Friends and family who labor with you have the most freedom in the way that they participate. While some family members may participate fully, rubbing your back and helping you sip water; others may feel awkward and unsure of their usefulness.
Generally, good choices are individuals who have an interest in the health of the mother and baby, and are supportive of your desires for labor. Those who support you during labor should train with you, attending childbirth classes and practicing the relaxation exercises with you to understand how they can best help you. This will prepare them to work with you as you labor, encouraging you and assisting with comfort measures.
Sometimes an individual is important to your emotional support, but seems to offer no additional comforts to your labor. You may find that giving these individuals jobs other than caring for you will allow them to be with you, without them feeling like a fifth wheel. Tasks such as updating family members, taking discreet photos or video, or running errands such as getting food and drinks can be helpful to the labor team.
As you begin to plan for your support team, your birth plan can help you determine the best ways for loved ones to be involved. Share your birth plan with the loved ones you want to invite to attend your birth, notice their reaction. Are these family members supportive of your decisions, or will they be a source of conflict as you make decisions during labor. Loved one’s who may not be as supportive as you need during labor can be asked to provide other assistance – such as watching an older child, prepareing the home for your return, preparing meals and groceries for the first week home, or being central command to prevent unnecessary phone calls at the birth place.
Having a birth plan gives your loved one’s the ability to support you according to your wishes. It becomes much easier to give suggestions when they know it was the type of help you wanted. Let’s face it, when a woman is in labor it can be hard for anyone who cares about her to want anything but relief for her. While family members may not be willing to suggest you not get medication because you wanted to go natural, they can use your birth plan to remind you with phrases such as, “In your birth plan you said you wanted to try the tub. Do you want to try that before asking for an epidural?”