What To Say When You Don't Want Your Family at Your Birth
Today I'll share some tips on what to say when you're not sure how to let your family and friends know that you don't want them at your birth.
That's even hard to read, isn't it, let alone say out loud to those same family and friends! I totally understand why you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and disinvite those who assume they'll be there during your baby's birth, or perhaps those who you've invited before you realized you didn't want them present. As a mother myself I understand why your own mom wants to be at your birth, wants to be one of the very first to meet your baby, wants to know that her daughter (you) is safe throughout the birthing process. As a doula, I understand that it is imperative that you create the setting that is most conducive to you letting go of worry and feeling safe and secure. Often this means just you and your husband or partner are present, along with your professional birth team.
Here's the deal. Birth is hard. It's long. It's painful. It is full of uncertainty and tough decisions and letting go of ego and pride. It's full of tears and other bodily fluids. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful and punctuated by joyful, even blissful moments. But, it may not be the time for a family reunion in the waiting room.
What happens is that in order for birth to progress steadily and normally, your body produces oxytocin, the "love" hormone. It's what is released during orgasm and is also responsible for starting labor. If you've heard of Pitocin, the medication that your friends have used for inducing labor, well, that is synthetic oxytocin. We can go ahead and bypass Pitocin altogether if we can produce and maintain our own stores of oxytocin. Good idea? Way to go, nature! You've heard of fight or flight? Having family members present can be a perfect example of activating your adrenaline response, or the "fight" response. Adrenaline and Oxytocin work in an inverse relationship. When adrenaline is high, oytocin plummets. When adrenaline spikes, labor stalls. When people are present that are stressing you out, labor stalls and can become complicated.
So how do we produce our own oxytocin? If we can get out of our own mind's way and allow ourselves to release and relax into our upcoming labor, that's a huge start. We need to feel safe and secure, comfortable and trust in those around us (think of the environment our foresisters needed in order to give birth hundreds of years ago (quiet, dim, secluded)...think of the environment we need in order to release into lovemaking...notice any similarities? In both situations, oxytocin abounds!). We need to quiet our fears and we need to let go of our Caretaker role and allow ourselves to be cared for. What happens when our extended family members and friends flock to our birth place in the name of "support"? Often, it is what is responsible for many a stall in many a labor. Surely they are well meaning, and truly are being helpful and want to show you they care for you. What often happens is just the opposite. You, as the birthing mother, are uber-aware that others are waiting on you in the other room. You feel like you're being watched. You wonder if they are staying the whole time until your baby is born. You start doing the math and calculate how many hours they've been there, if they've eaten, if they are *still waiting*!!! You care for them with one part of your mind, which prevents you from slipping into what we call "Laborland", where you access that lovely Oxytocin. Worse still, your husband or partner has the job of keeping waiting family updated which directly takes time away from supporting you. But, your mom is happy, right?
Take this advice. It is OK to clear out your birth room. "Oh Auntie Sue, we're so glad you stopped by! I thought I'd be up for visitors but this is getting intense. I'd like to have some privacy. Love you!" It's OK to clear out the waiting room, and is often the job of your partner. "Mom and Dad, Kelly is doing great and we'd like to keep labor progressing. Our doula and nurses suggested that our family leave the waiting room because Kelly is feeling anxious about you all being here and it's actually slowing down labor's progress. Thanks for understanding! I'll call you as soon as baby is born." It's even better to discuss with your family and friends ahead of time why you will call them once baby has arrived. "We learned that in order for Kelly's body to release and relax in labor, it's best not to have visitors during her labor. We know you want the best outcome for us! We know you really wanted to be present for the birth but we've decided that we'll call you the moment baby is born, and we'll text just beforehand so you can all light a candle for the baby's arrival."
You can also give friends and family a special task while you're in labor, such as baking baby's birthday cake, or finding a special keepsake, or possibly creating a new tradition unique to your family. The possibilities are endless. The days of the expectant grandparents waiting in the waiting room are over.
I also want to make space for those of us who truly do have experienced and helpful family and friends on our birth team. In some occasions, a grandmother or sister or even best friend has been just what the birthing mom needed. Some birthing mothers feel more at ease with their mother in the room, and some of these grandmothers have even taken my Birthing From Within classes along with their daughters! So this advice isn't across the board. But generally, you and your partner know when you're in over your head and your outspoken family members have made their birth decisions for your birth.
One last note: it can be really difficult to put on your own "mom and dad" hats and find your voice to stand up to your parents, family and friends. It's part of becoming parents and protecting your own new family. In all of the labors I've been to, when the birthing mom and dad waited and called family and friends after baby's arrival, not once were they received with anger! For goodness sake, your baby was just born and you handled it like the parents you are! Nicely done! As they say, it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. The question becomes, HOW will you handle this issue before your birthing day? Will you shy away from it, or will you meet it head on, will you avoid the conflict or resolve it, will you work through the tough emotions or will you hide and retreat? There are countless ways to handle a situation such as this. How will your story play out?
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