I'm pregnant with my third, planning my first natural birth. I'm reading everything I can get my hands on. My husband is super supportive and reads whatever I ask him to. I'm thinking of having my two sisters, who are my best friends, in the room with me as part of my labor support team.
The only problem is, it's not like my husband or either of my single sisters has experienced a natural labor either, so I don't know how to prepare them to help. Are there books/videos/websites you'd recommend to help them prepare for the experience, possibly with some suggestions of things they can do to help? Thanks!
Hilary, congratulations! First, so glad that you're reading voraciously, and that your husband is so willing to absorb the knowledge, too. That's the ticket, girl. My first question is where you're planning to give birth. For the purpose of this post, I'm going to assume you'll be in a hospital setting. Much of the information will still apply if you're in an independent birth center or home, but I just wanted to note it for certain.
Okay, onward: The two best books for your whole team to read, IMO, are "The Birth Partner" by Penny Simkin, and "Your Best Birth" (the link to which is on my sidebar there). The former is just essential, does a fantastic job of explaining the stages of labor, and is very manageable. The latter is written in a way that it's addressed to the mother, but it would be very helpful for them to read through, particularly if you're in a hospital setting. It explains typical interventions, procedures and protocols in a wonderfully accessible way. The related website My Best Birth is also very helpful.
Another classic book that's terrific for labor supporters of all kinds is "Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way" by Susan McCutcheon. Like "The Birth Partner", it also breaks down the stages and processes of birth and addresses supportive techniques (it's assumed it will be the husband, as the original term for the Bradley Method is "Husband-Coached Childbirth", but could really apply to anyone). It also discusses various common interventions, how to fend them off and otherwise cope with a hospital setting. Though it is coming from the perspective of a specific 'technique', the lessons are very useful for anyone in a supportive role. Admittedly, this came out a while ago, and" Your Best Birth" is the most up-to-date of the three (by far), but the core information in them all is still helpful.
Next, are you attending a childbirth class? I would recommend an independent class, as in, not the one that the hospital offers - or at least, not ONLY that one. (Here's 9 reasons why.) It could be Hypnobabies, or the aforementioned Bradley Method, or Birthing From Within, or a more comprehensive class that uses a little bit of everything. Look around and see what appeals to YOU the most, and what's available in your area. What might be key is seeing if you could bring your sisters with you to some or all the classes - check with the instructors to see what's kosher, of course, but having them fully committed, informed, and on the same page as you would be a great bonus if at all possible.
As for videos, I do think y'all should have a "Business of Being Born" movie night if you haven't already! My next recommendation for you all to watch together, preferably with these handy printed PDFs, is the videos for Lamaze's 6 Healthy Birth Practices. I cannot think of a more succinct, clear, straightforward and current set of videos for just such a situation. These 6 Practices can seriously make ALL the difference if they're fully put into practice. Here's a sample, the video for the third Healthy Practice:
But then, of course, you're going to want to watch some actual births. Looking on YouTube for "natural birth" and "home birth" actually yields a lot of great examples, if not full-length instructional films. I of course cannot sing the praises of this collection of older videos from France enough. Other birth professionals out there, especially childbirth educators, do you have favorite films for your clients? Do share!
Now. ALL that said, being me, I still have to plug the option of a doula, even with your wonderful support system, for many of the reasons that I laid out in this post. As loving and devoted as your team may be, you stated that this is the first natural experience for all three of them, and sometimes having an experienced pro who knows the ropes can make the difference when the going gets rough. I say that not to cast doubt on the intentions or the abilities of your team, because with all three there and working harmoniously, you're going to be well-cared for. I just have to include it as another option.
Oh, come on, now, Anne, wouldn't it be overkill with three people already helping? Okay, assuming those people are very well-prepared as per the above, yes, it's possible, but there are still legitimate reasons to consider it. I just gotta throw it out there.
I hope you'll report back here about your experience, both in preparation and in execution (egad, what an awful way to refer to the birth of a child, please forgive me), and I wish you and your team the very, very best!