Everyone has a labor story. Some people write it down, some people just sort of keep it in their heads, but everyone can recount it. No one I know, barring extraordinary circumstances, can't remember their child's entrance into this world. After all, it's a significant moment and both physically and emotionally dramatic. It really does have a major impact on you, and there are people who change your life when you're in labor, too, for various reasons.
Now you may not encounter all the people who could potentially impact you in a substantial, long-lasting way. In fact, maybe you're only going to deal with one or two people through the whole process (particularly if you labor and give birth at home). But chances are you're not going to be completely alone and anyone who joins you at this point in your story, whether intentionally or by chance, is going to become a part of your story. These people can affect your labor experience for good, or for not so good, and hopefully you will not encounter any of the latter.
So who are some of the most common people who will leave an impression on you and forever be woven into the story of how your baby came into the world? Here's a start:
No matter whom you have chosen to be with you while you give birth — your romantic partner, your mother, your sister, your friend — that person is your birth partner for life, and they are going to affect this very profound and intimate experience. So make sure they know this ahead of time and that they're up to the responsibility.
Whoever Is Responsible For Relief
Be that an anesthesiologist hooking you up with that sweet, sweet epidural, a doctor or nurse coming in with some nitrous oxide, or your doula massaging the ever-loving hell out of your lower back, that person is going to be your favorite in this whole experience. Both times I've give birth I've literally told my anesthesiologist "You are my favorite person and I love you a little."
Labor hurts, y'all. Anyone who can make it not hurt or hurt less is going to change your life.
A doula is basically your ride or die birth buddy. While most people who opt for a doula are aiming for a med-free birth, the truth is that a doula will support you no matter what you choose. She's not there to tell you how to give birth, she's there to make sure you're getting the kind of birth you want.
One Really Amazing Nurse
A lot of thought is often given to the doctors and midwives who actually deliver babies, but the nurses, who do a lot, are often overlooked. More often than not, a laboring woman is going to be interacting with a set of nurses far more than her designated care provider. One (or more) really great nurse has the power to magically and wonderfully transform a labor from hellacious to bearable or even exciting and pleasant.
One Really Obnoxious Nurse
On the flip side, an actively rude or mean nurse can make the whole experience go from not great or even good to... really not good. And I get it, nurses work impossible shifts and have extremely difficult, thankless jobs. But damnit, Carol, I know you do this day in and day out but I don't often have babies and I could use a little kindness, please.
Your Care Provider
Hopefully you have had a chance to build a rapport with this person ahead of time and they're familiar with your personality and birth plan (if you have one), because this is you're birth and you're the star and they should definitely play second fiddle. "Second fiddle" is often used as a term to mean "unimportant," but in the context of an orchestra it's a coveted and important position. Ditto in a birth situation.
You're doing the heavy lifting, it's true, but they're going to be working pretty hard themselves, putting their many hours of study and medical training to good use.
Whoever Gets You Food
Most hospitals frown on eating during labor, but not all. And if you're laboring at home, well, no one is there to stop you. I sent my husband to get me a pumpernickel bagel the size of my face with veggie cream cheese while I was in labor. I made him walk seven blocks, passing, like, five places where he could have gotten the same thing because I needed a very specific pumpernickel bagel with veggie cream cheese. From the good place.
That bagel basically defined my labor (it was so good), and my husband brought it to me, which secures him a special place in my heart and memories.
Whether it's your child or just a little one in general, seeing a kid while you're in labor is weird because you're like, "Oh God, I'm going to have (another) one of those pretty soon."
When I was labor I was in an elevator with a small child and I was really nervous about shrieking out in pain and scaring them.
Whether you're finding relief in your tub or shower or pooping your brains out (this is something that happens in labor that they don't tell you about, so consider yourself warned), your bathroom is a spot of comfort in labor. So, for all intents and purposes, it is a person, opening its arms wide to let you in and will never, ever judge the hideous things that are gushing out of you.
Random Chance Encounter
There are often surprise players in a labor story. Like when I was in labor with my oldest and heading into the hospital, and there was a family by the front door who were obviously distraught. I mean, it's a hospital, so it didn't take too much to put two and two together to realize they'd probably just lost a loved one. Even in the tremendous amount of pain I was in (like... a lot, you guys) I noticed them. And I noticed that they noticed me because I heard one of them say, "Aww, look" and they all turned and softened a little bit as they saw me.
We all briefly made eye contact, both in our own version of pain, and you could just sort of feel everyone silently acknowledge that we were having a very unique, kind of beautiful, profound moment; a reflection of the entire life cycle in a 30 second encounter. I feel like we both realized that I was a part of their story of the day and they were a part of mine.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.