by Rebecca Britt Walton
For the ease of reading I used the female tense for birth companion(s). I understand that some may have male birth companions.
Having a home birth affords you total control of who attends your birth. Choosing your birth companions, however, can be one of the main sticking points when planning your birth. Should you choose an intimate birth with just your partner and midwife? Or invite your closest friends and family also? What about your other child or children? Should you allow them to be at your birth? Should you invite your family pets to be a part of this experience? Furthermore, when you finally decide on whom to invite, how should you prepare them for the birth that you want?
Choosing who attends your birth can be difficult. If this is your first birth you have no previous experience from which to draw and you will probably try to cover every situation. If this is your second or greater birth, you may concentrate on what you would like to improve from your previous birth(s).
How private do you want your birth to be? That is the first thing you have to decide. A birth with just you and/or your partner and midwife may be very empowering and special or, isolating and depressing. A birth that includes your family and friends can be one where a sense synergy prevails or can, on the other hand, lead to distractions.
How do you know which to choose? A good approach is to read birth stories, talk to your midwife and to other women who've given birth at home to get a feel for the dynamics and what to expect. Then search your soul and consider your personality and that of your partner and the role that he wants in the birth. Visualize your birth in both settings, without guests and with them and make note of what feels right. Understand that although you want to get it right and make the best choices, you may wish, at the end of your birth, that you had done it differently. That's okay; birth is emotionally unpredictable and the decisions you make and the plans you have while pregnant may not follow the same path when you're actually giving birth.
If you decide that an intimate birth is for you then you won't have to choose whom to invite. If you want your birth to be a family and friend affair, however, you must choose your birth companions. You will want to choose companions that will complement your birth plan. Never choose someone out of obligation. Following are some questions to ask yourself regarding each person you're considering; remember there is no right or wrong answer:
• What can she do for me emotionally and physically?
• Is she someone I would not want to show up at my door when my house is a mess?
• What are her personality strong points? Weak points?
• Does my partner get along with her?
• Can I easily ask her to do things for me?
• How will she interact with my other birth companion(s)?
• Would I feel comfortable being naked around her?
• Can she tolerate me being naked?
• How will she act around my child or children?
• Could I ask her to do laundry, cook, and/or clean?
• Do I hold a deep enough relationship with her that if I decide not to call her to come to the birth I can contact her to let her know the baby was born and why she was not ultimately invited?
Once you decide who will attend your birth, you must then invite them. Remember, that although you know that an invitation to a birth is sacred and special, the person whom you invite may not think so. One mother was disappointed when after much thought she invited a family member who responded with, "Ugh. I don't know. Those birth shows on TV really gross me out." Leave your invitation open and give your invitee a chance to think about your request before answering. Although you'll be disappointed if your invitee says "no" realize that to be of benefit to you your birth companions need to want to be a part of the experience. No one should attend your birth out of obligation.