Unassisted Childbirth (UC) refers to giving birth without the assistance of a trained birth professional, but most women who choose UC will tell you that they did have support and assistance in many forms throughout pregnancy and birth.
The first relationship to consider, if you have one, is your spouse or partner. One of the most common questions I hear from women who desire an unassisted birth is, “How do I convince my husband?” Just like any other situation where conflict or disagreement occurs, making decisions about your baby’s birth will require productive communication. As unfair as it might seem, you’ll probably have to really take the lead in discussing things. You may need to dig deep to find out what is really behind your partners apprehension. Often, spouses who have only seen modern, industrialized childbirth (even worse, fictional depictions of birth on TV) will feel fearful and concerned that they will be expected to deliver the baby or fill the role of “doctor.” Sharing birth stories or videos of undisturbed births or mothers catching their own babies might help him/her see another way that birth can occur and facilitate further discussion.
Sometimes, a spouse is completely against unassisted birth (or even midwife assisted homebirth) and cannot be convinced otherwise. In this situation, many women decide to compromise by hiring a midwife or delivering at a birth center. Others find their only alternative (or the only one their spouse will accept) is birthing in the hospital. As the woman carrying the baby, the decision is ultimately yours. You may find you have to choose between an ultimatum (which may involve birthing without your spouse’s support, or even without his/her presence) and a compromise.
My body, My birth? Or Our baby, Our birth? Ideally, we’d all have secure, healthy partnerships before having babies and this wouldn’t even be a question. In reality, many pregnancies occur before relationships have matured fully; your partnership might need work, or be stressed for a variety of reasons; and either or both partners might be seriously lacking in effective communication skills needed to work through conflict.
With my first son’s birth, I took the ‘My body, My birth’ approach. Though I never technically set an ultimatum because my boyfriend claimed he agreed with my decision, I knew he was unreliable and I don’t think I would have compromised my birthplan for him. I ended up giving birth alone. He only remained in my and my son’s life for a few more months. Given the circumstances, even though I didn’t fully understand them at the time, I made the right decision. I’ll be forever grateful that my son and I had an amazing birth experience, just the two of us.
I’ve since married a man who is a true partner to me (he also adopted my oldest son.) Convincing him to have our second baby unassisted was easy because, from the beginning he knew the story of my first birth and that I’d want to birth any future children the same way. If we had a disagreement about the birth of our child today, I would absolutely compromise – unless I was convinced that our baby would be put in real danger – with the best interest of our entire family unit at heart.
In many ways, setting an ultimatum says a lot about where your relationship is and can even set the tone for where it’s heading. If you are new parents, this might also be your first big parenting decision together. Emotions (and hormones) are often running high. Communicate your needs, fears and desires carefully. Stretch the conversation out over months if you have to; and be prepared with lots of information to answer your partner’s questions and concerns.
Besides your partner, there may be the question of who else will be invited to share the birth experience. Possibilities may include: older children, extended family members, a friend or a doula. Young children should be provided with their own support person, who can tend to their needs and give one on one attention while you labor. Anyone else present should be fully respectful of your decision to birth unassisted. If they are fearful, unsupportive, or if there is any tension or power struggle between you (as is often the case with family members) keep the negative energy out of your birthspace and don’t invite them!
If you hire a doula, it is important to understand her role as a non-medical support person. She is not there ‘just incase’ something goes wrong. Think of it this way, she isn’t there to play the role of the hands off midwife you couldn’t find (or afford.) She’s there to fill the role of the supportive friend/sister/mother you always wanted.
You will also want to identify your prenatal support system. Will you have prenatal care provided by a doctor or midwife? Will you seek the services of a Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, or other alternative health care provider during the pregnancy? Do you have friends or networks in the community where you will be able to openly discuss your plans to birth unassisted? Where will you seek education about childbirth? Who will you turn to if you have questions? You may find that the internet is an amazing source for information and support from like-minded individuals, but if you run into serious challenges having a support system of people you can talk to face to face is ideal.
You may also find it helpful to identify your extended support system – people and resources that help you maintain a healthy pregnancy – for instance, your baby sitter, yoga class or an organic farm share.
Last but not least, you’ll want to establish a ‘safe zone’ by identifying who needs to be kept out of the loop. If you’re concerned aunt is likely to harass you throughout your entire pregnancy, it may be best to keep the birthplans from her. If your mother in law threatens to call an ambulance, she should not be notified when you go into labor. Friends who feel the need to tell you every birth emergency story they hear in an attempt to change your mind about UC might need to be told, “If we are going to continue our friendship through my pregnancy, this topic is going to have to be off limits from now on.”