Though no one wants to see a loved one suffer in pain, admittedly, most fathers see the birth of their little babe as one of life’s finest moments. Of course, what makes this occasion even sweeter is the knowledge you’ve been there to help and support your partner. But given birth is, um…pretty darn agonising, finding the right words and actions can be somewhat tricky. With that in mind, here’s our mum-approved labour guide for dads-to-be, so you can become the perfect birthing partner.
Take care of yourself
Now, this may seem a strange point to start on considering it is your partner doing the whole giving-birth-thing, but hear us out. Though mum-to-be rightly takes centre stage here, you’ll need to look after yourself in order to properly support her. It’s likely that you’ll be spending the night at the hospital, so don’t forget to pack a change of clothes (clean T-shirt, underwear, socks and swimming shorts if your partner’s requested a water birth), along with plenty of food and drink. Bring a comfy pair of shoes too. Who knows how long you’ll be pacing through the hospital corridors during her contractions?!
Understand what she wants
Before your baby’s arrival, take the time to speak with your partner about her options and expectations. Don’t wait until your partner is experiencing excruciating contractions to discern what kind of support she’d like from you. The realities of labour may leave her in a position where she can’t communicate. You may be the only one who can take charge and inform the midwife about her preferences. It’s down to you to say to the doctors, ‘She’s at the end of her tether, she wants a C-section’, or ‘She’d like to push a little more’. If she has a birth plan, bring it with you to the hospital.
There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ labour strategy. What could work for someone else, may not help your partner. A savvy birthing partner understands what works, and is ready to drop what doesn’t. The secret is to be as open-minded as possible, really. That – and being prepared to make snap decisions as you go along – is what truly matters. Be mindful that the massage techniques and breathing exercises you learned in the antenatal classes may go down the drain when your partner is in labour. Some women will appreciate a back rub, while others won’t like being touched. The solution? Just go with a flow.
Brush up on your birthing knowledge
Newsflash: labour isn’t the time to polish your pregnancy knowledge or flick through the birthing manual. You need to do all your research beforehand, period. While the Internet is a helpful source of material, going to antennal classes is a dummies guide to all the basic information on birth. It’s also a useful opportunity to garner support and advice from other dads-to-be, especially on how they are planning for the big event.
Another thing mention here is that giving birth gets pretty gory. Be prepared for primal noises you’ve never heard before, bowel movements, and a placenta that, arguably, resembles a huge piece of liver. Remember, no matter how uncomfortable you may feel, put on a brave face – do it for her. Reassure your partner with, ‘you’re doing great!’ She probably won’t even pay attention to your choice of words – it’s your comforting tone and familiar voice that most important.
Be that one-person support system
We can’t stress this point enough: do whatever your partner needs – and we literally mean anything (no matter how weird and wonderful the request!) Run to the cafeteria to grab her a packet of crisps, wipe the sweat off her brow, rub her neck, or play her music. Be her primary advocate – do your utmost to support her in whatever capacity she needs.
Do some hard work yourself!
Giving birth can be a long, drawn-out process. In fact, you may do nothing more than just waiting for hours on end. Wherever possible then, comfort your partner by providing distractions. Be ready to preoccupy her mind with card games, conversation or music. She’ll be counting on you to keep your concentration levels up!
When the time comes to push, it goes without saying that you need to give your partner your undivided attention. She may want to squeeze your hand during a contraction – this may hurt, but tough it out: a contraction usually last about 60 seconds. Helping her with her breathing exercises can help too.
Many dads-to-be complain about a sore back due to standing over their partner for so long. But think twice about whining, seriously. Oh, and don’t act bored either (yawning is a particularly big no-no). Labour is completely centred around the expectant mother – and for good reason. So don’t make it about you and your minor complaints!
The delivery room can be a busy and hectic place. If something’s going on that you don’t understand, speak to your midwife. And don’t worry if you’ve been asked to step out of the room. This doesn’t mean anything’s wrong; it’s just a textbook procedure in many hospitals.
Your partner’s resting, baby is in the nursery, and you’ve contacted relatives. Think it’s time for a little respite? Nope, not yet. Your partner has been through a great deal, emotionally and physically. Now is a good time to show how much you appreciate and love her. Treat her to some flowers, a home cooked meal, or run her a long, hot bath. She did just bring that little miracle into the world, after all! Feel free to browse our New Baby Advice page for more tips on supporting your partner in post-partum.