Birth Partners: Listen Up!
This week let’s chat a little bit about how birth partners can enhance the birth team. First off, let’s just get the obvious out there: sometimes, no matter how much partners want to help, they just aren’t sure how to. Maybe they can’t figure out where to put their hands for counter-pressure. Maybe they ate a tuna sandwich for lunch and now that’s all you smell. Maybe they keep checking their phone and asking you how you are doing while you’re in the middle of a contraction because they want to update their Facebook status for everyone.
Gotta love ‘em…
But we all know that it’s not exactly an easy job to support a laboring woman! It can be very disturbing and uncomfortable for your partner to see their loved one in such discomfort. So with that in mind, birth partners listen up! Here are 5 tips on how you can help the laboring mother (and yourself) during the marathon that is labor.
- Never underestimate the power of your presence.
Going into a birth, a partner might feel pressured to be a hero or to have all the answers. This is completely unrealistic, and when they realize just how unprepared they might be it can be completely deflating to them. But if they instead go into the birth with a realistic expectation of themselves, it can really change the whole mood. Sometimes the birthing mom just wants their partner there, to hold her hand and tell her she’s amazing, beautiful, strong and loved. Your presence, whether as a partner, doula, or calm, silent force, is what matters to her, not your skills.
- Support her choices for the birth team.
This can get tricky but hear me out! When a couple first gets pregnant and the money starts flowing for supplies, diapers, and boppies (which you will likely never have seen before) it can be oh-so-easy to look at the price of a doula or birth photographer or even a home-birth (if your insurance pays for a hospital) and think it’s unnecessary. But let’s keep a couple of things in mind: she is the one going through 10 months (yes, 40 weeks equals 10 months) of pregnancy. She is the one who has crazy raging hormones, cravings, hot flashes, crying frenzies, anxieties and then at the end she is the one who gets to go through hours upon hours of hard work to push your baby into this world. Shouldn’t she get to do it the way she wants with the team she desires?
Now I know money is always a factor, and rightfully so. But there are lots of ways to finance a doula, homebirth, or photographer. When your laboring partner has the supportive team she needs, the labor will be easier for her AND you. It will be something you can look back on with joy and fondness. Maybe both of you will have to make some sacrifices for a while to pay for some of these “extras,” perhaps not being able to have everything she would like. But showing her that her needs and wants are important and that you are willing to help her get them will be well-worth the effort.
- Be Confident! Step Up! Take Action!
Much like not underestimating the power of your presence, don’t underestimate the power of your voice! Now more than ever is the time for the two of you to work as a team. She will never forget it if you stand up for her if you have a pushy nurse, or if a tense situation arises and your interest and concern is apparent. If you have the personality for it, don’t be afraid to ask your provider or nurses questions. Your interest shows you care. You are there to protect her while she is in the most vulnerable and raw state a woman can be in! She will love you all the more for it.
- Go to classes with her.
I feel birth classes are almost more for the partner these days than the mom. A pregnant mom has so many places she can go for advice, but it’s not as easy for a partner to find such great help. Taking a class will really help you to appreciate what your role is, and what it can be during labor. It will teach you how you can help and support her. It will teach you that your fears, emotions, and feelings are valid. You’re going through a life-changing experience as well and you deserve support and education on how to cope with your partner’s moods, feelings and bodily changes. Plus, a class will really help bring you closer together, which is never a bad thing!
- Don’t forget the postpartum period!
This cannot be emphasized enough! It’s really unfortunate that the majority of partners are not given much time for paternity leave. Maybe you only get a few days off before you have to go right back to work. If this is the case, make sure she will have help at home. Postpartum is so exhausting for everyone: mom, partner, baby. Help her. Get up in the middle of the night and help. Do the dishes. Fold some laundry. It will be hard, you will be tired, but it will get better. Take care of yourself as much as you can by eating right and getting rest when you can. If you can afford it, hire a postpartum doula do it or enlist family and friends. Accepting help at times can be hard but it makes things better in the long run.
Along these lines, watch for signs of postpartum depression or anxiety. Make sure the new mom is getting rest, eating well, and getting outside for some vitamin D. Give her time to shower and refresh herself by taking care of the baby. If you see signs of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety don’t ignore it. It is real, it is serious and it can be helped. Being an aware and involved partner and teammate can make all the difference. You won’t have all the answers and you won’t be able to just fix it. But you can help by reaching out for help!
Remember, you can find great support through the Utah Doula Association for birth doulas, postpartum doulas, childbirth educators and more. No matter how much you prepare as the birth partner, you will still have apprehension and fear going into the birth. It’s only natural, but don’t worry! You got this!