Is it a bad idea to give birth without support people?
May 20, 2019 10:03 AM   Subscribe

As my due date (for my first pregnancy) nears, I'm starting to wonder if I'd be calmer if I didn't have my spouse or another non-medical professional in the room with me, for a few reasons.

1. I'm afraid that I'll end up self conscious and thinking about my husband's reactions and feelings rather than focusing on the labor. (Not that he's given me any reason to feel this way.)

2. My mother is visiting from out of town, and she is a very anxious person, and is particularly anxious about my pregnancy and the birth. I would absolutely not want her in the room. If she's alone in the waiting room, however, I know she will be mess. We don't have any other relatives or close friends near by, so it may be better for my husband to keep her company. I think I'll end up worrying about her otherwise.

3. After some thought, I decided I'm not comfortable with a doula. I'm a very private person, and interacting with strangers stresses me out. Also, I get doulas are supposed to help advocate for you, but I don't trust myself to contradict any directions by nurses or doctors -- so in what context would I need to "advocate" for myself anyway?

Given the circumstances, would going solo be a terrible idea? If it matters, I'm hoping for a mostly unmedicated birth, but I'm not opposed to epidurals if it comes to it. Any tips by women who have labored alone would be appreciated too.
posted by redlines to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I forbade my mother from going to the hospital and told her she wouldn't even know I was in labor until it was done. I felt so vulnerable and exposed and couldn't handle the feeling of potential intrusiveness or caretaking required.

It's your birth. Do it the way you feel like you need to. I'd suggest having your partner on standby though, so if you want the extra help he can be there quickly. Having someone to push against in contractions was nice. And to joke during the moments of boredom. (You can be there a while.)

Birth can be very meditative and being alone might be helpful. But you may also have a variety of reactions you wouldn't have predicted. I would encourage you to think about partner being in the waiting room or even let partner know your concerns and strategize ways that he can help avoid those things happening.

This internet stranger says you get to make your own birthing plan, and you can buck whatever conventions you want to in the process.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:13 AM on May 20, 2019 [20 favorites]

It doesn’t matter who, but you need someone who can advocate for you. Not against adversaries, hopefully, but in the event that there’s a lot going on it will be very helpful. I was in an overloaded triage area and in transition; the overworked nurses seem to have thought that I was being dramatic and then that I had pre-eclampsia; what I actually had was a baby. My husband was able to help with a nurse whose English was a little rougher than you’d expect, and eventually buttonholed a resident to insist that I really, really needed a delivery room. My son was successfully born Not In the Hallway, thanks to his intervention.

Maybe your mom can bring her own support person.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:18 AM on May 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

I don’t remember much that my husband did in the delivery room aside from almost pass out (I remember a lot about what the nurses did, so it’s not like I had a total memory lapse). That said, he wanted to be there for the birth, and I’m glad he got to see our baby immediately. He is much better at remembering all the things that happened immediately after the birth, plus he went with our son to the NICU when they made that call, so I’m very glad he was there.

I am very much in favor of having your mom wait at your house and suck it up. You have your own stuff to deal with, and if you or the baby need any additional interventions, you should be able to go through with that without worrying for one nanosecond about how your anxious mom is going to react.

(I have an anxious mother-in-law, and my husband usually tells her about our [chronically ill] kid’s hospitalizations after we are discharged. I tell my mom when we are admitted because she is a retired pediatric hospital nurse and can provide useful info sometimes.)
posted by Maarika at 10:19 AM on May 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

Snuggling a sleeping 2week old as I type this :) I hear you thinking so much about others in this post and I want to give you a big hug.

There are no rules here, personally I would release myself of worry and responsibility for my mother’s feelings and just tell my husband what I’m thinking I might need - whether privacy or support.

I think it all depends how your labor goes - slow and crampy then you may want company, fast and furious and you will get to a point when you don’t care. If you’re not going for epidural then yeah you’ll get to a point where there is no self consciousness. It’s just not the same setup as someone seeing you on the toilet or any other embarrassing situation. All of your mind will be focused on this one thing and concern for impression management just isn’t there.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:21 AM on May 20, 2019 [6 favorites]

I consider myself a very private person too, and certainly didn't want any family members around during my labor (or even at the hospital at all--we didn't have any visitors until after we were home), but I did have my husband and a doula with me. Two things I want to point out:

1. For a lot of the time, especially during early labor (I was there the entire time because I was induced), no one else is in the room. The doctors and nurses only come in at specified times, or if your monitors are going off or similar. I would have been really lonely and/or bored. (My husband and I listened to music and did a crossword puzzle while I was in early labor.)

2. I had a doula in part because I wanted someone who could take care of or spell my husband if he needed a break or food or something, so I didn't have to worry about him. Also, it was great to have her be able to switch off with my husband for helping me in comfort positions/back pressure, especially during the long stretches that the nurses and doctors weren't in the room with me.
posted by CiaoMela at 10:26 AM on May 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

I don't think you have to go all or nothing on your partner being with you vs. with your mom. He can go back and forth to the waiting room to give her updates and hang out with her for a bit. Maybe send her on missions to go buy this or that thing that you want.

Have you talked to your partner about your feelings? Can you make a plan where you can make decisions moment-to-moment and not decide how it's going to be ahead of time? Because I can tell you as a first-time birthing person, you really can't predict ahead of time what it's going to be like or how you're going to feel. You may find that you really really need his support (and massages--this is not an insignificant thing), or you may find that you'd rather he not be there, but it's really unpredictable. Hormones are crazy and pain is even crazier. It may be a slow boring birth with you sitting in a room doing not much of anything for 10 hours. It might be crazy fast and scary. Or anything in between.

I will say that doulas are not there to contradict medical professionals. They are there to be the one birth professional in the room focused entirely on your comfort and needs. Everyone else is worrying about the baby. And for a lot of the time, the nurses aren't really paying that close of attention to you at all, unless you have an emergency or precipitous birth. They're not staying in the room with you, they're coming in every now and then to make sure you're okay. So it's not like you'll be alone with some nurses and doctors, you'll really just be totally alone.

As to this:
I'm afraid that I'll end up self conscious and thinking about my husband's reactions and feelings rather than focusing on the labor.

Sooooo you know the trope in movies where the woman in labor who is normally very sweet and demure starts screaming obscenities at everyone? This is not entirely made up Hollywood bs. Once things really get going, the mental bandwidth necessary to care about anyone else is just not available.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:34 AM on May 20, 2019 [19 favorites]

Labor never really goes the way you expect. Sometimes there's emergency stuff happening, sometimes it goes on forever, sometimes it's a on of people planning and God laughing.

I've had three kids and their dad was essentially useless but I would have wanted him there, mostly so he could run interference if I needed an advocate quickly.

Sooooo you know the trope in movies where the woman in labor who is normally very sweet and demure starts screaming obscenities at everyone? This is not entirely made up Hollywood bs.

THIS. You'll not be in any space to care about your husband or your mom. I have a similarly anxious mother. I told her she was not invited to the hospital and to not come see me until I had been home for a week. I didn't want my new baby experience to be tainted with her panic. She argued with me but I held firm.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:40 AM on May 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd recommend having your husband at hand during labor/delivery. I've given birth three times and every time it was really helpful to have my husband there to fetch the nurse if needed, and later to help advocate with the doctors/nurses while I was busy concentrating on breathing. It's also great to have company - you may be there for a good long while. Also, I'm a very private person too but when it was time to push I completely didn't care how many people were in the room; my friends who have also given birth have said the same.

Another consideration - one of my kids needed care in the NICU following birth (mostly precautionary, not an emergency) and my husband was able to follow the neonatal team to the NICU, take pictures and report back to me once I was recovering. Hopefully this will not be something you'll experience, but it made a huge difference for me that someone was able to go be with the baby if I couldn't.

If your mom is anxious, definitely don't invite her into the l/d room. YISYIWY above says it well.
posted by sencha at 10:43 AM on May 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

I did what you’re thinking of doing, not on purpose, but 100% would do again.
posted by lakeroon at 10:49 AM on May 20, 2019

If you found the _right_ doula, couldn't that person help manage your husband and mother? It sounds like you might need that kind of help. Maybe you could just set boundaries really well with the doula, or find one who would be good at helping you set boundaries. Defending your privacy sounds like a really good job for someone else, especially someone with experience who can explain to others, each of the eighty-nine times needed, exactly _why_ it's important to leave you alone.
posted by amtho at 11:04 AM on May 20, 2019

Before I switched specialties a year ago, I was an L&D nurse[1] for 12 years. I took care of many women who had no support people with them and undoubtedly would have benefited from the presence of a loved one.

I also took care of many, many women whose visiting friends and family made them anxious and miserable for every second of their labor, delivery, and recovery. They undoubtedly would have been better off alone.

Most people were happier to have someone else in the room with them when that someone else was the right person. In that respect labor is very much like an acid trip.

You are not "most people." You are you, and if you think you'll be happier alone and are generally someone with good instincts about your own preferences, absolutely do it your way.

That said, I would recommend having someone on call in case you change your mind, ideally someone who is respectful of your boundaries and won't argue with you or take it personally if you never call them/call them and decide you don't want them there after all and ask them to leave again/call them and then refuse to let them out of your sight even when they just need to use the bathroom.

[1] If you tell your nurse you want no visitors, it will be her great pleasure to keep people out of your room. I know that most visitors believe they're being helpful, but at very least half of them have deep misunderstandings about the physiologic processes of childbirth but don't let that stop them from offering unsolicited advice, cannot resist the urge to tell horror stories about their own labors and births at the least opportune times, and are basically in the way both physically and emotionally.
posted by jesourie at 11:24 AM on May 20, 2019 [39 favorites]

I would recommend having your spouse with you in the room. Mine was with me and was able to run for a medical staff person when I was like "uhh, this feels different from what happened prior." The staff strolled in leisurely and then had a "holy fuck that's a HEAD" reaction and sprang into action. If he hadn't been there I would have only been able to yell for help.
posted by Liesl at 11:28 AM on May 20, 2019 [9 favorites]

A couple things to note, your doula does not need to be a stranger to you. You could interview doulas and see what you think of them, their approach and see if you gel. You might find someone who really puts you at ease and you might find the idea less foreign and really comforting. Doulas are there, as noted above, to support the mother. Given that you said you wanted an unmedicated birth, they can help you in that area depending on how strongly you feel about it. And if you are open to some medication, you can have that discussion with the doula now to see how they might approach that issue. I made use of a post-partum doula and it honestly is the single best thing that I did for myself, my husband and my kid. I didn't want any of the grandmas there right after birth but, as it turns out, I needed the support but I needed the kind of knowledgeable, low-stress support and care that a doula provides. And she helped my husband make the transition to a confident and able Dad which, OMG! That was the best.

As for your husband as support, talk that through with him. Tell him you are worried that you won't be able to focus on your birth because you'll be too worried about him. He may (hopefully will) surprise you with his thoughts about this. He should be preparing himself to 1) be a support to you and 2) take care of his own needs and 3) be ready to take on baby care duties immediately. I had a long labor, did a bunch of it unmedicated, then semi-medicated, then epidural, then C-section! We were both tired as fuck by the end of it but once my husband got some rest, he jumped right in on baby care and talking to doctors and nurses. He had read a few books on babycare and when the doula showed up post-partum, he had lots of his own questions that he wanted answered and she helped him figure out a good baby-carry wrap that enabled him to feel like he wasn't just trapped under baby.

Anyway, just some thoughts on these two issues. Birth is a personal and momentous journey that is different for every one and every baby. I wish you all the best and the right kind of support that you need. Advocate for yourself now by being open about your wishes and needs.
posted by amanda at 11:32 AM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

If your mom weren't involved, would you want your husband there? It seems like your mom needs to maybe be elsewhere being cared for by someone who is not also one of your primary sources of support.

If, after taking your mom out of the picture, you REALLY don't want your husband there, you can consider not having him there. But if you mostly don't want him there because he should take care of your mom instead, that is not something I am okay with (on your behalf). I get that your mom is anxious, and it's kind of you to worry, but you are doing something much more important than caring for your mom's unmanaged anxiety.

I also think that, unfortunately, you should have another adult who is with you 100% of the time while you are laboring unless you find that it is really, really impossible for you to relax. The nurses don't sit with you the whole time, they are in and out. They seem to rely, to some extent, on partners/family to alert them to weird/bad situations.

It's also the case that you are not likely to want constant fetal monitoring; having another adult there will make the nurses a lot happier to leave you relatively unmonitored / free to move around.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:36 AM on May 20, 2019 [17 favorites]

The staff strolled in leisurely and then had a "holy fuck that's a HEAD" reaction and sprang into action. If he hadn't been there I would have only been able to yell for help.

To add to this, I also had a situation that felt "off" and while my nurse just happened to be in the room while it happened, I have no idea how I would have gotten help if I were alone. You do get a call button but I would not underestimate how easy it is to lose track of them, not have the presence of mind to find it and push it, etc.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:38 AM on May 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

I think the best idea for labor is to have a plan you're most comfortable with, being open to the fact that once you're in active labor, your plan can very easily and drastically change, both by your own will and by uncontrolled circumstances, and also that at some point in labor, you're extremely unlikely to give a single shit about any of it.
posted by OnefortheLast at 11:39 AM on May 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

With my second child, I gave birth alone except for medical personnel, and it wasn't a particularly big problem, but it was also (a) my second time at the rodeo; (b) an extremely short labor/delivery; (c) I am an extremely, to-the-nth-degree independent person so I was already doing the whole pregnancy/single-parenting in a 3rd world squatters settlement with no relatives and no pre-existing friends thing. Giving birth was possibly less scary than other aspects of the situation I found myself in.

I absolutely believe you should feel like the Decider here (and mom needs to stay the heck out of the L/D room, for sure), but if you are concerned about feeling self-conscious about your husband's reactions and feelings if he's in the room, will having him not in the room change that? In other words, will excluding him also make you feel self-conscious and worried about his feelings? I think you should put some very careful consideration into what you will gain by not having the distraction of him there, versus what the two of you may lose in terms of this very significant experience.
posted by drlith at 11:53 AM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Mom should 100% stay home. Ask your husband to communicate this to her if you are concerned you won't be able to set the boundary by yourself.

Talk to your husband about your concerns about self-consciousness and privacy, and explain to him that you may ask him to leave the room from time to time, but that he should stay close in case things change. It's a very intense experience for us Dads, too, and honestly I would have welcomed an opportunity to stretch my legs and clear my thoughts by myself for a few minutes at several points, but my wife and I hadn't talked about that in advance, so I felt like it was important that I not leave.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2019 [9 favorites]

I generally feel comfortable in hospital environments and don’t mind being on my own (result of a lot of hospital stays as a child), so I 100% get you if that’s the environment for labour you want and would feel happiest with.

That said: I am glad my husband was there for my labours. Specific things that were helpful to me in having him there:

- For the first labour, where I had an epidural, I was bored and he was there to talk to. I know labour isn’t generally a boring thing but... it was, after a while. There was a big breaking news story at the time and he read me the updates and we talked about it. It gave me something to focus on other than the potentially worrying stuff that was going on with the birth, and isn’t really something I could have asked the medical staff to do.

- For my second, where I didn’t have an epidural (I used gas and air/nitrous oxide which dulls experience of the pain to a point but still lets you feel a lot of it), I wanted him to stroke my back. I have no idea why; I am not a tactile person and usually I want nobody near me when I’m in pain. You may well not feel the same. But you might fond yourself as I did wanting some kind of specific, constant thing that the medical staff won’t be in a place to do.

- Both my births ended up being emergency caesareans. The first was under spinal block, so I was conscious for it, and my husband held the baby while they sewed me up. The second was under general anaesthetic and he couldn’t be in the room, so as soon as the baby was born and they were satisfied she was okay they brought her to him and he held her for the first 90 mins or so until I was conscious and in the recovery room. I’m glad he was there for that, and for the second birth especially I’m glad the baby’s first time after birth was with one of us, even if that wasn’t me.
posted by Catseye at 12:14 PM on May 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

You do you.

I (a husband) was in the delivery room with my wife for all four of our kids, but I would have bailed out if she'd asked. At once point she said not to talk much, and I knew to fade back. Totally I was there Just In Case, like when the dumb monitoring belt kept slipping off. And I was a gofer for the delivery nurses: I held a leg, or went for ice, or was an ear to yell into. :7) But I was also there to cut the cord, and cry a little, and greet my kids -- and missing that would have hurt our relationship, I think.

soren_lorenson has good advice: your husband's need will pretty much fade from your mind when thing get busy, and I am fairly certain that you won't be spending much time thinking about his emotional state...which is totally appropriate. But if you need to have a person -- any person -- there at some point and you don't (because those wonderful nurses can't hang out in your room the whole damn time), then you will be in a bad situation.

Again, you do you, but maybe it's better to have and not need than need and not have.

(One possible idea about your mom, who like 10,000% shouldn't be there fussing: Make a list of several things for your mom to do while you're at the hospital -- fresh sheets on the bed, please, get the ice packs into the freezer, dig up the shower gifts, etc. -- that simply Must Get Done once you leave to deliver, and then she can do that while she waits, and also be on phone relay duty. [Spoiler: there won't be any messages for her to relay.])

Good luck, I hope the big day goes well, and welcome to the craziest years of your life! :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:15 PM on May 20, 2019 [9 favorites]

me: ... those wonderful nurses can't hang out in your room the whole damn time...

I should say that for I think our third child, two chipper young ladies in new scrubs were brought into he delivery room before things got exciting: two student nurses, and could they observe? My wife kind of rolled her eyes and then agreed. They stuck around for hours, not really talking -- and after a few minutes we literally ignored them. They weren't any help because they didn't know what was going on or where anything was, so it was still good that I remembered where the heated closet with the warm blankets was from the last time we'd had a kid there, and we knew when to call the L&D nurses. I have a hazy memory of them bailing out of the room at some point, or maybe one of the nurses kicked them out. Gotta learn somehow, I guess... :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:19 PM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I (husband) was with my wife when she gave birth. She went into labor early and we had our doula meet us at the hospital. The doula wasn't allowed in the delivery room (for some reason I cannot remember) but she could shout encouragement from the hallway.

Since our son was premature, we were incredibly fortunate to have the doula stay with mom while I went with our son to the NICU - I didn't have to make the choice of who to be with right after the birth.

During delivery, I was north of all the action (wife had a screen beneath her neck as it was a c-section) but perhaps you can have something similar with a vaginal birth if privacy is a concern.

I think it's 100% up to you - just offering a data point.
posted by Twicketface at 12:26 PM on May 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Labor, especially first-time labor, can take a long time, and it can be nice to have a supportive spouse around to talk to, hold your hand, snuggle with, and fetch and carry stuff, especially if you're on a monitor or have an epidural.

I'm also going to say that my husband is as reasonable and sweet-natured as can be, and if I hadn't wanted him in the delivery room because I wanted to be alone he would have been okay with it, if disappointed. However, if I had asked him not to be in the delivery room at the birth of his child because I wanted him to babysit my mother in the waiting room, it probably would have been tremendously disappointing to him and ruined his relationship with her completely.

If you think that, all other things being equal, you would like to have your husband with you, you should have him with you. Maybe your mother can hire a doula for herself.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:33 PM on May 20, 2019 [13 favorites]

For a first birth, get a doula. That way, you have an experienced professional to help with the technical parts of birth and supporting you and baby in a way that's informed. Then, you can have your husband there for emotional support and as someone who is there for you, but without the pressure of knowing what exactly to do. The doula will help both of you feel supported and less overwhelmed. You can't always count on nurses being there the whole time you're in labor, so it can make it harder to not have someone who knows what's going on and how to help you with the actual labor process.

At the most, have your mother wait in the waiting room. Many hospitals only allow 2 people to be in there with you anyway and those people should be your doula and your husband. Your husband can always make periodic visits to the waiting room to update her. She's an adult, she can choose to either wait at home or to wait in the waiting room. She can find a way to manage her anxiety on her own and can call and text her own support system if needed. You do not need to be managing her emotions as well as those of your husband while you're in the process of birthing your child. Let him, your doula, and your mom support you and make it clear how they can do that. Good luck and congratulations!
posted by quince at 1:02 PM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, I get doulas are supposed to help advocate for you, but I don't trust myself to contradict any directions by nurses or doctors -- so in what context would I need to "advocate" for myself anyway?

Don’t 100% go along with what a Dr/Nurse tells you - your medical team should be getting your informed consent for everything, including fully explaining the consequences of each choice but it is amazing how often that doesn’t happen. Childbirth is weird in that we (generally) don’t do it very often and the decisions that have to be made have very serious, sometimes life-threatening consequences. A well-trained doula will take the time to explain this fully while a doctor may go ahead with “what they think best” without your input or considering your unique situation. Personally I prefer the trained advocacy of a midwife over a doula, but if doulas are the only thing available I would suggest you have one you have interviewed and built a rapport with (they can also help you post-partum). If you are feeling good about the labour and want privacy you can send the doula out of the room to be with your husband, but during the lonely labouring part they can at least be at your beck and call and help you make some of the hundreds of decisions you will have to make.
posted by saucysault at 1:06 PM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

My mom and husband were both in the room while I labored. I was absolutely terrified the entire time and needed them to hold my hand and tell me I wasn’t going to die, over and over, for 19 hours. I compare the experience to that of a wild animal with its leg in a trap - I was in another world of pain and fear and definitely not capable of doing it on my own. I don’t say this to scare you, but I really did not expect to be such a wreck or for the pain to be so transcendent, and it would have been even worse without someone who loves me there.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 1:10 PM on May 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

I would have been so much better off without my husband in the delivery room. I did end up worrying about his comfort and feelings to the detriment of my own.

The nurses were lovely and capable and helpful, I wanted for nothing in their care. There is nothing wrong with wanting the professionals to take the lead and help you through it.
posted by lydhre at 1:19 PM on May 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Medical staff can be well educated and experienced, but it's your birth and you do need an advocate. They tend to be opinionated about what you're going through, and it is not unusual for them to be wrong in their opinions. I did not have my husband in the delivery room because he would have been useless (and we joke that at transition if I said I wanted to stop or go home, he would have taken me home), but I did have my friend there with me who was a registered nurse, and she got the staff to take me seriously when I started doing the breathing recommended for late stage, or my ten-pound baby* would have done more damage than she did. It still wasn't an ideal birth, but IMHO "ideal" births are not as common as we'd like.

*The doctor assured me I wasn't due when I went into labor two weeks early, but that kid was most definitely ready to be born. She was immense.
posted by Peach at 1:55 PM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wanted to touch on the fact that you can have a birth plan in place before you get to the hospital. I had it noted that I had PTSD due to sexual trauma, so I only had my midwives, the OB on call, and the nurses (who introduced themselves to me) , my husband, and no one else in the room with me. I ended up with two very traumatic birth experiences - my first child was an emergency c-section and born not breathing. I ended up with a uterine rupture with my second child as I was walking into the hospital. Having my birth plan in place beforehand was so helpful for me, because neither of us (husband or I) were up for making any sort of decisions.
posted by alathia at 1:58 PM on May 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Why an advocate? Because no medical staff are going to be in the L&D room with you the whole time, and when things really get rolling, you don't have a lot of time between contractions to get someone's attention and explain what you need. Someone who is familiar with you, who can correctly and and quickly interpret your grunts and pointing and grimaces, is very valuable. And as someone else who was looking forward to an unmedicated birth but then ended up in back labor with a posterior baby and on a pitocin drip when labor was stalling, by the time I decided I wanted an epidural, I had *zero* relief between contractions (at only 4cm dilated!) and couldn't even form the words. Mostly I was sobbing "epi... dural... need" between gritted teeth and wave after wave of pain and pressure. My husband, whom I had prepped to understand that if I was asking for the epidural, he was to push back exactly once to make sure I was sure before going and bribing the anesthesiologist to get to me ASAP, correctly read that things were WAY beyond "pushing back" and immediately got the guy. I was 100% incapable of self-advocating at that point.

Also, with my first, she went into mild distress after more than 24 hours of low-progress labor (again, posterior positioning, it sucks) and there was suddenly urgency to Get Her Out Now. They ended up fully prepping me for a c-section and I eventually delivered vaginally (with the help of forceps) in the operating theater when the OB decided to give it one last try before cutting me open. I hemorrhaged and had to stay in recovery for over an hour immediately after, while my daughter went off with my husband. I am so grateful that (1) my husband was there while I was terrified both about our daughter's safety and about the prospect of an emergency c-section, and (2) my husband was there to hold her and give her skin-to-skin contact immediately while they were still working on me.

I don't mean to regale you with horror stories, and I hope fervently that every bit of your birth experience will be exactly as you hope it will be, but *if* shit goes south it is really, really helpful to have someone around who is there for *you*, and only you.

There was a possibility, because my husband was in the Navy and because my first kid did not feel like cooperating on the due date, that he would have had to ship out before she was born and I'd have had to do it on my own. In that circumstance, I wouldn't have wanted my parents there, but absolutely would have gone for a doula.
posted by olinerd at 2:15 PM on May 20, 2019 [6 favorites]

As I remember, my husband was sort of in the background for much of my labors, didn't interfere (though he did tell me I was "pushing wrong" during labor with our first, at which point, through clenched teeth I asked if HE'D like to DO THIS???). When I started making weird noises he was able to tell the midwife that I was okay, that I was actually laughing while pushing. (Our first was a month early; I'd had nothing packed; my water broke; the contractions STARTED at three minutes apart; and everything was happening so I laughed).

For our second, even though labor was only three hours long (first was only four), I got a handle on my breathing to the point where I was nearly self hypnotized. My husband was able to intervene when a nurse asked me something, because he knew I needed to stay focused on the breathing to control the pain. He also put wet washcloths on my head, which was refreshing.

My mother was present for my second's birth; she was rubbing my feet when I barely whispered that the baby had moved down, and she told the nurse to get my doctor - the head was just there! I was so in the zone with my measured breathing, that I don't think my husband even heard me. I'm glad they were there (my mom is not an anxious type - my mother-in-law was, and she stayed away until the baby was there).

TLDR: I agree that your mom should stay at your house until after the baby's arrival, so you won't need to worry about her. And keep the husband's his baby too.
posted by annieb at 2:27 PM on May 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Laboring alone isn't a terrible idea at all.
I did it with all 4 of my kids. Having anyone else around was a huge distraction and picking up on their anxiety definitely seemed to make the pain worse. I didn't want comfort, company, or anyone else in my space at all. I did however, appreciate having someone nearby and available in case I needed anything brought to me or done for me.
When it came down to the actual pushing/birthing though, at that point I couldn't even honestly recall who was in the room, nor did I care in the least at all, or have remotely any sense of self conciousness about my state, or worry about others. Anyone there at that point was presumably there for their own reasons? Or something.
I haven't given birth in a hospital ever, so I can't speak for the Importance of an advocate, but based on my own experience with the final stages of labor, and other women's hospital experiences, I would gather that an advocate, like a doula, could be a very good investment.
posted by OnefortheLast at 3:21 PM on May 20, 2019

You've gotten a lot of good advice from previous responders. The only thing I want to comment on is this:
Once things really get going, the mental bandwidth necessary to care about anyone else is just not available.

I can't agree more. Early labor might be very easy-seeming, and you can engage in meaningful conversation. But later second stage (just before the urge to push, if you are having an unmedicated labor) makes many women (myself included) really take leave of their senses and go into pure animal mode. I seriously doubt anyone in second stage labor is worried about anyone's feelings or feeling embarrassed about anything. You grunt, moan, pee on yourself and whatnot. It is very unlikely that you would be able to make any rational decisions about anything, should any decisions need to be made. So I would definitely recommend having someone with you who knows your preferences and can advocate for you. Who that person is, and/or who a second person might be, is something to think about beforehand.

p.s. my daughter-in-law just delivered my grandson 3 days ago. Present during labor were her sister, a doula, and my son. Her sister was the one who kept me updated via text -- a very important job! Which could not have been done by any of the others present.
posted by RRgal at 3:24 PM on May 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

Because this hasn't come up and there's a big push in US culture to avoid epidurals: one reason women get them is so they can make rational decisions during childbirth / be better able to advocate for themselves.

This (old) column talks about one woman's decision to get epidurals, and her perception that opposition to them was partially borne of insurance companies not wanting to pay for them. Her spouse was with her during labor, though, FWIW.
posted by momus_window at 3:46 PM on May 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I had a doula for my birth - hospital, big baby, very intense labour; I was hoping for no pain medication and did indeed manage to do it with no pain medication. I'm strongly on team doula (or midwives).

My doctors made me uncomfortable; but my doula was amazing and helped me find comfortable ways to labour so that I was able to endure the strong physical sensations without fear or worry. Apparently the presence of a doula can increase your chances of good outcomes for you and baby, and a good one would be able to help manage your husband's or mother's experience too. That definitely jives with my experience.

A good doula is kind of like a therapist, and kind of like a sports coach, and will follow your lead about how much social interaction you desire. The doctors and nurses will leave the room for long periods of time; the doula will mostly hang out. During my labour I wore an eye mask and earplugs and listened to birthing affirmations so I wasn't very talkative- but it was VERY useful to have the doula to help me manage when things changed.

I think it's totally ok to not have your mother in the room. But if your husband really wants to be there, maybe you could talk through your concerns about having him there, with him or with the doula, and see if there's a compromise that would feel good (for instance he stays at your head and not your hip level?)

If it would make you feel better, you could also find a doula who gives classes ahead of time so you get to know her and might feel more comfortable?

Have a great birth whatever you decide!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:44 PM on May 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Totally get that the idea of a stranger is alienating. For what it’s worth, I met with my doula in our home prior to the birth and corresponded with her quite a bit about how we were going to work together and just BE together before the due date so by the time she showed up in the middle of the night she felt like an old friend. There certainly were a lot of strangers at my deliveries - every nurse and shift change nurse was a new face to me and I don’t know if you’re giving birth this summer but the first of July the FRESH FACED NEW INTERNS WHO’VE NEVER DONE ANYTHING EVER show up - but by the time my doula and husband and I showed up to the hospital we were a TEAM. I posted an answer previously to this question about what our doula did for us that might be helpful for you. I also do not like new people and strangers but both my husband and I found her so helpful in ways I didn’t know or expect before the birth. Keep the people around who can help YOU or help your partner HELP YOU.
posted by sestaaak at 5:32 PM on May 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Lots of good advice above and also some indication that every birth is a different birth. Each child rewrites the story. There are no perfect births, just a lot of semi-managed chaos until Lit'l Redlines makes its appearance.

Have several plans in order, including several options for people in the delivery room. A-Team members get sick, or have their own stuff to deal with. Have Plans B, C, and D ready to roll.

Again, there are no perfect births. Don't stress over that. What is important is getting two healthy human beings to the recovery areas -- that is all.

As a mother of two adult daughters -- I'd want to be in the hospital, but not in the labor room. My baby (or my baby's Most Important Person) is having my grandchild? You're not keeping me away. I'll be on another floor rereading the same chapter in a book for the next 12 hours, thank you. Call me when you need me.

(Oh, Lord, she's gonna say it....) You'll understand your mom and mom-in-law so much better when you hold Lit'l Redlines for the first time. It's a fierce love.
posted by TrishaU at 5:58 PM on May 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I skipped reading the other comments and apologize for the scattered nature of the thoughts below, but in my defense, I'm holding an infant that's only a few weeks old. --

On laboring alone:
For me, during Birth #1, laboring alone was much harder than laboring when I had visitors and support. But in Birth #2, which was much faster and less painful that Birth #1 (until the last bit), I stayed distracted until the last phase, and during the last painful phase, there was really no option but to go inward to deal with the pain. That said, I was much less scared than the first one, so I still think having support is really useful.

One of my favorite sources of birth stories are podcasts. If I remember right, this specific podcast episode is an unmedicated birth where she largely labors alone. That said, I would plan on having support around. You can always tell people to give you space.

On having a doula:
Like you, I was skeptical that I'd like having a doula. I'm an introvert and get awkward and weirdly deferential and self-conscious around people. I don't want to bother anyone. But when the time came, I was so glad to have one, both times. In Birth #1, the doula was magic in two ways. My husband was awesome, but he was like "oh god, you're in pain, how can I help?!" and I was like "ahhhhh! I don't know! I'm just going to whimper and hyperventilate while these tears roll down my cheek!" The doula got in my face like "okay, slidell, slidell. breathe with me. Breathe with me. Ready?? Breath innnnnn. And ouuuut." And otherwise got me to stop freaking out. That was just one of the things she did, but it felt like having someone "with" me instead of "watching" me in the pain-space I was in. She got it and knew how to connect with me despite what I was feeling. Then she did some amazing massage that made the pain go from an 8 to a 3 or 4.

In Birth #2 (which actually happened before the doula arrived since I didn't call her since I didn't think I was really in labor yet, due to how much less painful birth #2 was), she was still super-helpful in supporting me through the just-after-birth process because everyone else was distracted by the new baby and our toddler running around. She focused on me. She made sure someone brought me water. She heard the quaver in my voice as I asked about the baby's low glucose result. and pulled out some reassuring factoid like "even if the re-test is low, almost all babies' respond to the glucose treatment" or whatever. In general, it felt like having a good friend with me whose main interest was understanding what *I* was going through and providing whatever reassurance or support would be helpful.

On your mom:
You definitely don't want to be worrying about your mom. It could be distracting on the day of. I'm sad to hear that you might give up your husband's support as a way to solve it. Is there really no other solution? But if not, and if your mom realistically can't help herself, I respect your efforts to plan ahead for this with your eyes open. This is all the more reason, in my opinion, that you want a doula around, because she could tag team with him in helping out with her.
posted by slidell at 6:54 PM on May 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

You asked for advice so I'll say it: I can't understand planning to make your husband miss the birth of his child, and holding his wife's hand as she labors, because he has to babysit your mother in a waiting room. That is way outside any protocol I'd be comfortable with, personally. If your mother is that helpless and problematic that you're really considering this for her sake, make her stay home, and have her come out after the birth when you're ready. It's one thing if you don't want him with you as you labor, although it's not how I'd do it. But if you want him there? Have him there, do not let your mother be a factor.

(by the way in one of my births I wound up in an operating room for a c-section, alone, for reasons that don't matter here, and it was fucking TERRIBLE, and the spinal block went funny and my blood pressure was dropping and I thought I was dying, and oh boy do I wish I hadn't had to go through that without my husband holding my hand.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:46 PM on May 20, 2019 [6 favorites]

Don’t have a doula take care of your mother - your mother is an adult, she can take care of herself, and I don’t think she should be at the hospital at all if you’re even slightly worried you’d be distracted by her. Personally, I didn’t even want my mother knowing I was in labor, and I only told her to come visit once we were home for a few days. The first few days are busy enough, and you’ll have your hands full taking care of your baby, taking care of yourself, processing how your labor went, and bonding with your baby. Your mom can wait, there is plenty of time for her to bond with your baby later on.

I’d definitely recommend having a doula, if possible, and having your husband there. You can always send your husband away if you’re really uncomfortable, but chances are, unless he cannot cope with the situation (of which you haven’t given us any indication other than your own discomfort), his presence will probably be a positive one for you.

For the beginning of my second labor, I was all alone. My husband was at home, frantically trying to organise a babysitter for our toddler as all of the babysitter options we had contacted and met before fell through (ugh, Friday night), and I didn’t have a doula as we had just moved to that city shortly before and doulas are scarce around here. I was all alone in that room for the first 2-3 hours, howling in pain from strong contractions about every 2-3 min. Nurses only came in a few times, checked their instruments and left again, until I finally screamed “Help, help, why isn’t anybody coming to help me?!”. Seriously, it was traumatic, and if anything had gone wrong, I am sure I would have ended up with a serious case of PTSD. You do not want that. I also believe that my chances of not having a cesarean would have been higher if I had had a doula, as she could have supported me better through my pain, which might have led me not to ask for an epidural, which then didn’t work, etc. As for my husband, once he made it to the hospital, it was really nice to have someone there just for me, who’d give me a sip of water, make jokes once in a while, remind me to breathe probably every 30 sec, and who I knew would stay and pay attention to the process (at a certain point I had no idea what was happening anymore), and not disappear at the end of a shift.
posted by eierschnee at 1:40 AM on May 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we saw some of these, but as a counterpoint: we had the same L&D nurse three times out of four (Hi, Pat!!) across nine years -- and she remembered us. Her picture is in three of the four kids' baby albums!

*shrug* In conclusion, it's a wild ride, marshal your resources, and your baby's birth won't be 100% like any other baby's birth, nor will your baby be exactly like any other baby. We all learn as we go. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 5:56 AM on May 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Please please please do not put your mother's needs and convenience above all else. Asking your husband to babysit her while you're in labor is immensely unfair to him -regardless of where he might be. It would be comfy and convenient to her to have him as her designated caretaker while his first child is being born. That is a lot for him to sacrifice. (Ever see that meme that says, "don't set yourself on fire just to keep others warm"? Well, don't ask your husband to set himself on fire)

My vote is to have your husband on stand-by in the waiting room in case you change your mind. If you don't, he'll be right there to see YOU and his newborn child when you do want him in the room. Ask someone else to stay at the house with your mom. If no one else is available, then she'll need to put her big girl boots on and deal with it. This moment is not about her.

Best of luck to you!
posted by Neekee at 7:46 AM on May 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

I am team "the laboring person gets to say who comes in the room." Maybe your anxious mom should clean your house top to bottom and then get some rest so she can cook for you when you get home with the baby. If she won't take those instructions, or if you cringe at the thought of issuing instructions to her, get her to stay away until you've been home a while.

I wouldn't have wanted to be alone with the medical personnel, so it's interesting to me to hear people chime in here that they did it that way and it was right for them. AskMefi is great for that, I hope you have some time to sit with all the very different answers and use them to listen to your own preferences.

Every time I read an Ask question about labor it's a chance to relive my 30+ hours of labor and then to be grateful that things went as smoothly as they did. My mom and my husband both took turns holding up my legs when it came time to push, and while I don't normally hang naked with my mom, we are 100% ok with each other even though she knows what I look like white with pain. (also, teaching hospital meant that Neil the baby doctor [like he was literally a baby, it was impossible to me that he was a resident] saw my relatively uncomplicated vaginal delivery and I got to hear him say "nice" every time I pushed.)
posted by Lawn Beaver at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

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