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 Episode 203  

Today’s show we are going to get into the subject of WHO you give birth with.

You might wonder why this is even an issue. If you have not been in this position personally, I understand why you would be questioning that this is even an issue.  I was just like you at one time and I bet you anything so were some of my listeners before they gave birth the first time.  Up until that time, we have our dreams and hopes and fantasies and wishes about how our birth goes.  We have read and taken classes and have our birth plan – everything is ready to go.  The one thing, the one big thing that I failed to realize, is that there are just some things that are beyond our control.  By my second labor, I made my plans.  I had my hopes and wishes and dreams.  I also added one very important element the second time around though.  I had to make myself not  hold on to my dreams so closely.  Every day I had to tell myself that I will plan for the best and make room for the unknown and unexpected.

Until we go through it ourselves, it is hard for us to really, really understand what it is like to labor, work along with contractions.  We are very textbook smart and not necessarily real life savvy.  I learned that as the labor progresses you need the freedom to be yourself, to spend time uninterrupted and not have to pay attention to anyone or anything else except yourself.

WHO you give birth with, matters a great deal.  If it is helpful, this can give you a huge advantage and help you, help yourself.  If there is a person/persons who it turns out to be, are a hindrance and they are distracting you, not helpful, it may change the course of your whole labor and put you in circumstances that you did not plan for

The FIRST question to ask yourself:    What do you want?  

I have my own thoughts on this subject as I have been to many births and have facilitated groups in which the focus was on their labor and birth and moms have taken up to an hour or more to share their experience, in detail.  I have had the opportunity to listen to thousands of mothers talk about how they felt about their birth – Before and after.   My thoughts come from my own personal experiences and yes, of course, all the moms I have listened to their stories.

I also decided to do a little internet surfing and see what is currently going on in the birthing world that I am not aware of.  Sure enough, there is this new term I saw in several places.

The average women has an average of 8 people in the room during the course of giving birth.  This phenomenon is being referred to as “crowdbirthing.”  What a perfect term to use.  This is a far cry from what it was like when birth moved to the hospital and all family, including the dads, were banned from being in the labor room.  Gradually, from pressure from parents, Dads now accompanied the laboring mom.  Slowly, the tides kept turning and now if you wanted your mom or a doula in the room that was okayed.  Now, moms have their massage therapist, their birth photographer, their, mom, sister, best friend, sibling doula (there for a young child).  Crowd birthing is a good term for this.

Is this such a good idea for you?   I think until you actually give birth, some don’t realize that this puts the birthing mom in an awkward position.

Do you realize that you are the star of the show and some of the people you invite will be in your audience?  Viewing the show? Do they have a reason to be there?  Are they going to be helpful and doing things?  Or are they just going to be a spectator?

Should your Mother be at your birth?  How about your mother in law?  Your chiropractor that you are in love with because they have been adjusting you throughout the whole pregnancy and are the only reason you were able to continue working?  What about your Best friend?  Should she be at your birth?  Or your 4 year old?  What about the person who invited themselves?  They just made an assumption and you don’t know how to tell them no.

What if you said no?  But all these people are crowding into a room next to where you are laboring. You know they are all outside your door, hoping they can come in. Talk about performance anxiety!  Sheesh!

You may be able to pay attention to all these people in early labor.  This might actually work in your favor in early labor as distraction before you need to focus, can be an excellent helper.    However, as you progress through the stages of labor, your world becomes smaller and smaller. I remember having an awareness of all of my surroundings.  When you start labor you are aware of all your surroundings, the room you are in, the sights and sounds and smells.  You can easily listen and pay attention to what others are saying, to the music, to the TV show or movie you are watching, or the game you are playing to distract yourself.

But as your contractions become closer and longer, in order to work along with them and not fight it, you will need to concentrate on the contractions.  Focus on riding that wave and being aware of its peak and knowing when it begins to subside.  The more people you have around you, the more voices you have to pay attention to, the more questions you have to answer, the more you think you have to act a certain way, the more difficult it becomes to work along with your contractions.  Think about working on an important task, one that you need quiet and focus.  Each time someone distracts you get your head back into it again.  Labor is like this except even more so as the concentration and focus is so much more than a anything you have ever done before.   People hovering over us well for some of us, it makes us want to scream – Leave me alone!  I have had 2 take aside, quite lovingly a well meaning partner and suggest they just be there, close at hand, but ask if they need anything once in a while, to not ask after each contraction if it is over, if they are okay, if they need anything.   I can see that look on a laboring moms face a mile away and I can tell when she needs people to just keep quiet.

When things being to get hairy as they do for most of us in labor, you can literally sabotage your labor if you have others around you that are interfering in your ability to be yourself, to make noise and move and dance and sway and squat … on the floor, on the toilet…. I mean,, think about who you have asked to be with you  your labor.  Can you handle your mother or mother in law or sister in law or the neighbor next door or perhaps your photographer that you hired… seeing you in situations you might be uncomfortable with?  Do you want them to watch you lifting up your shirt/gown so you can squat on the floor, perhaps sit on the toilet bowl.

Can you imagine them hearing you becoming vocal? Your noises and groans getting louder and deeper.  Some of us make some incredible sounds like we are wild animals.  If you are going to feel inhibited to vocalize or cry or throw something in frustration, using foul language, with someone whom you have invited to your birth, you might rethink having them at your birth.

Not being able to labor uninhibited can cause your inability to work along with contractions, slow them down, stop them, making them worse then they need to be.  All of these scenarios put you at a greater risk to need interventions that perhaps you were hoping to avoid. Perhaps you have learned that medication can affect a newborn and you wanted to try and avoid this from happening.  Too many people around you can change the course of your labor and create a need for interventions that you might not otherwise have had.

About 13 years ago, I was a birth doula for a mom who was planning a home birth.  Speak about not wanting someone to see you squat over the toilet bowl, well this mom, we’ll call her Nancy.  The only way she could get into the rhythm of pushing and feel like she was pushing using the right energy, was by sitting on the toilet bowl.  She did so just by following her own way there.  None of us suggested it.  her mom had left her bedroom for a short while to feed her father and brother who were out in the living room.  When her mom came back and a few minutes later, Nancy, came out of a contraction haze she realized her mother was standing up, leaning against the sink in the bathroom and just looking down at her daughter.

Well, Nancy’s immediate response was to sit up straight and I swear she almost bounced off that toilet seat.  When the next contraction came, she leaned to hold on to her husband and dealt with a few contractions this way.

Myself and her midwife could feel the energy shift, could see that Nancy tightened she was holding her breathe, not vocalizing. This can work against you during your labor and actually making contractions more painful and less productive.  We recognized that having her on the toilet helped her to open up but she changed her positioning more than likely because she was embarrassed for her mother to see her like that.  So, she stood up and assumed a position that felt more acceptable for her to be seen laboring in, but not necessarily the one that felt the most comfortable for her.  She had performance anxiety.

After about 30-40 minutes, with her struggling, I took a chance, asked her mom to come sit with me in the kitchen for a few minutes.  The midwife talked to Nancy, asked her how she felt, intuition was right on. I asked her if she would like to tell her  mother herself and she said no.  Asked her if she would like for one of us to keep her mom outside, explain to her and keep her busy and she said yes.

If you are guessing that Nancy found her way back to the toilet, you are absolutely 100% correct.  She labored there for a while longer, pushed for a good half hour or more, until she decided she wanted to get off and stand up again.  She walked to her bed, climbed on top, got on all fours, staying here pushing, until her baby was born.

We talked about her labor afterwards.  She expressed to her midwife that she was glad someone had the presence of mind to take her mom out of the room and wait until the baby was born.  She had time to think about it and she said that there was no way she could be herself, on her bed, on all fours ,, with her breasts hanging down and legs spread and bodily fluids  coming out, while her mom watched.  She realized that she would have never assumed that position and she now feels that is exactly the position she needed to be in to birth her baby.

During your labor –

You may get hot.  You may get sweaty.  You may not be able to stand to have any clothes on you or have even loose pants or a dress or t-shirt on.  If left alone, you just know you would take your shirt off, perhaps your bra or perhaps put on a sports bra and no underwear at all.

But you are looking around the room and feeling like you have an audience, thinking to yourself… there is no way I am going to do that.  So, your labor continues… you are holding back vocalizing and this does not allow you to best work with your contractions.  You are holding back swaying your hips from side to side, something you intuitively begin to do, but then stop because you feel all these eyes on you in the room.

Having people in the room, who you cannot totally be yourself with, can have a dramatic negative effect on your labor. Labor truly is hard work and how we position ourselves can change how labor progresses.

Please take some time and think about the people you have invited or the people that you are thinking that you will probably have to say yes to… because they asked and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.  Please try and remember – This is your labor and your birth – Not theirs.  Some moms have said to be they don’t want to be selfish.  I would like to tell you – In this case, it is okay to be selfish.  Take care of yourself.  Please try hard to  not let the fear of upsetting or insulting someone cause you to make a grave mistake, one that you will regret for years to come.

You may not know this now, however there will be many, many, many more times when you will be put in a position where you will have to decide if you want to do something your way, or do it someone else’s way because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Let’s think about this for a few minutes.  Pick a time when you did something and it was under quiet protest, because you did not want to hurt someone else’s feelings.  The issue was important to you, it was personal, but you did not have the nerve to say or do anything different.  Think about how you felt afterwards – were you left feeling, angry, resentful. Were you pissed off at yourself for not voicing your preference? Did you walk away from that experience having regrets?  This is not about your partner or others.  This is your body, a private experience, only to be shared that you are comfortable with.

And yes, I have been privy to quite a few couples’s arguments about this.  Were he insists that it is his baby and his labor too.  Well, it is his baby, but not his body.  Tell him how you feel about being vulnerable in front of this person and remind him that you may be walking around in a state of half undressed, exposing body parts, making noise, peeing, and yes pooping ( happens when you are pushing and you cannot control it)  and how that will make you feel with an audience.

For you and your labor… and birth, what I want you to know is that.

Once your baby is born, family and friends will have all sorts of opinions… about babies name, what foods you feed your baby, sleeping habits, toilet training, you returning to work, breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public, how long you breastfeed for.  I betcha people all over the place for all kinds of decisions you make as a mother.

I have had to deal with this.  A personal situation related to one of my babies, not about the labor and birth but another issue.  I had strong feelings which differed from the majority.  I didn’t want hurt feelings  so I buckled under the pressure.  I am not quite sure I have ever forgiven myself for this and it is one of the only 2 regrets I have as a mother. Just one of 2.  I will save this story for another day.

Stay strong and let your voice and your wishes be heard on this one.  WHO you give birth with – matters a whole lot.  It matters how you feel about your birth, even years later.

WHO you give birth with – It matters if you felt it led to you feeling out of control or inhibited and caused you to need more intervention.

WHO you give birth with – It matters if you just could not relax, contractions were not doable, you asked for pain medication.  This pain medication slowed down your labor. Once your labor slowed down, you needed more  medication to speed it back up again.

Perhaps you felt pressured to walk or stand or sit a certain way cause others felt that would help your labor… and you weren’t feeling it.

WHO you give birth with can have a positive impact on your labor and birth or it can have a negative impact. Choosing the right people and not having them stray from what you anticipated them doing and being there for you during your labor is a beautiful thing.

This person or persons can be exactly what you needed.  Lifted you out of a dark place where you were exhausted and losing control and did not think you could go on. They can do and say all the right things to help get you back on track and realize the labor you have been hoping for.  This is the person/s you want to invite to your birth.

The wrong person – It can also leave you feeling that you made a big, bad mistake.

Now that I have you thinking about your birth and the people who will be there with you,So, what can you do to ensure you have the right people with you:

Here are some tips on how Choose your person/people carefully.

Ask yourself:

Would you feel weird having them come to your prenatal appointments?

Asking you personal questions?  medication, health issues,  surgeries, breast surgeries

What is your relationship like with this person?

Do you cringe at the thought of them being around you when you are sick and don’t look your best?

Do you ever get undressed in front of this person?

Would you ever have them stand outside the door while you are in the bathroom?

Birth is noisy

Think practically – Practically speaking…. is there enough room in the space that you are giving birth to have the number of people you want.  Things can get crowded pretty quickly.  You will want the ability to move around without feeling like you are laboring in Grand Central Station.

Discuss with them ahead of time that you might ask them to leave – Things change during labor and perhaps you no longer want that photographer there anymore.  She told you she would be on the sidelines and like a wallflower you would never know she was there. And now she is like in your face and coaching you when you don’t want to be coached.

Perhaps your best friend who is a birth doula is making you feel pushed into doing your labor her way, with way too much guidance on her part.

Perhaps your child, who you felt you prepared well for this, is becoming tired and whiny and needy and wants you to hold her and read her books and you just cannot do it.

You will need an adult to take her out of the room, at least for a little while.

It may seem awkward thing to do to have this discussion beforehand.  I can appreciate that. However, I also know that it can be much more awkward to have it during your birth.

Better that these people know ahead of time that the plan can change so they have been forewarned  than to s pring it upon them and increase their disappointment and hurt feelings during the the heat of the moment.

What about uninvited guests?  If there is a labor nurse who you are not connected with or who is rubbing you the wrong way… do not accept that this is the way it needs to be.  I have been to more than one birth in my time that this has happened.   You ask your partner to go to the nurses station and ask to speak with the head nurse of the nursing supervisor.  You explain the situation nicely this nurse is doing her job well, however, there personalities are just clashing and you can see this is upsetting your wife.  Ask very nicely ask if there is someone else who can please take your nurses place. You would appreciate it for your wifes comfort.

Preparing the invited birth guests ahead of time will help them not to be too disappointed or will help you worry too much about hurting their feelings because you had the discussion ahead of time. After you baby is born, who you have in your room in the first 24 hours and first few days matters: well this can have a major impact on breastfeeding.  Again you will be breastfeeding and to do this you need to have the freedom to have your breasts out of the bra and gown.

Me: being in room ready to help but they tell me to come back so visitors can be with you.

Me:  being in room but moms are shy to take out their breasts

Me:  mom not wanting to tell me something important with their health history in front of s omeone.

Baby being passed around and missing early feeding cues right after birth and over the next several days.

Feeling like a poor host and not wanting to leave the room or tell people they need to go home. This results in Missed feedings, awkwardness, music, TV, noisy people, on phones, distracting you tiring you out, not wanting to give baby back to you

All this can really make it difficult for you to relax and learn how to breastfeed your baby, how to get comfortable in your bed, drift off to sleep afterwards.

We have moved from the space of once birth moved into the hospital and moms were without there own home grown birth doulas – midwives and aunts and sisters and moms attending them, to the hospital where everyone was kept away from moms – not their husbands, their partners in life, their female tribe – moms, mil, sisters, aunts.  Then we slowly began to move back to Dads being “allowed” in the labor room, but they were then kept from going to the delivery room.  so, just when their baby was being born, they were left standing alone in the labor room.  Then they were allowed in the birth room.  Soon, the LDR, labor, delivery and recover room became more popular and this is where you stayed from admittance until shortly after baby was born before you were moved to your Pp room.

Then we went through a period of moms wanting their moms or a doula with them and had to choose between their partner or their doula.  I was caught in this position several times and the moms had to make the choices.

Gradually family members were allowed to be in the room.  But then there was a cap a limit on how many people.   We gradually moved to the place of now allowing siblings at birth in some hospitals.  Some hspitals have birthing center suites which are a rooms inside the hospital, however, the environment is different and the set up the furniture, the cot, the fridge, the cot to sleep

I have been with moms who have had their husband, their mother, their 3 year old, their birth doula, their best friend, their massage therapist or chiropractor, their birth photographer.  When teaching childbirth classes, I like to ask parents if they have thought of who will be with them during their labor and postpartum.  The feedback I get is varied, and not so uncommon to me at this point.

I carefully watch for body language as the moms talk about who will be there.  In every class there is usually at least one or both parents and at least one mom or couple, who seem to be giving me vibes that they are not too thrilled with one of the person they named.

I take this opportunity to talk about the importance of thinking carefully about who is with you during your labor and birth.   We all get so excited and videos and cameras and others are in the room. However, I want to remind you – Birth is a private and intimate life event.  This even involves you showing up in all your glory.  There are bodily fluids and things seen and happen that you might not otherwise feel comfortable having others see you in such a vulnerable position.   Perhaps you think it is fine.  and then the time is here and you realize that you do not wnt all these people, then what?

Vomiting, crying, working hard, vocalizing, asking for drugs, getting an epidural, walking around with your back exposed.  Having other parts exposed while you are examined during your labor,  high and lows..

We have gone from moms being attended to by female family members, guiding them, taking care of household for weeks postpartum, cooking for them, pampering them because they know how important the early days of getting breastfeeding going well is and how difficult it can be if there are too  many interruptions and responsibilities to take care of, to now having huge welcome home parties, picture taking sessions, relatives staying with you from out of town.  You wake up in your own home, come out of your bedroom and are greeted with people that are hopefully going to be helpful, create a peaceful environment and feed and take care of you.  If the opposite is happening, a frank and honest discussion needs to happen.

the whole landscape has changed and when parents want to know why breastfeeding is so hard for some moms, well who you have at your birth and the immediate days following, can definitely have an impact on your breastfeeding experience.  Welcome people who are helpful and understanding and help make things more comfortable for you and not be a hindrance.  Remember my mantra and let it become your mantra, your body, your birth, your baby.  You are not being selfish.  You are taking good care of yourself.




























Lori J. Isenstadt, IBCLC
Lori j Isenstadt, IBCLCLori Jill Isenstadt, IBCLC is a huge breastfeeding supporter.  She has spent much  of her adult life working in the maternal health field. Once she became turned on to birth and became a childbirth educator, there was no stopping her love of working with families during their childbearing years.  Lori became a Birth doula and a Postpartum doula and soon became a lactation consultant.  She has been helping moms and babies with breastfeeding for over 25 years.  Lori founded her private practice, All About Breastfeeding where she meets with moms one on one to help solve their breastfeeding challenges.  She is an international speaker, book author and the host of the  popular itunes podcast, All About Breastfeeding, the place where the girls hang out.  You can reach Lori by email at: [email protected] or contact her via her website:  allaboutbreastfeeding.biz/contact

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