Comfort Measures in Labor: Family
Family is important to us. They know us better than anyone. They have been with us through the best of times and the worst. They have seen us at our ugliest and still love us. They would give their lives for us without thinking twice. They have sacrificed for our happiness. They want the best for us and they want us to be happy. They love us in a way that no one else can or ever will.
When you don’t feel well or are in pain, you likely call your mom. She can offer you comfort in a way that no one else can. The way she has cared for you since you were in her womb and has conditioned you in finding comfort in the way she offers it. She knows just the right words to calm you, she knows just the right way to stroke your hair to show you gentleness, and knows just the right time to kiss your forehead to remind you that you will always be her little girl.
Not everyone is blessed to have a comforting and supportive family. Even those of us who do, those same loving and tender family members also know exactly how to “push our buttons.” Due to our history with them, even if they say something very benign or what they think is the right thing to say with intentions of making you feel better, we tend to assume things they didn’t imply. How they pick their teeth, clear their throat, or even breath may get on our nerves faster than a complete stranger who does the exact same thing.
Family can be incredibly comforting, especially in a family event like the birth of a child. However, like last week’s post on seeking solitude, inviting your family to your labor and the birth of your child is very particular to the relationship you have with your family and your personality.
In the not so distant past, when a woman went into labor, she was often surrounded by the women of her family. Her mother, her aunts, her grandmother, her in-laws, her sisters, her cousins, even her own daughters. They would use their experience to help her through the tough contractions, encourage her with stories of their own labors, tell jokes they knew she would appreciate, and use this experience as a teaching moment for the younger girls.
It is only in the last hundred years that this has not been the norm. One drawback of this is that most first time moms go into labor having never witnessed a birth. They do not know what to expect and are often fearful. Fear reduces the flow of oxytocin (the main hormone responsible for effective contractions). A reduction in oxytocin lengthens labor and is the main culprit for stalled labor. It increases the chance of complications and the need for interventions.
Including your family at your labor and birth, whether in the room as you deliver your child or waiting in the waiting room, is a wonderful bonding moment in any family. The oxytocin that your body is producing during labor and after is a major ingredient in relationship boding. The hormones you are producing also increase the production of the same hormones in the people in the same vicinity as you. Seeing the love and pride in your families eyes when they see your child for the first time is a vision you will cherish your whole life.
Scientific studies on how families affect our health have found some very interesting correlations. One study found that the better your family relationships, the faster you heal. Another study suggest that a good relationship with your mother can lower your chance of developing infections. Having close social ties has been shown to reduce stress, regulate insulin production, improve digestion, and improve the immune system. Whether family is in the delivery room or involved around the time of the birth, having your family near and continuing a strong, healthy bond with them is important emotionally and physically.
Whether to invite your family to your birth is a personal decision that is very dependent on how healthy your relationship with your family is and your personality. It is also important to keep in mind the policies and physical space of the place you plan to deliver. Some facilities limit the number of visitors welcome other places do not have the literal space for a large amount of visitors.
If you do decided to invite your family to your labor and delivery, I would suggest one of the things I recommended in last week’s post…give each person a job. It may become very boring waiting for the baby to arrive so it would be a good idea to give them some suggestions in how they can help you while also making them feel a part of the moment. Some things you may consider:
- create a prayer list they can pray for you each hour of your labor
- have them record themselves singing lullabies and/or hymns to play for your baby when you put him down for a nap
- have them write letters to the baby about how much they love him
- have them take photos (just make sure you go over with them the amount of modesty you are comfortable with and how you feel about them posting info about your labor/delivery/baby on social media or sharing with friends)
- make someone the coffee/drink/snack attendant
- make someone the dj if you plan on having music
- give someone the job of keeping a log of the labor
- make someone your ambassador to your friends and family who may want updates
- have them do your laundry, stock your fridge and pantry, make freezer meals, tidy your house, mow your lawn, etc.
Deciding whether to have your family involved on labor and birth day is a personal decision that includes considering many conditions. If you are the type of person who thrives being around your family and finds great comfort from them being near, you may want to seriously consider inviting them to this monumental experience in your family’s life. They can be a great support in pregnancy, labor, birth, and throughout your child’s life.