they annoy you?
Do you hate the way they laugh at their own joke?
Seriously, these are things you should think about before inviting someone into your birth space. But, what if your BFF and SIL think they are invited but they aren't? You have my permission to, politely, tell them they aren't invited! You can say something like, "Due to the intimate nature of birth, we want to keep this as private as possible, so we will only be having my mom and our doula with us. But, please, come visit us as soon as you can so you can meet baby!"
It is a little different right now, in 2021, with the pandemic. Many hospitals are partner only. Some are now allowing your partner and an additional support person. The best way to keep up with these updates is by contacting your labor and delivery department and asking about the current policy. Your OBGYN will probably know, as well as the local doula agencies. If you're on the Eastern Shore of MD, as of right now, Tidal Health is allowing partner plus 1!
What if you want a birth photographer?
It may be surprising to know that this is something I'm passionate about! Although if it's between a photographer and a doula, I'm going to encourage you to go with a doula. You can't argue with the statistics on better outcomes!
Birth photography is a relatively new phenomenon, but an even newer path is the "doulatog" i.e. the doula photographer. Or what I call myself, the birth keeper. This is kind of the best of both worlds (not to toot my own horn) where you get educated and supported but your birth is still documented by a professional!
No matter what though, the most important thing is you feel safe with that person. So if you meet a "doulatog" because you want a doula and a photographer and can't have one of each and you don't vibe with them, hire a doula and ask them to take photos on their phone! Most are more than willing to do this!
I hope this helped you, if you're planning a home birth keep your eyes peeled for the next part of this series! I will be talking about midwives, lactation consultants, and touching on doulas, photographers, and family again!
"The moment a child is born, a mother is born also"