Birth, whether it is your first or your fifth, is a team effort. Your role is clearly defined, birth your baby. You are the only person who can do that. But what are the key support roles you need filled to do that?
You will have your own priorities for what is important during your labor and delivery and your birth team needs to be supportive to the most valued aspects of your birth. Keep in mind that trust is a critical component to this process, and your instincts should not be taken lightly. If your gut is telling you something - you need to listen.
There are a few people that make for essential members of your birth and postpartum team:
Partner or spouse
Your intimate connection with your partner can be a guiding light to you during those powerful contractions. Your bond got you into this, and it will get you out. Encourage your partner to learn about the process as much as possible ahead of time. Attend classes together to become familiar with the process. Chances are, when labor first begins, it will be just the two of your for a while. Help them learn positions and massage techniques to soothe you throughout labor.
Doulas are one of the greatest resources you can have during this process. They bring their knowledge of the physiological process, a keenness to your emotional needs, book smarts, unwavering support, an outside perspective and their vast wealth of resources. Need the name of a lactation consultant? Your doula has you covered. How about the nearest mommy groups? Your doula already looked it up.
Doulas are not just there to support you, the birthing mother, either. They work for you and your partner to provide all around support. Sometimes it is nice for your partner to tag out with the doula to grab a nap or snack. Whatever the case, doulas are there for you before, during and after the labor and birth process.
There is an array of choices for you when choosing your initial path of prenatal, birth, and postpartum care. You can go with a midwife or an obstetrician (OB). If you are having a home birth, a midwife and her helpers will attend to you. While in a hospital, oftentimes, you are under the care of an OB and nursing staff. It depends on your preference for birth and whether it is a low or high-risk pregnancy.
After you give birth, a pediatrician appointment will need to be arranged for your baby. It is best to start researching doctors now, and discover which one best matches your priorities and outlook for the new addition to your family.
Family or Friends
The roles for sisters, cousins, grandparents, and parents ranges for each individual. Designate tasks ahead of time. It is good to have one point-person that can disseminate the information to the others. The last thing you want during labor is a million text messages asking if they baby has arrived yet. This way you tell your point-person and they will inform the rest of your friends and family of the new arrival.
Female relatives who gave birth can be a great resource at any time in the process. Donʼt hesitate to ask their advice or opinion. Chances are you will get more opinions than you will want - whether you ask or not.
There are postpartum doulas, nannies, night nurses and beyond for hired help after delivery. You can also look into having friends or family stay and help you during the new days as a parent. Postpartum depression is a very real situation post-birth. Be sure to have a community of support around you and your partner. You are experiencing a great shift into a new chapter of life, and it can be rough if you do not have proper support.
It can sound like quite the extensive list for your birth team, but just remember, not all of these individuals need to attend the birth to be supportive. Your family or friends role may be from the outside during labor, but helpful in the postpartum phase. You can concoct the perfect balance of birth support for every part of the process. Whatever is best for you, is best for the process.