It is not uncommon for birth partners to have questions and concerns as they prepare for labour. Maybe you aren’t sure what to expect, or you are worried about how you will feel seeing your loved one in discomfort or in a different mental state, or maybe you don’t trust you will know how to support them as their labour progresses and their needs change.
These are all normal thoughts and feelings for expecting partners, and as a doula I make it a priority to help partners feel prepared during my prenatal visits with them.
What are some of the things you can do to support the birth?
Protect the birth place. I encourage partners to take on the role of creating and maintaining a safe birth place.
- Is the space too cold? If it is, look for ways to make it warm so your loved one feels cozy in their environment.
- Is the space too bright? If the answer is yes, doing something simply like dimming the lights, or setting out flickering candles, and closing the curtains can help create an intimate space.
- Are the people present supporting and holding space? Protect your loved ones privacy by restricting even the most well-meaning visitors if you are not finding their presence beneficial.
- Is there lots of noise that feels distracting or invasive? Keep doors shut and voices low so that your loved one can maintain their focus.
Offer realistic support. Unless you are 100% sure, your loved one may not believe you if you comment on how labour is progressing. Instead try to freely comment on what you see. “I love you for seeing you bring our baby into the world.” “I’ve never seen you look so strong.” These are just some examples. When in doubt, repeat what you hear your doula say. :)
Watch their body. Take a moment to look for tightness anywhere. Is their jaw clenched? Is their face tight? Are their shoulders being pulled towards their ears? This tension directly impacts how tight and clenched the rest of their body is, particularly their pelvis and cervix, which need to open and soften in order for baby descend. Encourage them to soften where you see the tension, or with a loving and grounded touch, gently place your hand or fingers where you see the tension to encourage relaxation.
Breathe with them. If you notice their breathing speed up, you can audibly breathe with them and subtly encourage them to slow their breathing. Then be sure to breathe in unison with them. If you hear them making sounds, encourage low moaning, groaning, or “ohmmm” noises to really help them relax and let go.
Encourage hydrotherapy. Water has a unique way of helping a labouring person cope with the intensities of labour. Baths are wonderful at helping to shift gravity’s focus. Showers, with their focused pressure on either the belly or back (wherever they needs it most), can be both a lovely distraction as well as the perfect place to retreat and “hide”.
Try different positions and techniques. Every 30 or so minutes, suggest to your loved one to make a position change. If they have been leaning against the wall while you Shake the Apple Tree, suggest they walk or try Abdominal Lift and Tucks. If they have been in the shower, suggest they try siting facing backwards on the toilet while you rub their back (try sitting on a birth ball while you do this). If they need some rest, get them in a Rest Smart position in bed, ensuring their body is well supported by creative use of pillows, and then lay down with them and spoon them or stroke their back. There are a so many techniques and movements that help labour progress.
Take care of yourself. Take a break to eat, nap, use the bathroom, so you can reset. I have seen the birthing person make choices and choose an early epidural before they really needed one to protect their partners. I find that when the partner remembers to take care of themselves, and the birthing person sees that, it gives them the freedom to let go, and allow labour to progress.
PREPARATION IS KEY
Ultimately, much of your confidence will come through education and feeling supported. Find a great Childbirth Education course in your area and consider hiring a doula to support your journey to parenthood.