In preparing for your upcoming birth and creating your Birth Plan, the choice of attendants is a huge consideration that is often over overlooked. More often than not, it is simply assumed. As in, “yes, my OB/GYN will ‘deliver’ my baby. And yes, my partner will attend.”
But what if you don’t have or don’t want to use your OB/GYN and wish for a midwife, a doula, or even an unassisted birth as more women are choosing to do?
And what if you don’t have a partner, or your partner does not want to attend, or you don’t think you’ll feel comfortable with your partner present?
Yeah, it’s complicated.
So, let’s start by considering your choices… and not assuming.
First of course, you’ll need to decide if you feel more comfortable and confident with a doctor, a midwife, a doula, a partner, a friend, a group, or alone. Do your research, or find your truth within. Evidence shows us that no matter with whom you choose to birth, the likelihood of a safe birth is the same: very good. So what this choice comes down to is your personal preferences, and a clear understanding of with whom you feel safe, nurtured, encouraged, and supported.
I think it’s a great idea to talk around, look around, search the web and read through a number of books offering ideas, suggestions, stories and see what feels right for you. Remember – there is no one right way, there is only your way. Explore. Meditate on this. See what feels right for you. Trust yourself. See what your baby wants, too.
Then there is the choice of who else, if anyone else, you would like with you, and in what capacity. Attending a woman’s birth is an honor. It is no one else’s right or duty to be there, nor are you obliged to have any person there. Consider with whom you would like to share the honor, who you think can handle it, who would help you through it, who would you enjoy their presence or energy, who would feel right, who would feel wrong, who would add to your support and the fulfillment of the experience, who would take from it… Who do you want there?
In some family situations, the father and/or partner may understand the birthing process, bring in a powerful element of personal support, and naturally take up a positive role as a true partner. This can be an incredibly beautiful opportunity for partners to connect on the deepest soul level ever. And for families to join in heart and soul and spirit.
A quick note on kids attending birth. Kids are known to handle being present for and witnessing the normal natural unfolding of birth better than many grown-ups. Why do you think that is?
In many traditional and indigenous birthing situations, the men are not present at all; it is the women working together to support each other through labor, birth and beyond.
Today, anything goes, and that’s exciting – and sometimes confusing. Especially for the partner or assistant who really doesn’t know his or her role, what to expect or what to do. Some naturally fall into a positive addition to the birthing scene; others feel awkward, uncertain, nervous, fearful, or simply don’t want to be there. Believe me, those feelings can be contagious, and the birthing room, where ever that is, is no place for such vibes.
Whoever you wish to attend this birth should be capable and competent. They should add to your situation, not take from it. First and foremost, they should remember this is not about them – this is about you, your baby, your birth. They must well understand what is expected of them, what their role is, what your desires are, and what to expect in the birthing process. Ignorance is not bliss for the birth attendant. In fact, their ignorance can create your hell…
So, it is your responsibility to clearly express your preferences and share your birthing plan. It may be best to take the time to deeply discuss your feelings and desires and explain in full the birthing continuum with anyone with whom you wish to share this honor.
It is the responsibility of anyone you have invited to attend this birth to support you in what ever way you have specified, as well as in whatever way they intuitively feel is appropriate. It is also their responsibility to learn about the birthing process.
Below is a list of considerations and suggestions for the birth partner/attendant that may help. This list is an excerpt from my WildBirth Workshop. I am also available for a two week Childbirth Partner/Attendant Workshop aimed at working personally and privately with partners, assistants, attendants, even family and friends. Throughout the first week we take a good look at the birthing process, the natural progress of labor, and your plan. Then in the second week we explore the partner or attendant’s role, and what he or she can do the help, not hinder; connect deeply, not create tension; support, not take from. This Workshop is tailored to your birthing choices and covers the basics that bring confidence to the attendants, from comfort measures to what to do in case of emergency.
Suggestions for partners, any attending people and/or birth attendants:
Anyone present at your birth is your choice. Attending and witnessing a birth is a deep and sincere honor. This is true for your partner, family, friends, birth attendants, assistants, supporters, doctor, midwife or doula… whoever you wish to share in this Sacred Event.
Give some serious thought to who you would like to take witness and be there with you or for you. Be clear with them as to your birthing plans and your birthing choices, wishes, desires, maybe even fears or concerns. Make sure they are well versed in normal natural birth so that their ignorance does not create fear in the midst of labor. Set yourself (and your supporters) up for success ahead of time.
Your responsibility in labor is you, and the baby, no one else. Therefore, anyone else present should be confident and capable. Even little children present are able to do this with grace and honor. In fact, they seem more knowing of the natural and less anxious about the “what ifs” than many adults.
Everyone present has a role, even it’s just to share love and take witness. It often helps to make the role clear ahead of time. At one birth I attended, the grandmother did not know what was happening in normal natural birth, and her fears were creating tension. Sensing this growing problem, I discretely excused myself for a moment, went to the other room, got her a drum, eagle feather, rattle and sage, and returned to hand them to the grandmother. With these, she found her role as ceremonial rhythm maker. This ended up being an addition to the birth.
Think beyond the box. Honor and respect all. Yourself and your baby first and foremost. Your partner next. Create connection and essential roles when possible. Partners often need to know what they can do, what they should do, even if what they should do is just sit and send out good vibes. Think about what you do want, and make your preferences clear.
The following suggestions aimed at the partner and/or birth attendant(s) may be of help.
- You’re there to support the woman, not control and manage.
- Know her preferences ahead of time (and your responsibilities).
- Stand up for her, with her, behind her quietly to ensure her safety and power so that she may feel comfortable letting go.
- Understand that birth may unfold in its own unique way. If need be, be able to combine the mother’s desires with the necessary circumstantial understanding with grace and respect and strength.
- This birth is hers – the best thing you can do is remind her she can, her body knows, she is doing everything just right.
- A word of warning. Fear, anxiety and awkwardness from not knowing what to do or what your place is can create some serious bad vibes. Get over it, fast. Get out of the room or get it together. Find your place. Maybe it’s in the corner, meditating on good vibes, or with the mother connecting and going deep. Maybe you’re the staff she leans on or the pressure she desires pushing her hips together. Maybe your rock with her, walk with her, sing to her. Maybe you sit in silence and share trust and love. You have been honored to be a part of this Sacred Journey. Be honorable.
- First, it’s your responsibility to know what to expect, what happens and the normal natural process of birth. Ignorance usually results in fear. No one needs your fear. Do your homework.
- Understand, trust, and love. Believe in the natural, normal Sacred Transformation that birth usually is.
- Read over my suggestions for possible comfort relief measures. These can be the arrows in your quiver.
- Be aware of and responsible for the mood in the room. Think calm, soothing, supporting, safe, loving, trusting, calm, clear and connecting.
- Keep the environment supportive: dim lights, low noise, no distractions or disturbances, warm air (warm water if water birth), comforting sounds, sites, smells. Get rid of fear, anxiety and bad vibes.
- Make sure it’s a place the baby wants to be born to: comfortable, warm, intimate, safe, beautiful, loving.
- This is a celebration of life. Be positive and enjoy!
- If appropriate, encourage hydration, movement, changing position, peeing.
- Positive, encouraging, empowering ONLY. Complete belief in the mother, nature, her body and the birthing process.
- The attendants’ role is to support and encourage and help as need be, while keeping a low profile eye on the wellbeing of the mother and baby; looking out for and avoiding or repairing or managing potential complications when and if need be.
- Sometimes simple eye contact, gentle touch, firm holding, and breathing together bring connection and support.
- If you need to take the lead, if mother wants/needs you to, be strong, wise and gentle and graceful. Respect the mother and baby and honor their journey at all times.
- Trust, trust, trust.