PRACTICAL TIPS FOR THE BIRTH PARTNER - 4 WAYS TO PROVIDE SUPPORT IN LABOUR
You’ll probably hear, over and over, that your role is to support the mother in labour. But it’s not always clear exactly how to provide practical support, especially if you’ve never been present for a birth before. You first need to accept that your partner will most likely be in pain or discomfort. In most cases, pain is a necessary and expected part of the process. Even though you might instinctively want to free them of pain, pain avoidance and reduction is not the ultimate goal. Love is the goal. You cannot take away the pain, you can only love them through it. Here’s what to focus on:
Provide physical support. Be there for her to lean on – literally. Be a prop if she needs to hold on or to be held up. Help her if she needs to change positions or change locations. You can do things like rub her back, stroke her hair or massage her. You can get her a cool cloth for her forehead or rub essential oils on her neck. Squeezing her hips or applying counterpressure on her low back can be particularly useful for helping her cope through painful contractions, though some women prefer a soft touch. Just ask what she needs and once you find a rhythm that works, continue on that course. If you have hired a doula, they will be able to take on a large portion of this job as well as provide guidance and suggestions along the way.
Provide emotional support. Kiss her and hold her hand. Speak encouraging words. Tell her she’s doing an amazing job. Remind her that she’s strong and beautiful. Tell her she can do it and she is doing it. Help her remember that she’s getting closer to meeting the baby. Remind her to take it one contraction at a time, relax her jaw, make noise and move her body if she needs to. Any time she starts tensing up, it can help to hear those words. Tension, fear, anxiety and pain avoidance can stall the progression of labour, so do what you can to keep her relaxed and focused. Don’t take things personally – she may be short with you, appear irritated or need space at times. Remember she is under a lot of pressure and coping the best she can, so be patient, accomodating and understanding.
Manage the surroundings. You will take on the role of Chief Operations Manager for all the people and things surrounding the labouring mother – especially if you’re having a home birth. You’ll be at the door greeting the birth team. You’ll be providing drinks and snacks as needed. You can turn the music on or off; the lights up or down. You’ll answer questions for the midwife, fetch needed items and set up the birth space. If it seems like no one cares about you at this time, that’s because they don’t. You’re not the one having the baby.
Advocate and delegate. Make it a collaborative effort. Know her preferences when it comes to the birth plan so that, if needed, you can voice those for her in the event that labour prevents her from communicating clearly. Make sure that she is being respected and consulted before any procedures or change in plans take place. Trust her to know what she needs and honour those needs. Also, make sure you are getting the rest and sustenance you need and speak up if you need a break. A doula or nurse, or a friend or family member, can relieve you temporarily if things get tiring or if you simply need a bathroom break.
Keep it in perspective with the end goal in mind. It may be stressful at times, but it will come to an end. The relief and happiness you will feel upon seeing your baby for the first time will be like nothing you’ve experienced before. Granted there are no serious complications, everything will fall into place when you see the smile on the mother’s face immediately after the final hurdle; how quickly the pain fades from her memory, and how instantaneously the sheer joy rushes in. You’ll be in awe of her strength and you’ll be euphoric having witnessed the birth of a new life. It will all be worth it.