How to support your partner during labour
When your partner says the immortal words "I think baby’s coming", we’re pretty sure that the butterflies in your stomach will start doing a merry jig. This is it! This is the moment when your life changes forever! Eek!
Now let’s not underplay this. Yours is a key role in the whole labour business. You’re the calming (on the outside) tower of strength. You’re the reassuring supporter. You’re the eyes, ears and mouth that helps bring the birth plan to life.
It sounds daunting, we know, but really, there’s no need to panic. You just need to be prepared, have an idea of what to expect and know which role you’ll be expected to play.
In order to help you do so, here’s a list of things to think about to ensure that you’ll be prepared on the big day…
This is a no-brainer, but it’s worth reiterating. Research is key. Take an antenatal class together (online or offline if available), read a book about pregnancy/labour/babies, or, well, plenty of information here (include links to own website). Your loved one is going to have enough on her plate when the moment arrives, so the more you both know, the better.
2. Birth plan
Naturally, mum will lead this as she’s been cast in the leading role, but it’s important that you, as the best supporting actor, know what the plan entails because, as mentioned, you’ll be her eyes, ears and mouth on the big day. It will include details such as pain meds, who will be involved, preferred type of birth (eg. natural birth, water birth etc). Make sure you’ve fully discussed all of this with your partner beforehand, as knowing that you’re fully up to speed on this will do wonders for her nerves (and yours!). Read more about writing a birth plan.
3. Hospital bag
Mum will no doubt have a bag of her own all packed and ready (TOP TIP - make sure you know where to find it so that you can ensure it makes it to hospital), but it would also be useful if you knew exactly what you need to take to the hospital. A partner’s hospital bag if you will. Typical contents would include a camera, snacks, change of shirt, water etc.
4. Older kids
If this isn’t your first time, when labour arrives, what are you going to do with your existing child/children? Have a think about this and put a plan in place, as letting them roam wild might not be socially acceptable. Maybe align with a trusted friend or relative so that they can take care of them while their new brother or sister is joining the party.
5. Time the contractions
Once labour begins in earnest it would be nice if mum wasn’t overburdened. If you take the lead on timing her own contractions this can help in this respect. Your doctor or midwife may have given you specific advice, but if your contractions are regular, strong, about 5 minutes apart and lasting for 60 seconds, the hospital probably beckons. More advice on this can be found at www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/hospital-birth-centre-labour/
6. Know the route
And now we’re on our way. If you plan to drive to the hospital you might want to learn the route inside and out. If you do a few dry runs beforehand and know how long it’s going to take you depending on the time of day, it should help to make the actual moment a little less stressful. Afterall, driving through a city with a contracting lady isn’t the most serene of experiences so the last thing you need is to be learning the route as you go along.
It’s not going to be the most relaxing of times for mum and it might go on for quite a while. The average labour for a first baby is around 8 hours and can last as much as 18 hrs (or more in some instances).1 Try and take your beloved’s mind away if you can. You might need to read the room here, but things like offering snacks and water, mentally whisking her away to a "happy place" by reminiscing about special moments/holidays, playing a pre-prepared musical playlist etc. All these things can go a long way to helping mum through to the end.
TOP TIP - A lot of this can be planned with your partner beforehand by knowing where her pre-designated "happy places" are and what her favourite tunes are to mentally escape.
Encouragement is also key. We’re not suggesting that you should go into full-on sports commentator mode, but give her hand a little squeeze from time to time, stroke her hair, whisper words of encouragement, tell her how much she means to you. You're her most loyal supporter with ringside seats and you can really provide the lift she needs when she most needs it.
9. Get ready
Meeting your baby is going to be a life affirming and possibly eye-opening moment. Do your research on what to expect. You may be offered to cut the umbilical cord for example. Simply knowing that this is coming’s going to help.
And your baby is finally here! Congratulations! You’re a parent! You might want to have a camera or video camera on standby to document your precious little baby’s first moments on this earth. You’ll need to know exactly what’s in and out of bounds when it comes to capturing the occasion mind! A lot of it is common sense, but don’t be afraid to ask if in doubt.
11. Stay calm
And finally, throughout all of this, try to stay calm. People have been going through exactly the same experiences that you’re about to go through since day dot. You’re in good hands. The medical staff know what they’re doing. Try and enjoy the experience where you can as it’s all fairly astonishing.
And don’t worry. You’ve got this.
Father of 2
Living in Budapest with his wife and two children, Gareth is a freelance writer, creative strategist, film maker and author of the ‘The Budanest’, a book about his experience of fatherhood. He gives us insight into parenthood from a partner's perspective: all views and opinions given are his own, taken from his personal experiences.