Labor. The BIG day. Birth.
What is a partner to do?! How do you remember it all? How can you make it through with all well and a mama who still loves you?
Here are some fabulous tips from moms who KNOW what a woman in labor needs from her partner. Compiled from our expert birth instructors (who have each had a natural birth themselves) these ideas can help both of you come out better on the other side of your birth.
1. ”Don't take it personal if I don't want to be touched or talked to or tell you to be quiet.”
Some women just labor best when left alone. (But don’t plan on this because you never know!)
2. ”Be an active participant.”
Interact, massage, encourage, etc. Get involved. (This sounds contradictory to the last one, doesn’t it?! The truth is, different women want different things and you need to be prepared for ALL possibilities. Don’t assume she will be one way or the other because you really don’t know until you are in it! Your birth class should prepare you for all possibilities.)
3. ”Let me do what works for me!”
If mom wants to play on her phone and it helps her, don’t take it away! There isn’t really a “right” way to cope in labor, as long as mom is happy.
4. ”Don’t leave!”
Stay there--your presence is important.
5. ”For the love of all that is holy, don’t forget your Altoids!”
Breath mints. Do we really have to explain this one? Coffee breath, garlic bread from the night before, that tuna salad you had at lunch, for goodness sakes, brush your teeth or eat a mint!
6. ”PAY FOR A DOULA!”
It is worth it for you AND her.
7. ”When mom asks for something in labor it's because she NEEDS it (it's not a want).”
Women in labor have needs. NEEDS!
8. “The relaxation exercises will help dad stay calm in labor so he should practice too.”
You will get lots of relaxation exercises with your birth class. Use them, practice them, get comfortable with them.
9. ”It's okay to be nervous - most dads are - take a birth class to ease fears!”
10. ”My husband couldn't think of things to say when I needed him to give me encouragement. He said he hadn't had his coffee yet. Good thing the baby was born a few minutes later because he was about to get fired! So a list of good things to say to mom if she wants or needs encouragement is really helpful.”
You will talk about this in your birth class, so go home and write them down in the appropriate spot in your workbook! Review them. Then review them AGAIN.
11. ”I will feed off of your energy, so please be confident in me. (My husband was awesome at this!!)”
Sometimes the biggest help is just believing that she can do it when she doesn’t even believe it herself.
12. ”Be completely present with me.“
We make kids put away their distractions at school; possibly the same rule is appropriate for birth! The phone, the work, ESPN, whatever it is that distracts you- it can wait.
13. ”Maybe watching a movie or ballgame during labor will be totally not worth it later and she may never forgive you!”
14. ”Please cry with me when the baby is born. Because I will. And because if you can't, you're dead inside.”
(OK- not everybody is emotional or a crier - not even mom. That is fine and understandable. But it is also true that there is nothing wrong with a man being deeply touched and showing it after the birth of his child.)
15. ” Know how to set up and take down the birth pool...before I'm in labor!“
Nothing quite like yelling instructions in between contractions...
16. ”A doula will enhance Dad's role and at the same time take a lot of stress off him.”
A great doula doesn’t steal the show- she supports everybody there.
17. ”The most important thing (at least for me during my births) was simply his presence and holding his hand. I think sometimes dads feel too much pressure to do stuff beyond their scope…”
Have we mentioned doulas yet?!
18. ”I think for me, at our home birth, it was just like 'Babe, take beautiful pictures of this amazing experience. Capture the essence of this!'
They're all blurry.”
(Maybe this tip should be, “Spring for a photographer!”???)
19. ” I always think it's powerful when dad gives mom a gift after the birth. I am not a gifty person at all, so I don't know why I feel this way, but after birth for dad to give something special to mom to acknowledge how much she went through to carry and birth their child is really touching. Especially something she can keep forever that has personal significance. Especially for dads that find it hard to be involved in birth in an intimate way or say emotionally intimate things in general. He can just hand it to her and say "Thank you."”
Who wouldn’t love a little bobble for their wrist?
20. ”My husband makes a cheese cake for us to eat after each baby is born. It's a tradition started by his father. This last time we used our own farm eggs and local blueberries for the topping.“
Awwwww!….Love is a timeless tradition!
21. ”Speak up! We created a birth plan together so remind me of my goals and encourage me to follow through with them, even if I look exhausted or defeated.”
After all the hours of preparation, talking, classes, planning and hard work, don’t let it all fly out the window in labor because you got nervous. You’ve got this! Sometimes a smile and a whispered compliment is just the thing she needs.
We can’t really tell you what your partner will be thinking in labor, but we can tell you one thing for sure--this day matters and you are one of the most important parts of it.
We hope that all women and their partners have an AMAZING birth! The work you put into it beforehand will ultimately pay off because then you WILL know what she is thinking and respond appropriately.
Here’s to a wonderful birth!
Looking for some great books for the partner to read to prepare for your upcoming birth? Here are a few fabulous ideas, in addition to your Field Manual:
The Birth Book by Dr Sears: This book is a classic with helpful hints that anybody can appreciate. With the perspective of both mom and dad thrown in but from one of America’s most trusted physicians, The Birth Book is a must-read and as invaluable as it is readable.
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin: This book is specifically geared for the partner and has a wonderful quick reference section with helpful, illustrated birth positions and much, much more. This is one to pack in your birth bag.
Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones is a short book but packed with information. This book will change the way you view birth!