One of the things about having so many friends who have been pregnant before me is that I have had the pleasure of hearing about their pregnancy, labor, and delivery experiences and what they have learned from it. If there is one important, vital, underlying lesson I got from all of these experiences, it’s that under the umbrella of a healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery experience is a lot of room for personal preferences.
Some of my friends are very community-oriented and took those around them in consideration when it came to planning for labor and delivery. While a pregnancy is already fraught with quite a few delicate questions with regards to boundaries and personal preferences that can unintentionally offend the other, it seems that labor and delivery is a whole different ball game.
I wasn’t too surprised by the broad range of opinions about pregnancy, but was shocked at how adamant and sometimes downright aggressive opinions about labor and delivery were. I’m not sure yet why it is so; but it does beg the question: are the way labor and delivery planned for restricted by a fear of being judged?
Yet again, while my sample population size is small and my techniques nowhere near rigorous enough to count for much in the research world, the mommies I reached out to with this question provided me with valuable insight into the question and a feeling that a large number of them would have, had they felt they could, chosen a labor and delivery experience different from what they went through. I focus in this post on the ones that wanted to take into consideration the community the parents were living in. That is to say, I am focusing on the experiences of parents who, just like my husband and I, are always trying to figure out how they can contribute to the tightening of the bonds of friendship within their communities.
The Open Party Home Delivery
The ultimate community-building event would be the idea of having a home delivery open to anyone who wants to come for a visit. The mother and father would have a private room to go into as needed, they would have a midwife or doula taking care of them, and the rest of the house would be open to family, friends, and neighbors at all hours of the day. Sounds crazy but as one person put it, during labor, she would have loved to have people around to distract both her and her husband since all they had to do was to wait through painful contractions—and might as well have had an ongoing party to go to. This seems to be the perfect setup for extroverts who are comfortable having contractions in public and looking less than radiant. It would also imply that those attending have to contribute—they can’t just come over and expect everything to be set up for them, they have to bring food and drinks and even leave some behind!
The Limited Party Birthing Centre Delivery
A birthing centre usually includes “living room” and kitchen areas. Out of respect for the other families who are also at the birthing centre, the couple can’t invite everyone they know to come over. But one of my friends mentioned how great it would have been to have someone—her sister, for example—be a contact person so that at all times, 2-4 people could come over with food and drinks just to hang out. Again, it was felt that the distraction would have been well worth it, the food and drinks could have been shared with the other families who were also waiting for a delivery, and that it would have been a way to include family, friends, and neighbors in the process. The parents would also still have their private room when they need it. This seems to be a good setup for parents who are either extroverts or those who are a little more reserved extroverts. It would also be a great setup for a couple featuring one extrovert and one introvert.
The Private Home, Birthing Centre, or Hospital Delivery with Digital Outreach
My husband and I have, amongst others, a group of ten or so friends who are all part of a common WhatsApp group. Two of them, a married couple, had a beautiful little baby girl a couple of years ago. They didn’t want people to come to the hospital while they were in labor and delivery except for their own parents. But they wanted us, their closest friends, to be a part of the experience. That’s when the WhatsApp group became the Labour and Delivery group and to this day, we all remember staying up all night just to check on messages from the parents, pictures we would send back and forth of our reactions and what we were doing when the baby was delivered, and the pictures of the adorable newborn baby that is now a part of our group. The children of close friends are already very special and dear to our hearts, but this little girl has a particular spot in the hearts of this group of friends, and I think it has to do with this shared experience, even if was “only” a digital one. This seems to be the perfect option for those who are extroverts or introverts, who don’t want to take any risk with regards to the unknown—what if people expect things that can’t be given, what about those who won’t respect boundaries, what if we change our minds about where the boundaries are set—but still want a certain group of people to be involved. There are also those who post updates on more open platforms like Facebook or Instagram, which would suit the needs of parents who want to share even bit of the experience with everyone they know, rather than a small group of friends.
The Completely Private Delivery
Then there are those who just need to be alone in their bubble and go through the process together as a couple. There are a number of my friends who mentioned that they wished they had been alone with their partner because they really wanted to focus on feeling every aspect of the experience and not have to answer questions from family and friends, however well-meaning they were. They actually felt that having others around as detrimental to community-building—one friend mentioned how, in an act completely unlike her usual self, she told someone very rudely (she even used swear words!) to be quiet and get out. Needless to say, that didn’t go too well! This would be a setup perfect for those who are introverts or those who are concerned about the way they might act under the very unique and intense experience of labor and delivery.
Just like with so many other things in life, it seems that, again and again, there is a certain balance between personal preference and boundaries that needs to be struck when it comes to deciding what kind of labor and delivery experience parents want to have. And I feel that ultimately, any option can be a community-building experience if it is done in a spirit of love and acceptance from both side—the parents’ and the members of the community. After all, it is love that binds the members of a community and a true acceptance of their difference that strengthens their relationships.