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August 16, 2016

Delivery room drama: party or private?

Deciding who you want by your side during labor and delivery can be complicated

For every expecting mother, there are many questions to answer when determining a birth plan. Will you deliver in a hospital or birth center? Will you deliver at home with a midwife or opt for a water birth? Are you hoping to deliver naturally or are you certain you will want an epidural? In addition to these big questions, there is another issue to consider: who will you have by your side when your baby comes into the world?

With five weeks to go until my due date, my husband and I have determined who will be in the delivery room with us when I give birth: no one. Except for the doctors and nurses of course, since I will be giving birth in a hospital. We are not inviting any family or friends to join us for the moment when we meet our son. It is going to be just us.

We made this decision for a few reasons. This is our first child and therefore our first experience with labor and delivery. While I do not know exactly what to expect, I am anticipating the arrival of our son to be emotional, profound and exhilarating. It will be beautiful, messy and amazing. Since I plan to deliver naturally, it will also be a very intimate process during which I will be half naked, spread eagle, probably panting and crying. I do not want spectators cheering me on. I just want my husband holding my hand.

Like so many choices an expecting mother needs to make in the 40 weeks leading up to delivery, who to have with you on the big day is a personal decision. My cousin, who recently delivered a beautiful baby boy in a hospital, chose to have her husband and a doula by her side. A friend of mine told me that she would rather have her mother than her husband with her when she gives birth. I know women who have delivered at home, in bed or by water birth, with midwives, partners, children and even the family dog in the room. All of these deliveries are beautiful and special in their own way. Each decision is right for the mother, their partners and their babies. But sometimes making these decisions can be difficult because of external opinions and pressure.

My sister, Kerry, really wants to be in the delivery room with me. When she first asked me, I told her, no, explaining that my husband and I want it to be just us. But she persisted in her request. Because I know how important it is to her, I considered changing my plans and allowing her to join us. Kerry would be amazing to have by my side during this special moment. She is one of my best friends and very close with my husband. She would probably keep us laughing and tirelessly encourage me. But my heart tells me that I just want my husband by my side, and he is in agreement. Thankfully, Kerry has graciously accepted our decision. I know she will be in the waiting room with the rest of our family anxiously anticipating the good news, and will meet her nephew soon after he is born.

Courtesy of Katie Gagnon/for PhillyVoice

Katie and her husband have decided not to invite any family or friends to join them in the delivery room on the day of their son's birth. This intimate event is going to be just between the two of them.

For my husband and me, this question was pretty easy to answer. We were on the same page and the only person who really lobbied to be with us understood and accepted our decision. If you are struggling with this issue, here are some things to consider:

Learn your hospital’s policy. If you are delivering in a hospital, they will have a policy on the number of people allowed in the delivery room. Most hospitals limit you to two people. Some birth centers will allow children in the delivery room if that’s something you desire. If you need a caesarean section, only one person is usually allowed to accompany the expecting mother into surgery. Of course, if you are giving birth at home, you don’t need to worry about any hospital policy limitations.

Make the decision together. While the expecting mother’s opinion carries the most weight, you should talk with your partner about whom to have with you. He or she may have someone in mind that they really want to support you both during delivery. Allow this to be a joint decision that you make together.

It is your personal choice. I knew immediately that I only wanted my husband with me, though I wavered briefly because of my sister’s request. Sometimes relatives and friends can be really pushy about getting into the delivery room. It can be hard to say no to your mother or an in-law, but I encourage you to not to give in to external pressure. Labor and delivery are hard enough without having the stress of an unwelcomed guest in the room.

Allow yourself to change your mind. You may think you want your best friend in the room with a video camera, but when the time comes you could decide you need more privacy. Or you may think you want only your partner with you, but when things start happening you realize you really want your mother there too. As long as you are adhering to your hospital’s policy and your partner is in agreement, it is OK to change your mind even at the last minute.

Did you decide on a party in the delivery room or was your labor and delivery experience more private? This first-time expecting mother values other women’s stories and insight. I would love to hear who you wanted by your side and why in the comments section, below.

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