Dear Everyone, Childbirth Isn't A Spectator Sport

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 

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.

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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