There have been many fantastic articles about limiting the number of visitors you have at your birth. And many of the arguments for this view are very sound. Since becoming a doula, I’ve found many of my colleagues agree with Family Psychologist, Daniel Chable, who believes only those present for the conception should be at the birth (with the exception of medical and support staff). For them it’s a matter of being able to preserve the birth environment as a quiet, sacred space without conflicting emotions and opinions being presented to the laboring mother. As a woman who embraced the crowd birth experience, I have a different view of the matter.
I am not a shy, introverted, or private person. I can absolutely see that if you are that kind of woman or couple, you wouldn’t thrive in a crowded environment especially for something as intimate as birth. For me however, I feel loved and supported best when I am surrounded by my favorite people. Now notice I said “favorite people”. I am not one to advocate for allowing just anybody into your birth space. But when it’s the right people, people who do not add stress to your life, then they can really bring a layer of support to your birth that you can’t get elsewhere. I think Milwaukee CNM, Alyson Lippman, has it right when she says, "They can offer additional emotional or physical support, both for you and your partner, It's sort of the same idea as having a doula; you're inviting another person into this personal experience because you need or want the support. Birth is intense, unique, and you don't know how it'll go. Having people present make make you feel guarded, and labor is a time to not be guarded. You don't want to jeopardize your expereince."
With the birth of my son, I had 8 people present for his arrival. This included my husband, parents, close friend who acted as photographer, 2 midwives, a nurse, and a nursing student. In my immediate postpartum my mother-in-law and her step-daughter and another close friend arrived who were invited to the birth but couldn’t make it since he came so quickly from us getting to the center. Despite all those people, I never once felt overwhelmed but felt comforted knowing they were there for me and ready to help me in whatever way I needed.
"They can offer additional emotional or physical support, both for you and your partner." - Alyson Lippman
In advance to his birth, I made arrangements with everyone who would be present so that they would know exactly what their function was for the birth and what the rules were for being present. Then I prepared little guide books for everyone to reference on that day just in case the excitement of the moment lead to them temporarily forgetting. It was cute hearing them talk about referencing their guidebooks afterward and everyone held up to and exceeded my expectations.
This time around, I anticipate having even more people present. Since we use a free-standing birth center that utilizes little private 5 room birth cottages, there’s plenty of space for everyone to spread out without crowding the midwives and nurses. Since both my mother & mother-in-law live 500 miles away now, I don’t know if they will be able to make it although I hope they do. So instead I will be counting on close friends and colleagues to fill the roles of my doula, photographer, and sibling doula since I plan to have our son present as well. All together that means up to 8 people in addition to the medical staff.
I know crowd birthing is definitely not for everyone but it’s important to decide in advance who will be allowed at your birth. Your Doula Bag created a great test that all visitors should pass before getting invited to your labor and delivery.
So would you consider having a crowd birth?