Are you going to be a new dad soon? The birth of a baby is pretty exciting, but can also be daunting. Even the most involved father and the most loving husband probably wonders how to support his partner while she has contractions and pushes that baby out, especially if it’s your first child. Here are some tips on being a great labor coach for your partner, from a woman who’s given birth twice.
Talking to your partner about her wishes is obviously the best starting point. There are books that will tell new dads that they should be massaging their wife’s back, bringing her drinks, and whispering stuff like “you are doing great, I love you so much”, into her ear. Some women will like that, and see this picture as very romantic. Others would want to punch you, and because normal social boundaries may fade a bit during labor, they may actually do it. Of course, you know your wife better than silly books. Talk to her about her expectations during pregnancy and keep talking while she’s in labor.
There’s this perception, perpetuated by television shows and movies that show birth scenes, that laboring women temporarily lose their mind and can’t make rational decisions. That’s rubbish, of course. Laboring women need to be be treated just like everyone else; with respect. Unfortunately, even the staff at your maternity ward may give into the temptation to treat your partner less seriously than they should. New dads, therefore, have a very important role as an advocate for their wife and baby. Why not ask your wife to make a birth plan together during pregnancy, so you can discuss medical viewpoints and agree on them? Newborn issues like circumcision, supplementation with formula, or heel pricks, are all good discussions points.
Some women end up feeling like they’re labor support for their partner, rather than the other way round. Taking time to learn about the physiology of labor and birth will be really helpful. Guys who know what is going on won’t panic, and may be fascinated by the complex and yet so simple process unfolding before their eyes. If you know how to recognize the signs of transition, you’ll be able to cheer your partner on (if she wants that), and be a real support to her.
Finally, don’t forget about yourself, and your own needs. My kids are five and three years old now, and my husband — who is a wonderful stay at home dad — only recently admitted that he felt lost for a while. He had to watch his wife, one who’s a bit aggressive at times and doesn’t like to be hugged or touched during labor, give birth all by herself. Then, during that round-the-clock breastfeeding stage of infancy, there wasn’t much for him to do, baby-wise. I’m sure lots of men feel the same way. If you do, don’t deny yourself the right to talk about it if you want to. As a dad, your feelings certainly count, too!
Olivia is a mom of two, and a wife of a stay at home dad. Her blog, Trying To Conceive, is dedicated to fertility, how to get pregnant, and parenting.