If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you’re unsure if your mother should be present at the birth of your baby. You’ve probably come up with some positives of having her there, but you’ve probably come up with some negatives too. Especially when feelings and emotions are involved, it can be a really tough decision. But never fear – BellyBelly is here to help!
Firstly, it’s important to remember that birth is an intimate, private occasion that you only get one chance at – you can’t go back and do it over again.
Who you have at your birth is a decision that is entirely up to you – and you only. Some women cannot imagine going through such a major life event without their mother by their side, whereas other woman can't think of anything worse than having their mother in the birth room. Some birth professionals point out the huge similarities to making love and birth: the same hormones come into play (especially oxytocin), the noises are similar, and both events take place in privacy and often darker lighting, which is how birth hormones work best. Its been said that the two individuals who conceived the baby should be the only ones present when birthing the baby (aside from birth professionals). Sex is an intimate, vulnerable act, as is birth, which is why some women feel strongly about who is observing the act of giving birth.
For those who are going to be a single mother, or have a partner who is unable to attend the birth for whatever reason, then your mother may be the person you think of as an alternative birth partner.
Whether you decide to include your mother in your birth plan is entirely up to you, but here are some things to consider as you decide whether to add your mother to the guest list:
#1: What’s The Relationship Like With Your Mother?
You probably have a gut instinct about whether you would want your mother present at the birth, and this is likely to be based on your relationship. If you're a ‘Gilmore Girls’ sort of set up, then you probably can't wait to hold her hand as you push your way into motherhood. If you have a more complicated relationship, however, she may not be able to support you as you need. You may feel too anxious or self-concious to have her there, worrying about how the support will all unfold.
If there are unresolved issues with your mother, it’s best to give it a miss. As much as you may be tempted to try and heal your relationship by having your mother present at the birth, unfortunately it can backfire. Anxiety and stress during labour can hinder the labour process, which once served our outdoor living ancestors. If they were faced with danger during labour (triggering anxiety or fear), stress hormones could halt the labour hormones so the mother could move to a safe place and have her baby.
These days, if you’re in hospital and your labour isn’t progressing to a doctor’s liking, you’ll end up being pressured for intervention to speed things up. An augmentation (same drugs as an induction) increases your chances of needing pain relief, other interventions and even a caesarean section (especially for first time mothers).
So while some people may think it’s not a big deal letting anyone into a birthing space who wants to be there… it is.
#2: Can She Provide The Support You Need?
Every birthing woman is different, and it can be hard to predict the type of support you will need during labour. The best birth outcomes arise from carers who can provide a trifecta of care – someone who is:
- Able to provide continuous care (present for the duration of labour)
- Is known to the woman
- Is experienced in birth
A review of doula studies has concluded that a doula’s support is more effective than hospital staff (who have shifts, multiple women to look after and hospital rules to follow) as well as the mothers family and friends. This does not mean that your mother or your friends can’t do a great job of encouraging you and supporting you, but they may not have the skills required to help you achieve the kind of birth you are hoping for.
As a general rule, when choosing a non-trained birth support person, you will need someone with a cool head, someone who can help to keep you calm while offering words of encouragement (not sympathy, which can actually make you feel worse and like you definitely need medicated help to get out of the tough spots!). If this sounds like your mother, then she might be the perfect birth partner.
If, however, she tends to panic, worry a great deal, puts her own needs first, or makes you feel worried or anxious, then she may not be the right person to have at a birth. Mothers can be very loving and caring, but some mothers can buckle under the emotional strain of seeing their daughters in pain, feeling hopeless and even suggesting she have ‘a bit of pain relief’ to feel better. This may be fine for you, but if you’re hoping to avoid medication at all costs, this can be a big problem.
#3: What Is Her Relationship With Your Partner Like?
Some women choose to have both their partner and mother present with them during the birth, which allows each birth partner to take a break every so often, without leaving you unsupported during labour. It also means you'll have two people who care about you with you in the birth room.
It's important to consider how your mother will work your birth partner. Ideally, you want a team who will work together and be supportive of each other, in order to provide the best support possible. If there is tension between your mother and partner, and the two don't get on all that well, this could lead to an awkward atmosphere in the birth room which can stress you out and make you feel like you’re holding it all together – and that's the last thing you need during childbirth.
#4: Is There Enough Room For Her?
If you're giving birth at home, you’ll be free to decide who will be present at the birth – although you will need to consider how much space you have. In a hospital environment, however, you may find that there are restrictions on how many people you can have with you at the birth. For many hospitals, that limit is set at two, so including your mother would exclude any existing children, your best friend, a doula and photographers. It's totally up to you who you want at the birth, but you need to consider who won't be able to attend if your mother is with you.
#5: What Will Your Mother Do?
To avoid the room feeling busy, and to stop your partner and mother from tripping over each other as they battle it out for birth partner of the year, it’s a good idea to assign specific roles. You may want your partner to be your main support during the birth, but like the idea of having your mum in the room too. If that's the case, ask her to sit on the sidelines, and volunteer her services when necessary, but make it clear beforehand that she has more of a spectator role at the birth. Some women assign their mother as the children’s birth support person, meaning she’s responsible for making sure the children and happy, settled and taken out the room for a break if need be.
#6: Be Selfish
You have been growing a human for months, and you're about to give birth to that human all by yourself – yours are the only feelings that matter. Yes, you want your partner to be happy too, and no, you don't want to upset your mother. But, you know what, all of that pales into insignificance when you consider the amazingness of what you are about to do. So, ignore what everyone else thinks, and make this decision based entirely on how you feel, and what you think will help you to feel the most relaxed during labour.
#6: If You Can't Decide
This isn't a decision you need to make on a whim, remember you have nine long months to weigh up your options. If you are still to-ing and fro-ing as the big day approaches, it might be time to cast your mum as the back up plan. Explain that you can't predict how you'll feel on the day, so don't want to invite her along in case you change your mind. Put her on standby, make sure she is contactable and knows how to get to the hospital if the need arises. That way, whether you feel you need her on your first contraction or at the start of the second stage, she can be prepared for the possibility that you might need her. At the end of the day, if you’re unsure, its best to say no.
#7: Find Ways To Keep Her Busy
If your mum was hoping to be at the birth, and seems hurt that you have decided she should stay away, give her some jobs to keep her busy. You could have her look after your older children, or prepare the house for when you return. You could even put her in charge of letting friends and family know that the baby has arrived. Or think of a last minute item she simply needs to go and buy, like a changing table or winter coat, for your new baby. This will help her to feel involved, and may resolve any hurt feelings as she realises she is still helping you on this important day.