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 and learn about the importance of preparation here.
Giving birth is really hard. Like, really, really hard. There will likely be times when the person giving birth looks up at you with tears in their eyes and says, “I can’t do it.” Don’t panic, that’s a very common feeling during labor. If you know they were adamant about giving birth without any interventions, gently remind them of their goals and talk about whether or not those goals have changed. Let them know how proud you are of them and what a great job they’re doing. This is not a sport, so don’t come at them like they’re on a field and need to score a point. Focus on how amazing they are instead of what they need to do. A good idea is to have a code word for pain management. When they say, “I can’t” that means they’re venting. If they say the code word, that means call the anesthesiologist.
Don’t bombard with questions
When a person is giving birth, they are focused internally as labor progresses. Too many questions can take them out of the zone and cause irritability or anxiety. A good rule of thumb is to not ask them anything until AFTER the contraction passes. If someone comes in the room during a contraction and wants to talk or ask something, let them know they have to wait a minute until the contraction is over. Protect the person giving birth during contractions. If you ask a question and there is no answer, don’t keep asking. Just let it go. The answer is probably no.
Practice active listening
Active listening is a great skill to use. Period. It’s particularly great during labor. When your partner tells you something, repeat it back to them so you both know you’re on the same page, then respond AFTER repeating. It’s a skill that will help you in all aspects of your life. It’s also a skill that feels weird at first, so it’s important to practice before the big day. During labor, when they need something or are feeling something, use active listening to help you remember what they said and to make sure you understood correctly. It can help reduce frustration and irritability for both of you and keep things running smoothly.
Don’t try to fix anything. You can’t.
This one is pretty self explanatory. You can’t make birth easier, or nicer, or less painful. All of those things fall on your partner’s shoulders. What you can control is environment. Keep the environment calm and peaceful and make sure your partner has everything they want and need. Let them vent to you and use your awesome active listening skills to repeat back what they said without telling them what they need to do to fix it.
Don’t downplay, talk facts instead.
Never downplay the experience of the birthing person. You’re not going through what they are, so you can’t possibly know what does and doesn’t feel like a big deal to them. Instead, talk about the facts of what you’ve learned about birth and the laboring process.
If the person giving birth is in transition and they’re having a hard time coping, instead of saying, “You’re fine. It’s not even that much longer. Stop thinking about it so much.”
Say, “I see how hard this is for you. You’ve done such an amazing job up until now. I think you’re in transition. Remember this phase usually doesn’t last very long, so it’s almost over.”
If birth isn’t going well and a c-section is required, don’t say, “It’s not a big deal. The baby will be born anyway. It’s fine.”
Say, “I’m so sorry. I know how much you didn’t want a c-section and I saw how hard you tried. I’m glad this option is here to keep you and the baby safe. You’re so incredible and I’m so proud of you!”
Be an advocate or allow space to advocate
Sometimes, your medical team may have a different idea about how things should go. Unless there is an emergency, you and your partner are in charge. Ask questions and make sure you feel good about the decision. A great acronym to remember how to advocate is B.R.A.I.N.
Benefits of the procedure
Risks of the procedure
Alternatives to the procedure
Intuition. How do I feel about this?
Nothing. What will happen if we don’t do anything?
If it’s something you know you both want, you can advocate for both of you. If you’re not sure, or it’s something you haven’t discussed before, allow space for your partner to advocate for themselves. Ask them something like, “Do you have questions before you decide?”
Protect the environment of the room. Protect the person giving birth. This is done by following all of the tips above, and also by avoiding confrontation whenever possible. Keep the peace as much as you can. Remember the medical team is on your side. If you need to speak a little firmly to anyone, calmly leave the room first.