Choosing Birth Witnesses

“Please, choose your birth attendant and place of birth carefully. Search hard for the attendant that you connect well with. You and your baby deserve to be treated with utmost respect and dignity. There are attendants who believe in the sacredness and sanctity of birth. You may, however, need to act as a detective to find them.” –Janice Marsh-Prelesnik (The Roots of Natural Mothering)

This quote resonated with me because of the final line—I am very familiar with that feeling of needing to be a “detective” in order to unearth the kind of care needed/desired/deserved by my family (in various areas, not just birth care, but certainly with regards to birth). I shared the quote via Facebook and a very interesting discussion was sparked about the value of inviting women (other than formal birth attendants) to witness our birth experiences—sisters, friends, nieces. A commenter named Bonnie shared her ideas that one of the very best ways for young women to learn what birth is really like is to be invited to witness a real birth. And, that this may be one of our most transformative keys to making true and lasting changes in our current birth culture. I was fascinated with her ideas and invited her to write a guest blog post about them. She graciously agreed and her wonderful article is soon to follow!

I was going to invite my younger sister to my second birth for these reasons and then I decided not to (“voting” for my preference for a very small amount of birth witnesses over the value of her witnessing the birth), but as I read Bonnie’s thoughts I felt a little sad about my decision. That said, I feel very, very private about my births and it is really important to me to have no one extraneous present.  My first baby was born in a birth center and in addition to my husband and the birth center doctor, also present was a doula, a midwife/assistant, my best friend, my mom. It was too many people for my taste and looking back over his birth, it is one of the things that I wish would have been different. My second baby was born at home and I had a midwife. I also had my husband, my mom, and my first son present (my mom’s main job was to hold him and to take some pix). This felt like a much better, smaller match for me. My third baby was a second trimester miscarriage and he was born at home unassisted and just my husband present. Later, a friend who is a doula was very, very helpful to me with postpartum care/doula stuff. I am due in January and having another homebirth and I am hiring a doula this time (same doula as third birth), with the primary purpose being immediate postpartum help (“washing the bloody towels and bringing me tea” is how I define it). I do not plan for her to be present until shortly after the baby is born. I will also have my mom on picture duty and kid-duty if they wake up. I am having mixed feelings about the kids, because I don’t mind them being there if they wake up on their own, but I am struggling with the idea of waking them up and possibly having cranky or otherwise disruptive witnesses in the room! Of course, baby could be born during the day time, which would totally change the dynamic I have pictured in my mind.

Anyway, I know you will enjoy Bonnie’s post and I’m so excited to share it!

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