How To Baby: Choosing A Birth Partner

Birth is an event. It's not really in anyone's control, honestly. Sometimes it can feel like a wild rollercoaster ride that has left the station and gone off the rails. Other times, it can feel like a slow-moving ship gliding silently through the waves in the darkest night. While we can have influence over the birthing process, we don't have control. By we, I mean everyone and anyone. Your doctor cannot control the way you birth. A midwife cannot, a doula cannot, your mother cannot. Your life partner cannot change the course.

I don't say this unnerve you, but to hammer home how serious I am. This is the big leap of faith that you're choosing when you decide to have a baby. It's not just a leap of faith that the pregnancy will go well and the baby will be born without complication, but that the baby themselves will be happy and healthy, too. Sometimes even the act of labor can cause lifelong difficulties that simply can't be forseen or avoided. For example, shoulder dystocia can cause nerve damage in a baby's arm - but there's no real way to predict if or when dystocia will happen during birth.

Take heart, brave mama! While you may not have control over birth, you do have quite a bit of influence. You can create a birth plan, choose methods of pain relief, and even pick what you want to wear! While your birthing center may have a rule against eating while in labor, you can eat before you check in to labor & delivery. Two of the biggest zones of influence I group into large categories called, "Environment" and "Audience".

Environment isn't always a matter of choice, to be honest. You may dream of a home birth but find that pregnancy complications necessitate birth in a specific hospital unit. But even within that restriction, you have influence. You can choose the music that they play in O.R. during your C-section, did you know? If you're laboring to have a vaginal delivery, you can play your own music, dim the lights, add Christmas lights or even flameless candles. Some hospitals allow aromatherapy - but be advised, not all essential oils are safe for baby and can cause reactions in others. Don't forget to pack comfy socks, slippers, and a robe. There's nothing more uncomfortable than living in a hospital gown for a few days, butt flapping in the wind. Nobody needs that - the mesh panties are enough as it is.

But audience? Audience is key.

First, your care provider - choose someone you feel you can trust, who empowers you to make informed decisions, and who listens and teaches well. While you may be assigned a random nurse when you're checked in, know that you can request a different nurse if they rub you the wrong way. (And you don't have to take "No" for an answer to that request.) For everyone else, remember that it's your choice. If you're worried that nosy people are going to try to bust in at the last minute, add them to a banned list with the charge nurse. Trust me, nobody wants to mess with the charge nurse. She's herding cats in the dark with a whistle, and she has no time to tolerate shenanigans!

Supportive birth partners, be they family, life partner, or doula, share many of the same characteristics.

  • Calming Presence
  • Respectful of your choices
  • Knowledgeable on what to expect during labor
  • Informed of your preferences and able to make them happen
  • Comfortable with hospitals/birth centers/doctors
  • Laboring-mom-focused
  • No drama

And most of all: they know their place. They are not the mother, so they don't get to hold the baby until mom says it's okay. Maybe they're not so great with the sight of blood? Great - stay toward the head of the bed! Every single person in the room where you deliver should be pouring energy and focus and love into you. At that time, their situation takes a backseat. "Leave it at the door," like my old speech coach said. With that kind of support, a birthing mom's outcomes really do improve! Just look at what doulas alone have done for birth.


Who was in the room when you gave birth? Was there anyone you didn't want there? Tell me what you changed about your environment to make it more birth-friendly on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #BirthMatters - can't wait to hear from you!

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