SUPPORT PEOPLE & WITNESSES
Other than your medical or midwife team and possibly a doula, who do you want to have in your birthing space? It is for you to decide. It is common for your partner to be there with you, if you so choose. My doula asked my partner a key question in our prenatal consultation: Which type of birth partner are you – the one right in the action and ready to catch the baby, the one up by the mother’s head while holding her hand but keeping a comfortable distance, or the one passing out in the hallway outside the room? This distinction is extremely valuable to know ahead of time. You can’t know exactly how you or your partner will handle the birth experience, but it is helpful to determine the ballpark scenario you envision for yourselves. Your partner should also know what and where important items are, such as the packed hospital bag, before labour begins. I also feel strongly that your partner should at least skim over the part in your baby book that tells you what to do if the baby is born before any help arrives. It is an unlikely scenario, but one that would feel a tad less panicky if your partner knows even the most basic birth protocol, like what to do with the placenta. Keep in mind, too, that in this unlikely scenario you will be able to call your midwife or an emergency medical responder who is trained to walk you through the process over the phone as it’s happening.
Depending on limits due to your space, you may choose to have additional support people or witnesses with you in the room or virtually. Consider carefully and make sure you are inviting them, rather than them inviting themselves. No one should feel entitled to intrude on that time and space; not your best friend, not your family members, not your child’s father or adoptive parents – no one. You know best who will bring stress and tension into the room, and who will make it a safe haven where you can be seen, heard and honoured at your most vulnerable.
It’s a good idea to be clear about what kind of help you desire from each person. For example, do you want a specified person to drive the car to the birth centre, take photos or notify select people as soon as the baby is born? Are there things you don’t want them to do? Perhaps you don’t want certain scents or perfumes, or you don’t want a lot of chatter and conversation when labour intensifies. Be comfortable verbally communicating your wishes either before or during labour. If you want privacy and moments alone with your partner, you have every right to ask others to accommodate that. It is also advisable to remind them that they cannot do the hard part for you. Because these are the people who love you most, they may want to save you from the pain and discomfort of labour and birth but, ultimately, all they can do is bear witness. It is a great honour to see a woman in all her power and watch a new life emerge and, as much as they are there for you, the act of witnessing will be a profoundly altering and significant event in their lives as well. It is a sacred gift.
Remember that you can also draw comfort and strength from people who are no longer with us. You may simply connect with them on a spiritual level during your moments of struggle, or you can bring their presence into the room through the use of photographs or objects. For example, you could have a photograph of a deceased parent or grandparent displayed. You could light a candle in memory of someone special to you. You could wear an item of clothing or jewelry that belonged to a lost loved one. You could also hold an item that bears significance to you, like the collar of a pet that passed on, or any other kind of memento. If inclined, you may also use crystals to invite ancestors and spirit guides, guardians or angels to be present with you in your birthing space. What matters is that the labouring mother feels connected and supported.