Partners play an important role in pregnancy and birth. Pregnancy is good practice but seeing mom in labor adds a totally different element. It is important to know the birth process, but all that reading and knowledge does very little if you have never seen a birth.
“I’ve seen a man pull a line of boxcars with his teeth. I’ve watched a friend light his chest on fire and let another friend hop over his flaming torso on a skateboard. I’ve seen an actor on ”Deadwood” very convincingly pretend to pass kidney stones. None of this even comes close to the awesome experience of seeing my wife, Nicole, give birth.” ~ Josh Tyson: The Performance | Dads in the Delivery Room (Great read for dads!)
Dad, so here goes... here are some tips to keep in mind during labor that will act as a guide and help prepare you for this wonderful birth day.
Educate yourself. Attend a childbirth class with mom -- especially a class that highlights the role of an active partner -- and read about the birth and the hallmarks of labor. The Birth Partner is a GREAT book!
Connect with other fathers. Seek out others who have attended births and talk to them about their experience. Hearing your feelings echoed back to you by your friends will give you comfort.
Consider a birth doula. Contrary to what some believe, a doula's role is to ENHANCE (not get in the way of) the connection you have with your partner. She will support mom AND you during labor. Remember, this is an experience for you too and you may need support... show you where to apply pressure, to reassure you things are normal, to relive you during a bathroom break. Sometimes we are there as much or more for dads as moms! Let us be your safety net.
Be familiar with your birth plan and be prepared to step-up and speak-up when needed. Mom will be very focused on her job of bringing baby to the world, so she will look to you to communicate with those around you. Be ready.
Be responsible for the energy you bring into the room, and protect the birth space from others. Mom is very sensitive to what is happening around her, so it is your role to filter any bad mojo or unnecessary activity. Choose your words wisely and speak softly. Too many people in the room? Ask them to leave. Intense conversations happening around mom? Take them outside the room. Is the nurse unsupportive? Ask for another.
Ask questions. If a situation or special circumstance arises, ask "Is this an emergency? Do we have time to discuss this?" Ask for time alone to talk through what your desires are. It is difficult to make a decision with a doctor or nurse staring your down. No pressure there!
Maintain calm. If you have never seen your partner in labor before, it is quite different. It's the most focused and purposeful you will ever see her. There will be moments of intense concentration and others of just quiet. (Believe it or not, birth can be quite uneventful!) She may want you; she may not. Either way, just give her space to be where she is and stay calm. If you start to feel anxious or concerned, simply check in with the nurse or your doula. In most cases, they will just reassure you that what you are seeing is normal.
Be flexible. Try not to judge if your partner changes her mind about the birth plan. I say a lot in my classes, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and things change. The entire birth team must remain flexible because only SHE knows what she is feeling. She has the right to make an empowered decision of change – and that’s okay.
Take care of yourself. We see dads get excited in early labor and not take care of themselves then become exhausted near the end. Rest and eat during the early stages of labor. (This goes for mom AND dad.) You will need your energy later. Don't be that guy!
Final note... your partner is all in. She is doing this baby thing whether she wants to or not, so let this guide help you share in the load. Mom will be so grateful and the experience will be that much smoother when you are prepared. Congratulations and good luck!