Is childbirth a spectator event or a private time? There is no one answer -- you need to decide what works best for you, and also find a way to communicate your needs to any friends and family who would like to be there. Ann Silberman has some ideas to consider.
Ann Silberman

Front row seats?
The pressure is on. Your mother-in-law wants to be in the delivery room to be the first to see the new grandchild. Your mother insists on watching too. Your sister is curious to see what childbirth looks like, and your grandmother's fondest wish is to see the birth of the next generation.

Even your next door neighbor wants to get in on the act in order to wow you with his videotaping skills. It seems that childbirth today has become a public spectacle, open to all who feel they have paid their entry fee.

Determining who should be with you as your child enters the world is a very personal choice. This decision will depend on your interpersonal relationships, your feelings about -- and experience with -- childbirth, and your evaluation of those around you.

Childbirth is a time of great excitement. You will have intense emotions, ranging from fear to elation. You will experience bodily discomfort, and will also be physically exposed. If this is your first child, it is difficult to predict how you will react while laboring. Do you want your mother-in-law to hear you if you swear or curse? How about your mother? Will she be able to see you in pain and give you the emotional support you need, or will she end up a bundle of trembling nerves, perhaps making you even more nervous than necessary? Childbirth can be messy and indelicate -- will you feel uneasy if your father is watching?

When deciding who to allow with you, try and gauge what their reactions will be. You shouldn't have to worry about the comfort of others while giving birth; you should be as relaxed and natural as possible. Those who surround you should be people with whom you feel completely at ease.

A supportive atmosphere
Support during childbirth is important as well. When laboring, you will have choices to make, and those should be respected. Even if you have gone through Lamaze and planned a natural childbirth, there may come a time when you consider asking for medication ? or you may deem it unnecessary. If your best friend will push you to have an epidural, leave her out in the waiting room. If your sister-in-law is going to tell you that a medicated childbirth is foolish, she shouldn't be there. Whoever is in the room should always keep your needs and desires first and foremost in their minds: Whether that means giving you a backrub, getting you medication, or simply sitting quietly, what you require should be primary. Make sure the people in the room with you are prepared to support you completely.

Who should be there
Your husband or significant other should be there, of course. Squeamishness is not uncommon in men in these situations, but seeing his child being born is an experience he will never forget. Another valuable person to have around is a doula. Judith states, "By my fourth child, I had become firmly convinced of the value of doulas. Having a doula improves most every aspect of birth -- labor sare faster and require less pain medication, there are fewer C-sections, and sometimes clueless dads can be helped to be more involved in the labor and birth."

Finally, anybody you love, who will support you, and with whom you want to share in this experience should be welcomed into the labor room.

Having siblings present during the birth of the newest member of the family is growing in popularity. Whether they should be there or not is an issue of their maturity and your labor history.

Says Judith Turner, "While I am in principle agreeable to having siblings present, I find I really need a quiet setting so I can concentrate on labor, and small kids aren't conducive to that." Childbirth is a beautiful experience but can be quite graphic, which might be disturbing to younger children. Make sure that your child is old enough to understand that you aren't injured or in danger. "If I were giving birth today I could see having my son there," says Valerie Hyndman. "My two births were pretty untraumatic, and I think it would be interesting for him."

Most hospitals provide classes for siblings in preparation of childbirth, and if you plan on him or her attending your birth, it would be a very good idea to sign your child up.

Fond memories
"When my son, Benjamin, was born via emergency c-section, I was there and so was Karen's dad Carl. He is a big part of our lives and our best friend," recalls William Homer. "Carl's three children were born during the Ricky Ricardo era, when smoking dads paced the waiting room floor until doctors emerged through swinging doors holding the baby over their heads, and while somewhere in the depths of the hospital mom was probably still unconscious. Benjamin was the first child whose birth he witnessed. In addition to sharing the event, we were treated to unbelievable photographs he took, capturing every key moment of the birth. I still can't believe Karen, while being prepped for the procedure, was able to convince this quiet, unassuming man he was welcome to participate in the most intimate moment of her life. But I'm sure glad she did."

You will never have a more intimate and intense experience than when your child is born and when you first gaze upon that beautiful face. Make sure you share it with somebody who will enrich your lives and make the memory

Tags: alone

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