When I was in the hospital with my client on Thursday, the waiting room was packed with families. There was one particular family, where there was not just one or two people waiting, it was the parents on both sides, siblings,...altogether about 7 or 8 people. They were sitting around shmoozing and waiting for the baby to be born, asking for updates every 10 minutes. They told me they do this for every birth in the family.
Personally, I was a bit taken aback. Labor is intense enough without knowing that there are 7 people outside waiting for you to just hurry up and have your baby already. And labor can be a slow process, definitely not something you can speed up at whim.
One of the pioneers in the natural childbirth movement, French physician Michele Odent, talks about the privacy of childbirth. When a woman feels private and unobserved in labor, it allows her to feel comfortable in her surroundings and helps her labor to progress and unfold. While these family members were not in the room with the laboring woman, I wondered how if affected her to know they were all there.
When I am in labor, my husband and I don't call or tell anyone until the baby is born. The only people who know are usually the ones taking care of my other child(ren). We found that this works best so we don't have to worry about other people being nervous or waiting for updates. I can just focus on what I need to do.
But like my husband likes to remind me, not everyone thinks the way I do about labor and childbirth- and about life in general. Maybe this woman actually felt incredibly supported knowing that her extended family was there, waiting for her and cheering her on. Or maybe she was as frustrated as I imagined her being, when her husband got the 20th text message, asking if they were up to pushing yet. I guess I'll never know.
Speaking of childbirth, check out this interesting post at The Feminist Breeder about the importance of preparing for childbirth, versus just hoping for the best. She has some compelling arguments for being well educated in a good childbirth education class and for hiring a doula.