Let’s face it, being a labor partner can be pretty stressfull; especially when you slept through most of the childbirth class. You might not even be sure if you really want to see everything that may happen between the time you pull into the hospital parking lot and your new baby is finally handed to you like a soft warm burrito. And the expectations are huge. It’s a big day, a big adventure, a peak life experience that you have both been planning for for months. You know you both want a loving and peaceful birth experience, and your partner is really counting on your support, but you’re not quite sure if you can pull it off.
But every single Dad is more than capable of making his partner much more comfortable and able to cope with labor. And you only have to remember two things!
- Attention: Give her your complete attention. While some women enjoy the distraction of TV, conversation, or music in early labor; none of them want ANY distraction while they are actually having a contraction. Be aware of when a contraction is beginning. Watch for a change in her face or for her to tense her fists or otherwise announce that a new contraction has begun. When she is contracting, all conversation should stop in the room. Give her your complete attention, even if you are just silently sitting by her side. Knowing that you are aware of her discomfort and going through it with her will really help. This is not the time to look at your phone or rummage through your suitcase. BE with her, look at her, and protect her concentration by encouraging others in the room to pay attention too. Tell a nurse with a question that your partner will respond after the contraction – or simply hold up your hand – every labor nurse knows what this means. When the contraction is over your partner may be ready to laugh and chat again for the few moments she has until the next wave approaches.
- Encouragement: Tell your partner how well she is doing. I’m not talking about the constant repetition of “you’re doing great honey” with each contraction. Really encourage her from your heart. Find the moments between contractions to make eye contact and gently touch her face. When she is sweaty and miserable whisper in her ear that she has never looked more beautiful. When her eyes widen in doubt and fear, tell her that you will keep her safe and that you know how strong she is. When she says she cannot go on, remind her of your beautiful baby so soon to be in her arms. Don’t be embarrassed to show your love and encouragement in the labor room. These intimate words of love and encouragement actually cause your partner to release oxytocin, a hormone that helps labor progress and reduces the perception of pain.
You don’t have to have any great skills to make your baby’s birth a loving and positive experience for both of you. Just take the time to be in the moment, be present, and make memories.