When thinking of the partner’s role in childbirth, there are always tips and tricks you can learn to be “prepared.” But in all honesty, birth is not something that can be rehearsed and memorized. Every birth is unique. And just like every birth is unique, so is the type of support each mother needs during pregnancy and labour. Some mothers need their space to focus and put their energy into birth. Other moms need lots of comfort and support whether through words of encouragement or physical massage. That being said, there are a few key concepts that are consistently helpful throughout most births.
- Know how birth “works”
It is always helpful to go into pregnancy, labour, birth, and parenting knowing the general concept of what you’re getting into. As mentioned before, each birth is unique, but most births also follow similar stages. The length and intensity of each stage is the main inconsistency. Research as much as you can throughout the mother’s pregnancy. Look into how a baby develops in the womb, baby positioning in the uterus, the stages of labour, your options for pregnancy and birth, birth culture in your society…just to name a few suggestions.
- Know your plan and stick to it
Once you and your partner have done the research, start thinking of what you both envision for your ideal birth. Start by thinking of both your ideal birth and hers individually, then compare and discuss why you both want these births. What makes them ideal? Where are you both willing to adapt your births and why? Are you doing certain procedures because it’s “the norm?” Or do you truly believe that this birth is the best for the baby, the mother, and you? Always keep in mind though, that ultimately the mother is the one going through the labour and birth so she has the final say of what happens. As her partner, you need to trust her and make sure her needs are met and followed.
- Work on being present and in tune with her
Birth is incredibly sensitive to our emotions. Thinking “how much longer” or “I don’t know what I’m doing” is incredibly counterintuitive. I’m not saying that only the “worthy” or incredibly strong women and men will manage to not think thoughts like this, we are human after all. But it is important to be aware that our minds can wander to emotions that produce adrenaline and stress hormones. When you experience these moments try to help her concentrate on productive hormonal thoughts. Always try to lead her to empowerment. Saying to her “you can do this,” or “open for our baby,” and having her say it back with you have surprisingly huge affects on the birth.
- Learn to trust yourselves and your bodies
Trusting in your body, mind, and the process is one of the best things you and your partner can do during labour. She needs to listen to her body and know what she needs. You need to trust her ability to birth and trust your ability to support her. Whether this is your first birth or not, trusting the process releases more oxytocin and endorphins, which are amazing for opening up and birthing your baby. When you trust your abilities, birth is almost second nature just like making love. Once you get into the groove of it you stop questioning what you’re doing right or wrong…you’ll just know.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment or be intimate
How do you and your partner find your groove? Experiment! Try different areas to massage on her, try turning the lights down low and listening to some calm music or peaceful nature sounds. If she says she doesn’t enjoy something, then stop. If she says she enjoys something, then by all means…keep doing what you’re doing! This goes along with staying present. Pay attention to how she moves her body and what sounds she makes. If you know her, you will be able to tell when she does or doesn’t like something without her having to say it. If you see something in the room that may help, test it out. Covering her eyes with a scarf to help block out more light, kissing her during contractions, moving her to different positions, trying to make her laugh, stroking her nipples…these are all ways that can help the mother: your options are only limited by your imagination.
- Remember the essentials for life: eat, drink, breath, love
The simple necessities for life: eat, drink, breath…and my addition, love. Both you and your partner are still alive during labour and birth, so it is just as important if not more important that you take care of yourselves during this time just as you would on a daily basis. Make sure you both eat, maybe you need a full meal, maybe she needs a light snack; when your stomach wants food, make sure to take full advantage of that and eat while you can! Drink water, lots of it. The best way to make sure the mother gets enough water is to have her sip some water between contractions or when she has time to rest. During the most intense parts towards the end of labour, it is helpful to have a straw so she can easily sip rather than having to put effort into holding the glass and gulping. Help her breath rhythmically. Deep breaths in and slow breaths out through the mouth. If her breath begins to quicken, try touching her for more connectedness: pressing both your hands on her shoulders while you continue to breathe with her. Let out low moans as you both breathe out. And lastly, love…always love. Kiss her when she needs it, whisper in her ear how amazing she is doing, and make a joke for a laugh. Do whatever you normally do when you love her. Oxytocin is the love hormone, the more oxytocin which is released the more she will open and easily push her baby down.
Birth is unpredictable. You may know how it works and what a “textbook birth” looks like, but no birth goes by the book. Nobody knows you or your partner better than you. Trust the process. Trust her. If you physically don’t know what to do, chances are your care provider or doula, if you’ve hired one, will have a few suggestions. However, in the meantime, practice experimenting. Practice the art of trusting yourselves. Practice developing your skills of being a partner and transition those skills over to supporting her. Care for her. Care for you. Care for your baby.