Deciding whom to invite into the delivery room can be a loaded issue. Before you allow anyone to be part of this event, I would like you to be very honest with yourself. Why are you inviting this person? Anyone you invite to your birth should be there because they are helping you and you want them there, not just because they want to be. Keep in mind that emotional support counts as help.

If you feel like you need your mother there because she will keep you calm and strong, great. If you’re having her there only because her feelings will be hurt if you don’t, you may be surprised by how anxious or resentful you feel about her presence once you’re actually in labor.

Childbirth professionals have long observed the relationship between a laboring woman’s sense of security and relaxation and the way her body responds to the hard work of labor. We are all animals deep down, and our instincts will only allow us to give birth to our babies if we feel safe and secure. If you’re stressed out, your labor may actually stall or stop and lead to more interventions . . . and more stress. The cycle isn’t good for you, and it isn’t good for your baby.

If necessary, there are ways to graciously get out of an invitation you’ve already extended and now regret. You can be direct and honest, or ask your spouse to do it for you. If that’s out of the question, you can blame hospital policy (“Oops, just found out I can only have one person in the delivery room with me!”) or you can just wait and “see how it goes.” Heather, a first-time mom I know, was in labor for twelve hours before her husband put in the call to his mother—and by the time Mom made the three-hour drive, the baby had arrived. Truth be told, Heather had a pretty good idea that her labor was picking up by about the sixth hour, but decided at the last minute that she just couldn’t deal with her generous yet overbearing mother-in-law while in the throes of contractions. Nobody seemed surprised that Heather had “misjudged” her baby’s arrival time, and Mom was never the wiser. The details of your labor are nobody’s business but your own, and babies often come more quickly than laboring moms—and their nurses!—expect. Make the decision you are most comfortable with and decide how much information to divulge later. Just be sure you don’t put up a conflicting birth story on Facebook!

Also give some consideration to which people you will invite to visit in the hospital after the baby is born. Don’t overbook your schedule, and reserve the right to change your mind. You may be exhausted, sore, or just not feeling up to visitors. Again, you can always use hospital policy as an excuse. Or if there’s a visit you feel obligated to keep but would like to be short, you can time it for just before some planned event, like a visit from the lactation consultant. My guess is that most guests won’t want to hang around for that!

Now that you’ve done some brainstorming, you may be getting a clearer picture about the specific needs you’ll have before, during, and after the birth of your baby. Likely some people have already given you a vague offer of help or asked if they can visit after the baby is born. You may have other people in mind that you’d like to ask to fulfill a certain role. Take a moment and write their names down on a piece of paper.

Now, I’d like you to make a chart with five columns. You can do this in Excel or on a page in your baby journal. Down the left-hand side of your chart, you’re going to list all the different tasks you will need help with. Create three more columns for the person’s name who will fill the role, when they’ll fill it, and their contact information. The final column is for notes. You can use the example I’ve created below as a guide.

Armed with your chart filled out with the list of tasks, go through your list of friends and family members. You can either call or e-mail each one personally or send out a group message via e-mail or Facebook letting people know what your needs are and asking them to respond with a way they might be able to help you. Ask them to be specific. For example, if they can watch your kids on weekend nights but not weekdays, you’ll need to know. If they are willing to take your kids to the park for an hour to give you a break but can’t commit to an entire day, you’ll need to know that, too.

As friends and family respond, you can fill in the columns with pertinent details. Use the “notes” column for any special limitations or information you will need to keep in mind. I’ve started filling out my pretend chart so you can get an idea of how to do yours. For simplicity’s sake, notice how I’ve created just one row for each task, and then broken it down by more specifics within the row. You may want to organize this information differently in a way that makes sense to you.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a large, nearby group of friends and family ready to jump in and help. You may find a lot of gaps in your chart. If that happens, go back and ask some of your closer friends if they can fulfill a specific role. You could also consider tapping into a larger circle of acquaintances—say your mom’s group or church. At the very least, you’ll have a good idea of what you can count on others for and what you’ll have to do yourself—or pay somebody else to do.
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