Delivering your baby will be one of the most excruciating and wonderful occasions of your life. Your medical staff will become your dearest friends (at least for the day), and you’re bound to become closer to whomever you’ve invited to share the experience with you. As your due date draws near, decide who you would like by your side, and learn how to politely turn away the people you would rather not host in the delivery room.
OB or midwife
If you’ve been visiting an OB in a larger practice, you may see your own doc in the delivery room, or you could end up with one of his partners. (Scheduling an induction or C-section confirms which doctor you’ll have ahead of time, but these routes aren’t recommended unless medically necessary.) However, don’t panic if you can’t deliver with your own doctor—the OB will play a surprisingly small role in the delivery room. Unless there are complications, he will occasionally come in to check on your progress and reappear when it’s time to push. He’ll deliver the baby and placenta and then get on his way.
A midwife tends to be a more hands- on coach during labor. Of course, she may have other patients to attend to, but compared to an OB, she’s more likely to spend time helping you breathe through contractions, moving you into different positions and applying pressure to relieve some of your pain.
“Your labor nurse is the person most connected to your care,” says Courtney Foye, a labor and delivery nurse at North-side Hospital in Atlanta. “She is constantly monitoring mom and baby to make sure they’re both doing well. She knows how to manage your care from a medical, emotional and physical standpoint. She is your lifeline to the doctor. She knows what needs to be done and does it!”
You will get to know your nurse well, as she will be by your side for most of your labor. When you have questions or requests, direct them toward her. If you’ve brought a printed copy of your birth plan, you can go over it with your nurse as well. L&D nurses have seen it all, and they’re calm under pressure. They are the MVPs of the delivery room!
While the anesthesiologist isn’t in the room for long, her presence is crucial if you’re hoping for an epidural. (IV medications can be administered by a nurse.) It can feel like an eternity when you’re sweating through labor pains, waiting for the anesthesiologist to arrive. When she does get there, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get the epidural inserted and operating, but when that sweet relief hits, you’ll be singing her praises.
Giving birth is a tremendously intimate affair. You will be fully exposed, both physically and emotionally, so you will want to be accompanied by only those you feel extremely comfortable with—people who can watch you sweat, grunt and curse and love you all the more for it.
Many women choose to bring just their partner into the delivery room. Witnessing the newborn miracle you created together is certainly an experience that can bring you closer as a couple. Your partner can be as involved in labor as you want him to be. Bradley method adherents will have the dad coaching the mom throughout labor. Lamaze enthusiasts can implement breathing strategies they learned together. Other couples assign specific tasks, like fetching ice chips and rubbing mama’s feet.
It’s smart to discuss the role you would like your partner to take before you find yourselves at the hospital. Decide together how involved he will be; if you both agree that his best option is sitting quietly beside you, holding your hand, then do that! He’ll like knowing what to expect (dads can sometimes feel a tad useless in labor and delivery), and you won’t have to worry about him getting overly involved if that’s not what you want from him.
Some women also choose to bring their mothers, sisters or other close female friends or relatives into the delivery room, especially if their partners can’t be there. Invite only those you can trust to be helpful and unobtrusive; make sure they know what you expect from them and why you want them there.
Depending upon your relationship with your mother or sister, it can be reassuring to have her by your side. If she has birthed babies of her own, she may be more helpful than your honey in offering advice, understanding what you’re feeling and doling out tough love if necessary. If your mom is willing, your nurse may even get her more involved by asking her to help hold your feet when you push. The whole experience will bond you in a way that’s impossible to duplicate.
Delivery rooms are not huge, so bringing in extra spectators will only complicate matters and may disrupt the medical staff. Keep the sidekicks to a minimum (no more than two or three). It’s easy enough to explain: “My partner and I would like it to be just us at the delivery.” Family and friends may be disappointed but should understand and respect your privacy.
Things get trickier when more people are invited (while others are not). For example, if you have invited your mother to be at the delivery but don’t care to have your mother-in-law join you, you’ve crossed into dangerous territory. To your mother-in-law, this looks like a great imbalance—this is her grandchild, too, so why can’t she be at the birth?
Deanna Brann, PhD, author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along with Your Mother-in-law or Daughter-in-law, suggests discussing the matter in advance, whether your mother-in-law introduces the topic or not. Say something like this: “Because the delivery room will be a little crazy, and I don’t want to have too many people in there, let’s schedule a time when it’s just you visiting with us and the baby without other people around.” Name a specific date within a week of baby’s birth; this way, the new grandma will know she has the visit to look forward to, and you don’t have to worry about working something into your schedule later on.
If your mother-in-law really wanted to attend the birth, she will still be disappointed, but try your best to help her feel special and included. Try phrasing it this way: “It’s important to us that you’re a special part of our child’s life, and we can’t wait for you two to meet each other after she arrives.”
A similar approach would work with any close friends and family—even your own parents—who might feel like they’re missing out when they’re not at the birth. You have the right to set boundaries, and you will want to feel completely comfortable with everyone in the delivery room.