Up until the 1960's, men weren't allowed in the birthing room. Instead they paced anxiously up and down the hallways until hearing the news. Fast forward 50 years and husbands/partners are playing the cruicial role of birth support for their partners.
Whilst it's so important that women have their partners by their side during labour, it's equally as important that you as a partner are prepared.
Alot of men tend to ignore and disregard the impending birth, hoping that when the time comes they will just know what to do. But the fact is, it's a totally new situation for any man. A situation where your partner may be in alot of pain and you may feel completely overwhelmed and scared. You've also probably heard stories of births going wrong, so in the back of your head you're absolutely terrified that something may happen to your partner or baby.
It's extremely hard to be that emotional strength for your partner when you yourself may be feeling anxious, tired, fearful, and out of your depth.
So I've got just 5 practical tips of things you can do to help support her. Obviously there are many more things you can do, this is just scratching the surface.
1. Know her birth plan/preferences
Your partner will most likely be unable to speak or communicate during the throws of active labour. So it's a very good idea you know what her wishes are. For example, does she want an epidural? Would she prefer to remain upright during pushing? Does she want delayed cord clamping? So instead of the midwife trying to communicate and ask your partner too many questions ( it's best if communication is kept to a minimum so she can really concentrate on getting through contractions) , you will be able to express her desires. Your partner will quickly let you know if she's changed her mind about a certain preference.
Say encouraging things like:
3. Ensure the environment is nice
Bring along some battery operated candles and put them in the room. Dim the lights. Play some music. Close the door.
These little actions can have a huge impact on labour. By simply dimming the lights, you will help to create an intimate, safe environment which will help labour progress. One of the best places to labour is in the bathroom, in the shower ideally or sitting on the toilet. So perhaps suggest she tries these things.
4. Stay by her side
Having you, present completely, next to her will make such an impact. You don't need to say or do anything but simply be there. Please don't look at your phone. She really needs you to be present 100%. Looking on facebook means your attention is elsewhere.
Sometimes, you will need to leave her side and that's ok. You have needs too, and it's important that you eat, drink, go to the bathroom and rest. Don't feel bad for doing these things. If you're hungry, thirsty and busting for the toilet, you're not going to be able to support her the best you can.
If you have a doula there helping you out, she will stay behind with your partner while you look after yourself for 10 minutes or so. Rest assured, your partner is not alone.
Sometimes, a woman may want to be left alone. And that's ok too. Don't feel upset or offended, but she may just need privacy. She will tell you if she wants to be alone.
5. Be an active participant
It can be really intimidating watching your partner labour, you may feel helpless and have no idea what to do. She probably won't be acting how she usually does, she may be very hostile or emotional or quiet.
Try these things to help her:
I know, there's a lot to take in. Especially if you are a first time dad and your only idea of childbirth is what you've seen in movies or what your mates have told you.
A doula is also a fantastic tool, she will show you positions, massage techniques, and many other tips for supporting your partner. A doula won't replace you, but help you to help your partner. Dads need support too, and the more supportive people your partner has, the better the outcome is.