How to Let Someone Know They Can't Come to Your Birth
Sometimes, when you announce your pregnancy, everyone is so excited that they immediately invite themselves to your birth.
"Oh I can't wait to meet the baby!" says Aunt Lisa. "You just call me when you go into labor, I'll be there!"
While she probably means well, it is really up to YOU, to decide who is allowed in your space.
I like to tell my clients to use a 3-point system when deciding if someone is a good fit to invite to your birth. Usually, when you think about these three things, you'll have an idea if it's a good choice to have them there or not. If you are still unsure, just wait until you go into labor and decide then. Believe it or not, your intuition will kick in pretty quickly and you'll know who you want around, and who you would rather have come visit afterward.
The 3-point system is as follows:
-What will they bring to the birth space?
-What will they take away from the birth space?
-Are they coming for you, or for themselves?
Let's go into some details here...
What will they bring to your birth space?
There can be lots of different answers to this one. Make a list of what they will do positively to your sacred space. Maybe they will bring something physical, like a nourishing meal, a self-care kit for you, or items for the baby. Maybe they will assist you in taking care of older siblings, or act as a second pair of hands that will work while you work to have the baby. This would be things like tidying up, walking the dog, helping you set up your birth pool or preparing your space. Maybe they will provide tangible support for you, things like rubbing your feet, brushing your hair, stroking your arms, and speaking words of power and love to you. These are all acceptable things to add to the list.
What will they take away from the birth space?
Even the best helper at a birth takes at least one thing away, and that is privacy. Privacy is huge in birth. That old saying "A watched pot never boils" totally correlates to birth, and guess what, you're the pot! Most women do better if they aren't watched or timed. It puts an unnecessary pressure on you to "preform" and it just doesn't help things progress as quickly as they could. That being said, unless you are planning on delivering completely alone, then it is a necessary evil. Other things that can be taken away from your birth space are bodily autonomy, respect, and quiet.
Bodily Autonomy is defined as " the right to self-governance over one's own body without external influence or coercion. It is generally considered to be a fundamental human right." Not respecting you during birth can look like someone making fun of your wishes, telling you what you can and can't do, or continuing to do something after you've asked them to stop. Taking away the quiet is an obvious thing, but stuff like chit chat, laughing, and cell phones ringing or vibrating instantly grabs your attention and takes you out of "labor-land".
Are they coming for you or themselves?
Lastly, consider the motives that they have for coming to your birth. Sometimes it can seem very obvious that they are coming for you, when in reality they may be coming to prove something to others or to themselves. I think everyone knows someone who helps people solely for recognition, right? You don't want that person to attend your birth. Sadly, many people have birth trauma of their own that they have suppressed for years or even decades. When they hear that you are going to be having a baby, it triggers a response in them that can go in many different ways. They could feel the need to protect you, but that instinct that they have can easily manifest itself in becoming controlling of your decisions, telling you the bad things that happened to them in an effort to persuade you to change your plans, etc. They could be coming to fill a desire within themselves to appear helpful and needed. They show a huge interest in being the first one to arrive, and they post on social media about all the wonderful things that they are doing for you. This person likely isn't prepared to assist at a birth, and they may make more of a disturbance than anything else.
So here's the good part:
How are you supposed to un-invite someone to your birth? This may seem like the hardest part, but really this is a common factor in most couples when I am helping them build their birth plan. Sometimes they have a well-meaning friend or even co-worker that wants to come to greet the new baby the instant they are emerging from your vagina. But more often than not, it is a close family member (usually the mother or mother-in-law believe it or not!) I know that it can be really difficult to express your desire to not have a room full of people while you are laboring and birthing. You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or make them feel unwanted, but at the same time, this experience is for you, your partner, and your team to share together. The people you choose to be a part of your birth team is one of the biggest factors in achieving your goals. There's an old midwife saying that goes:
"For each non-essential person you invite to your birth, you can add one hour to your labor"
I think the best approach to the situation is always "honesty is the best policy". This would look like either a phone call or better yet, a face to face meeting over lunch or dinner. During this meeting, you can outline your plans for birth, and let the person know that you are planning to call everyone as soon as the baby is born (or whenever you choose). They may ask for more details, or if they are included in this "everybody" you speak of and you can assure them that when you are making those calls they will be the first to know. Of course, this approach may not work for some people and it may create more tension which you don't want to be dealing with during labor and birth. If you know that it will cause problems for you to be upfront about your plans, then a better late than never approach might be in order. To do this, you would not mention anything to them ahead of time. When you know that you are in early labor you don't tell anyone other than your partner and birth team. You make it clear to your team that they are not to call anyone or post anything on social media that would even hint that you are in labor. Then you can call whoever you're supposed to call when you are on your way to your place of birth, or you can wait until you are closer to pushing to call, and just fib and tell them your just now on the way to the hospital. You have to keep in mind, you may be at the hospital for several hours before you get close to delivering. Sometimes it's best to wait until you're checked in and you know how dilated you are, etc.
Once you arrive you let your nurses know that you want visitors to stay in the waiting room, and to just make up a reason to not let anyone in your room. This takes all pressure off of you to come up with any sort of explanation, and "it's not your fault the nurses wouldn't let them in!" Nurses have no problem at all following through with this plan, and people use it all the time. Your family will not have any room to be upset with you! If you are planning to give birth at home or at a birth center, the best approach is to wait until after baby is born or when you are close to giving birth, your partner can make the calls to let people know to come at a specified time. This method works because usually early labor is quite long, and you can have several more hours of uninterrupted time, to progress peacefully. You will have a greater sense of control, and less of a feeling of being watched, because you know....