Dear Everyone, Childbirth Isn’t A Spectator Sport

spectatorsImage via Shutterstock

Is someone pressuring you to allow them to be present for your birth? Are in-laws just assuming they’re welcome? Put your foot down, pregnant lady. Do it now.

When exactly did we decide that inviting people into the delivery room was a good idea? As if having random medical staff saunter into your room to stick a gloved hand up your vagina all the live-long day isn’t awkward enough — let’s throw in an audience. Why not? We pretty much abandoned our self-respect the 20th time we carried a clear plastic cup of urine down the hall of our doctor’s office. Pregnant women don’t need boundaries, right?


By the time you get to your delivery date, you will probably be used to disrobing and having all sorts of random eyes on your lady parts. That doesn’t necessarily mean you want your mother-in-law to see them. Or even your own mother. But you may notice some people making strange assumptions about being present for your labor. No one should make these assumptions except the person who knocked you up — and even that may be up for debate.

If this whole labor-and-delivery-thing is a show, you are the director, producer, and person with the clipboard at the front door. You call all the shots – and you should never feel the need to explain why you don’t want someone there. “Exposed vagina*” should be explanation enough. In fact, just hang a note on your hospital door that reads, “Keep out. Exposed vagina.” Here, I made you one. I used Comic Sans, to keep it light. No on can accuse you of being bitchy in Comic Sans.


(*Yes, I know it’s a vulva. But let’s keep it simple for your birth-crashers.)

In all seriousness, it’s been proven that stress increases a woman’s time in labor. In nature, when a laboring animal feels threatened or disturbed the stress hormone catecholamine shuts down labor as a tool to keep the baby safe. That happens to women, too. If a woman does not feel safe and protected, her stress hormone levels rise and slow or stop her labor. So it’s very important that you choose wisely those who will be around you during your birth. If someone stresses you out, they should not be allowed around you when you are attempting to extricate a tiny human from your body.

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Maybe your family or friends don’t stress you out at all — maybe you are just uncomfortable with the thought of being exposed. During labor, you may need to dig deep to get to a place where you are able to fully focus. That may involve making interesting sounds or even letting go completely (even of your bowels). You should be in a mental state that allows you to do that. Translation: you need to be able to shit yourself if necessary.

If your family and friends soothe you and make you feel more comfortable — go ahead and throw a damn party in the delivery room or at your home birth. But if you are having any apprehensions whatsoever about someone who is requesting being present for the birth, don’t feel bad about putting your foot down.

You’re allowed to. Because, exposed vagina.

Related post: My Birth Plan, Dammit


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  1. Simone says

    So true. I don’t want anyone around except my husband. They were not present when the baby was made so they don’t belong there when it is born.

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  2. Leigh says

    My husband called his mother and told her to come for the birth as they were rushing me down the hall for an emergency C-section. Then he invited her in! Good thing the doctors cut her off (because, operating room, duh). She was insulted. Then she, her husband, and a few family members I’d never met invaded the recovery room. The nurses chased the out because I’d been freaking DEAD 20 minutes before. They finally were all escorted from the hospital. Unless you’re invited by the MOTHER, stay away.

    Side note: I’m now divorced, LOL.

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    • Brae says

      AH! Seriously. With my first baby, my mother in law was a nurse at the hospital I delivered at. She. Would. Not. Leave. We eventually asked my nurse to keep her out. My (ex) husband was gone via the military when she was born, and he had special permission to be on the phone for the birth, but he missed it because his mom kept calling him and begging him to make me let her go into the room with me. Since she was on the phone with him, he missed my phone call when the baby was born. Ick. Seriously, it’s so gross.

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  3. Jenny says

    I laughed so hard at this! All through my first pregnancy, my Mom not only assumed she was welcome in the delivery room, but made her intent to take graphic photos pretty obvious. Oh HELL NO! Tried to explain to her that I wasn’t okay with that and she kept blowing me off with “oh you won’t care when the time comes”.

    Fortunately, the hospital staff put an end to her pretty quickly. We had a c section scheduled for medical reasons, but labor started before that date… and they refused to let her anywhere near the OR. Next time around, we didn’t call her until after #2 was born, cleaned up, etc!

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  4. Lisz says

    My MIL came to stay with us to “be here when the baby arrives”. That was all fine and dandy, She was here a week before and for two weeks after, it ended up being really beneficial (she bought us lots of cool, useful things and I could take a shower every day or a nap). But she strongly insisted that she gets to be in the delivery room, which I was fully opposed to. I knew this before her arrival and told my husband that it was up to him to make sure she knew that I only wanted him to be there because she is too overbearing. He ran away like a scared puppy when she asked me face to face if she could be there. He didn’t stand up and fight for me…

    Long story short, not only was she in the delivery room, but so was my mom (because no way in hell was his mom going to be there without my mom, not fair – luckily she’d taken the day off work already and could be there) and my 10 year old… I gave up

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  5. Brittney says

    Couldn’t agree more! With my first it was a three ring circus with everyone feeling the need to be present, it was the most stressful situation and labor was not easy. With my second I put my foot down and it was everything I expected labor to be. I feel bad now that my husband and I were robbed of that experience with our first because neither one of us spoke up.

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  6. Mary says

    This is what birth plans are for. All you have to do is say no one is allowed in your room besides the father (if you want) until you specifically say otherwise (even if it’s for your whole hospital stay). I didn’t think anyone would show up but I had that in both of my birth plans. I also included the rule that in case of a c-section NO ONE was to hold my baby other than my husband or medical staff until I did. I have a friend whose SIL had an emergency c-section where she was put under. By the time she made it out of recovery, everyone in her husband’s family had held the baby, including a random friend of the family she had never met.

    I know my husband has common sense, but in the excitement, I didn’t want him losing his head. Other than those items, and my wish for an epidural, that was pretty much my birth plan.

    My husband’s aunt is a nurse. She told me beforehand that they are paid to be the bad guys and the nurses will kick out anybody you don’t want.

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  7. Amber says

    I felt obligated to have both my mother and my MIL, my sister, and my BIL there for labor and delivery with my son. I wanted my mom there because she was really a godsend during labor. She stepped in when my husband needed rest (my labor was 34 hours long), and stepped back when he was able to be with me. My MIL, however, shoved him away and refused to let me rest. I did get the guts to kick everyone but my husband out for delivery, but my MIL was in the waiting room telling everyone she was scared I was going to die in child birth because her mother did. After I had my son, everyone came into the room right away. They didn’t even give me time to get the placenta out before they rushed in. I learned my lesson with my daughter. My mom watched my son and I only told people after I gave birth. It’s not about anyone but you and the other parent. No one else made that baby, so no one should feel they have a right to be there.

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  8. Kaitlyn says

    My biggest regret was having anyone other than my SO in the room with me… Both my mom and mother in law guilted me into having them there. After 18 hours of labor, I stood up to go to the bathroom and gushed blood all over the floor. Of course the doctor came in and had to do some figuring out what was going on (everything was fine dont worry) but mother in law decided that being posed exactly behind the doctor while he was “digging” was best. I have NEVER been so embarrassed or stressed out in my life. I’m red even writing this!!

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  9. MamaB. says

    There are some benefits to getting married later in life and having kids later in life and THIS, dear Mommies, is one of them. We had the guts to be really upfront with both my MiL and Mom. It helps that we have amazing relationships with our parents–based out of respect. They both knew we were going in to be induced and they both stayed away till day #2– once we called them and made the announcement that he had been born. After reading some of your stories, I’m ever so thankful for this!

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  10. Stacy says

    Very true. And if you’re not comfortable telling someone, ask your nurses/doctors. My mom just assumed she would be able to stay when my son was born, but I didn’t know how to tell her I didn’t want her in there. So we spoke to the nurse and asked her advice; she just said “Sure, I’ll tell your mom (both mine and his) that we just need everyone out. No problem. I don’t mind taking the blame for it.” And she did, when it was time.

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