How to be the BEST Birthing Partner Ever — Part 1: PREPARATION
Birth is an intense and magical adventure. No matter the outcome, it will change your life forever, always keep you on your toes, and lead you to a constant state of discovery of yourself and the world around you. By now, your partner may have already picked up your nursing pillow, carrier, and a bunch of other products you didn’t know you’d need, and are preparing to give birth! But birth is not just a thing a pregnant person does. Birthing partners are just as important in creating the positive memories we all hope to have surrounding the births of our children. Keep reading to for some tips to become the BEST birthing partner you can be and have your partner gazing upon you with eyes of gratitude and adoration, while they shower you with presents! Ok. Maybe not presents, but they’ll sure appreciate it!
The doula who shared these tips, Ashley Blankenship with Supported Season, had so many great tips we created a partner support blog series! Stay tuned for more doula advice!
Read the room
This is one of the most important pieces of advice for birthing partners. It is incredibly frustrating to be uncomfortable and trying to focus on just getting through the next few minutes, while your birthing partner is in the corner cracking jokes about the noises you’re making. Sure, in the beginning of labor, jokes are acceptable and even encouraged as long as the person giving birth is laughing and joking back, but the mood will surely change as labor progresses and increases in intensity. Change right along with it. When the person giving birth is chatty, be chatty. When they’re quiet, be quiet, too.
Go to classes and get educated
It’s so easy to think that partners don’t have to worry too much about what’s going on because they aren’t the ones giving birth, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. During labor, there will be times when choices need to be made and when things may take a turn away from the original plan. Having a partner who is knowledgeable and can help make an educated decision is such a soothing presence for a person giving birth. If the plan to birth without medical interventions is desired, a knowledgeable partner is even more important. The person giving birth will likely have moments when they aren’t all there or they are so engrossed in contractions that they’ll need someone to help them navigate questions or concerns. Taking a birthing class or reading books/articles about birth will help you be their rock in all situations.
In the movies, it’s very common for birthing partners to be crazed and disorganized and rushing to the hospital, speeding down the highway with their partners screaming in the background. The truth is, it’s very, very rare that birth is an emergency situation. It usually takes HOURS and there is plenty of time to relax or rest at home before heading to the hospital. In fact, it’s encouraged! The more relaxed a person giving birth is, the less painful and faster dilation is (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0002937878907421, https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2012.03433.x). Talk to the person giving birth and make a plan for how you both think things should go. Understanding how the person giving birth feels about the trip to the hospital and what your doctor or midwife would like to happen is very important in knowing when to hop in the car. If you’re birthing at home, allow the person giving birth to take the lead after calling your midwife or doctor.
Focus on the birthing person
Another reason to stay calm during birth as a partner is because it’s really not about you. You may have had something to do with conception, or were very involved with satisfying late night cravings, but the reality is, the person giving birth is going to be going through a lot and you’re not. In fact, you’ll likely be just sitting there most of the time. No doubt, emotions will be high for both of you, but if you’re panicking and making a scene, all of the attention will be on you, not the person who really needs all the attention. If you are having a lot of anxiety about becoming a parent, try not to think about what will happen after baby arrives. Take one step at a time. First, the baby needs to be born, which means the focus should be on making sure the person giving birth has everything they want and need. You can worry about life after baby…after baby (or way before the birth!).
Don’t be afraid
If this is your first baby, or you’ve had a difficult experience in the past, you may be thinking, “yeah, right!” But you are going to be armed with as much information as you can gather, you’re going to be involved in doctor appointments as much as possible, and you’re going to be having lots of discussions with your partner about wishes and expectations, right? There’s an exercise I do at the end of my birthing classes that helps put fear on the back burner. First, physically write down ALL your fears with pen and paper. Anything you can possibly think of that’s causing you fear or anxiety regarding birth, parenthood, your relationship, all of it. No one has to see it, so you can be as honest as possible. Next, take a look at what you’ve written down. Is there anything you have any more questions about? Anything you need to learn more about? If so, find the answers you need. If not, destroy that piece of paper. I mean, really physically destroy it because the truth of the matter is, if you’ve learned all you feel you need to learn, you’re ready. Parenthood is scary sometimes and we all make mistakes. If you have a bunch of “what-if” fears, congratulations! You’re 100% normal. You’re going to love your child and do the best you can do for them, and that’s all they need. Love and support. The rest will fall into place.
Be flexible and respect choices
Throughout all of your education and discussions about birth and parenting, you may have a pretty solid plan of how you want things to go. Sometimes, things go exactly to plan and everyone feels accomplished and wonderful. Most of the time, plans go very differently than expected and need many adjustments along the way. Sometimes that leads to feelings of inadequacy or depression. But all births, no matter the outcome, are a success. The object of birth is an end to pregnancy. To my knowledge, there are no known cases of a 33-year-old still in his mother’s womb. Instead of having a birth “plan” Let’s call it birth “preferences” or “dreams.” Remain flexible and keep your eyes on the prize! Anything that happens in between pregnancy and birth is simply a means to an end. You may find that what you thought would be helpful during labor is causing stress in the person giving birth. That’s okay. Just change your approach. During labor, it’s important for the person giving birth to rely on intuition instead of a plan. Depending on how the baby is positioned, different tactics may need to be enacted to best move baby down and out. Respect the process and choices of the person giving birth. It’s their body and they know what they are feeling better than you do.