Important Things to Decide Before the Baby Is Born

Choose a support person

From the Doctor's Perspective...
In most births (vaginal deliveries), the extra person is the patient's significant other and maybe one other person, say a mother, sister, or close friend. However, I've been in deliveries where there were five extra people. I've also been in deliveries where there was just the patient. The important thing is to figure this out in advance, so there are no surprises or arguments at a time that should be happy. Then let the nurse know, and she'll handle the rest.

Choosing Your Support Person
If you are married, chances are your support person will be your husband. If you're not married, you might have other options. Pick your support person carefully. It should be someone who is calm because that person will have to keep you calm and peaceful when you're at your most agitated state. Your support person should also know you well and be the encouraging type, so that he or she can help you through potentially long hours of labor and delivery. Doctors and nurses rely on the support person to "translate" directions to the patient, who might not be at her best in terms of listening. Also, if the patient has any questions, often the support person will query the doctor or nurse for the patient, who, obviously, has more important things on her mind.

Don't be disappointed if your support person flakes out and doesn't really come through in the way you expected. This is probably a new experience for him or her as well. Even if your support person is just in the room to give you moral support, share the joy, or feed you ice chips – let's face it, passive support is better than nothing.

One Person's Support is Another Person's Annoyance
Your support person may be your best friend (or spouse) and the most wonderful person in the world, but during labor, he or she may bug you to death (for absolutely no reason). Keep in mind that you're not at your most charming when you're in labor. Little things can bug you a lot.

For example, Dr. John recalls when he was a resident hearing a woman in labor moaning, the nurse counting to 10, and then a slapping sound. Finally, he could stand the suspense no longer, so he went into the room and witnessed the woman in labor slapping her husband. That's right – slapping! The husband was looking like a nice, supportive husband who held his wife's head every time she had a contraction, but after she finished, she turned her head and slapped him across the face. Dr. John left the room and ran into the patient's mother-in-law. "I'm worried," she said. "Nothing to be worried about," said Dr. John. "The patient is doing fine." "I'm not worried about the patient," she said. "That's my son in there."

Meanwhile, the nurse called Dr. John back and asked when they were going to do a c-section. Dr. John was bemused and said, "What are you talking about, nurse? What would warrant a c-section?" "How about spousal abuse?" she replied with a smile.

If You Have a C-Section
If you have a cesarean section, then everything changes as far as who can watch the birth. Typically, only one additional person is allowed in the room for a c-section because you will be going into an operating room and a sterile environment. Additional hospital personnel will be necessary to take care of the mother and the baby because the risk is elevated. Also, more attention needs to be paid to the mother, and extra people would just get in the way.

In the case of a c-section, one extra person will be allowed into the room, but only in a mask, cap, and gown (sterile applies to everyone). He (or she) will be placed at your head, and there will be a curtain between your stomach area where the doctors are working and your line of sight. The extra person can look over the curtain and tell you what is going on, but you won't be able to see anything. Sometimes, the doctors are good about relaying information, but often they are busy handling the operation. The anesthesiologist will also be at your head during surgery, watching your vital signs.

excerpted from:

Reproduced from Absolute Beginner's Guide to Pregnancy, by John Adams and Marta Justak, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing. Please visit Amazon to order your own copy.

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