Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Fail-Safe Acid Test

One of the most perplexing question for expectant parents, especially first-timers, is "Who should I invite to be at my birth?"

Best friend? Mom? Mother-in-law? Sister? Dad?

It's not an easy question to answer! And in almost 100% of cases, there are family politics involved - who will or will not be mortally insulted by not being invited, regardless of whether their presence is desired or would even be beneficial.

But here, I present the test-to-end-all tests - the one and only true question that can be used to determine "Do I want such-and-such a person at my birth?"

And here it is! Drumroll, please!

"Would I feel completely comfortable using the bathroom stark naked in front of this person?"

And that's it! If the answer is yes, then (possibly) go ahead and invite. If not, then don't issue the invitation.

You see, birth is not just a major life event. It is also an extremely intimate and often private moment. During the labor and birth process, a woman will be vulnerable and exposed. She might groan, yell, swear, or scream. She might throw up, go to the bathroom, and have any or all of her most intimate body parts fully exposed. If you're not comfortable doing any and all of the above in front of possible attendees, DON'T INVITE!

And there you have it!

Here are a couple more things to consider:

(1) Sometimes an easy way to calm family politics is to invite no family members rather than issuing selective invitations.

(2) Got people who are inviting themselves? Great! Don't call them till the baby is born. Cuts down on the anxious phone calls and texting-wars anyway and gives parents more chance to focus on their labor rather than fielding various communiques, friendly or hostile.

(3) Crowds can distract and tire a laboring mother (who usually goes into entertainment mode with large numbers of guests), and large, noisy crowds can cause a labor to stall. Beware inviting large numbers of people.

(4) It's much easier not to invite than to invite and retract later - so invite with caution.

(5) Make sure that your guests are on board with your birth plan. Disapproving guests ("I never would have had MY baby at HOME" etc.) can be a real downer, and can even cause birth shipwrecks (for example, encouraging an unmedicated mum to get an epidural) if they are consciously or unconsciously trying to impose their own preferences on the labor.

What would you think about offering pregnant mamas guidelines on whom to invite to their births? Doulas and nurses and midwives, chime in! (And everyone else too!)


  1. I think that's a pretty good guideline for family members/friends...although I have to say, I feel like this doesn't really work for doulas. I have friends who have used me as a doula, and I don't think they would have used the bathroom naked in front of me! But in my "doula" role they were OK with it. Same goes for clients who are hiring me...we're strangers at first, but they're ready to bare it all knowing I'm cool with it ;-)

    I am lucky as a doula to have clients who have been pretty choosy about who to have with them. I have seen a few difficulties with family members but nothing really egregious that stands out. I love your tip about just not calling people who are self-inviting. I will say, a lot of my clients say they're not going to tell anyone that they're going into labor but in the excitement of the moment, it's hard for them to resist!

  2. Rebecca - Thanks for visiting!

    You're right, this doesn't hold for doulas... or really, for midwives, because in non-labor-land I wouldn't want to use the bathroom in front of either! But I think it's a good way to get people thinking about the intimacy of labor and who they want to invite into that intimate space. When this subject was being discussed at the meeting I referenced, a lot of women were talking about people in their lives whom they didn't really want to invite, but thought that they should invite, or who expected it, etc. It's always easier to think and NOT invite, than to invite and then think, "Oh, shoot!"

    With my first labor, my husband was on the phone first thing, and he spent the whole labor calling the family in rounds (mom, MIL, sister, mom, MIL, sister, etc.). It was quite aggravating! So for #2 and #3 (and all after) I have given him strict orders that no one will be called till after the baby is born - and it has been so much better, since it allows us to focus on the labor together, rather than on the barrage of texts and phone calls and the expectation of constant news updates.

    Love you doulas - you do work that I couldn't do! Thank you for what you do for all your mamas!! :)


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