very powerful experience for Grandma as she witnesses her baby evolving into motherhood. Of what actual use she may be depends on the bond in their relationship and the grandmother’s experience of birthing her daughter. That memory may be one she does not want to revive, in which case she is better absent than present under sufferance, or as a courtesy to the daughter.
However if there is one person a woman should be able to look towards for birthing inspiration it is her own mother. A woman’s mother can be a very comforting influence during labour since, in that woman, the daughter sees before her someone who has been through that same experience and lived!
It is a good idea to discuss your birthing plans and preferences with all family members planning to attend, especially your parents, since they would have given birth in an era where the natural or medical approaches varied greatly from today’s.
If you have other children, you may wish them to be a part of your birthing experience. Apart from being a good education as to the realities of birth, allowing children to witness and even participate in the birth of a sibling can help make for a more cohesive family unit, and help with any tendencies for sibling rivalry with a new baby in the house.
Some younger children can be quite con-cerned by all the noise that mummy is making and, come the time of birth, may react negatively to the blood and fluids expelled. Children are also more sensitive to the anxieties of people in the room. Should any situation arise where there are impending difficulties, they should be removed before having to witness distressing complications.
Any child attending a birth needs to be carefully supported by someone they know and trust. If the woman’s partner wants to be completely involved and stay with her for most or all of the labour, it therefore requires another, a third person, to supervise and mind the children during the labour. That third person then has the duty of informing the children that everything is alright and that the baby will be here soon. Such an adult also needs to be detached from their own desire to see the birth in case those children want to leave the room.
I don’t really think that a hospital labour ward and its environs are a good place for any child to be hanging about in whilst labour progresses, and most hospitals would discourage children unless fully supervised – which is hardly the best role
for the partner. Lots of people coming and going from a room is always an annoyance for a birthing mother, so dad and the kids checking in every few minutes would be a total imposition. I also consider it a bit foolish to show one of the next generation the medical and hospital approach to birthing – but then again, if they see the way birthing goes on in a hospital, it may convince them to birth at home when their time comes!
Often young children are taken to “visit mummy in the hospital” some time after the actual birth. But whilst they are mainly looking forward to seeing their mother again, when they arrive, the new baby will be commanding most of the focus. So this experience is not really of much benefit to their understanding of childbirth.
I have found that having children present at a birth works best if you are in a relaxed and homely environment where the children can spontaneously come and go as they please. Then the event can be appreciated as just a natural part of life, as something that just happens within the framework of a family and its domestic environment. Experiencing birth this way is particularly potent for girls so that when their time comes they have positive memories and a naturalistic viewpoint.
For some women, giving birth is an opportu-nity to share something special with friends, be they other women or men. Particularly if you are having a natural birth or a homebirth, the birthing mother can act as inspiration to these people who in turn encourage and support her. Non-mothers, especially hopeful mothers, could benefit greatly from witnessing the reality of the experience, so long as they are in tune with the vibe of the room and the psyche of the birthing woman.
Another way is the celebratory and ritual approach where all the trappings of religious, spiritual or communal ceremony are performed around the birth. If this appeals to you, just be careful that the crowds and all the externalisation of the occasion do not end up blocking your ability to labour freely.
No matter where you plan to have your birth, or who you plan to have there, the most important consideration is that each and every person is there because (a) you really want them to be there and (b) they will be of some kind of assistance to the process rather than an inhibiting factor. I have counselled many women during their pregnancies to think carefully about the entourage they are planning to