The ideal birth partner is someone who is 100% behind your plans and wishes for childbirth. For me, that someone was my husband.
I feel incredibly lucky that my husband was a rockstar birth partner and took a tremendous interest in the details surrounding our sons’ births. From planning an unmedicated delivery to breastfeeding, he was my biggest cheerleader and knew what I needed even when I hadn’t the slightest idea (I still chuckle at him holding up my birth affirmation cards for me to read during difficult contractions. He later said, “I knew you did not want me talking to you.” I later realized he was spot on).
What I appreciated most about his support was the absolute lack of fear he embodied and his confidence in me. Inspired by this, I asked him his secrets to benefit other mamas and birth partners as well. Keep in mind, when choosing a birth partner, it does not necessarily have to be your significant other.
Q1. What did you do to prepare for our sons’ births? What information was valuable to have?
A. The most valuable information to have was familiarity with the birth process, from early labor through after the birth of the baby.
Our Bradley Method childbirth classes were very comprehensive and gave me an understanding of what I might expect. No detail was too small, especially as far as what to possibly expect during the transition phase of labor. Without prior knowledge, I might have been worried about you (in my first labor I am pretty sure I verbalized loudly that I was dying for a good 30 minutes or so………)!
Once labor begins you are not exactly in the place to ask questions, so knowing ahead of time is very important. We also watched a few documentaries about childbirth which provided valuable information as well.
I also found it valuable to help you write our birth plans. This allowed us to discuss pros and cons of various birth interventions ahead of time and gave me what I needed to support you and stay true to our wishes.
Q2: What tips do you have for helping when your partner is in labor? Did anything surprise you during our son’s birth?
A: My biggest tip is to know what your partner wants for her labor and be prepared to throw that out the window if needed! You were pretty sure you wanted a massage during labor. However, once contractions started, you did not want to be touched at all (which was surprising to me). I was also surprised by how little you liked the waterbirth tub during our second son’s birth (which I will add, my husband spent over an hour preparing for me to use only 5 minutes — he never complained, though).
Being a good birth partner means going with the flow and being tuned into a laboring mother’s needs. There may be times when you have to really encourage her and remind her to drink, eat, empty her bladder and change laboring positions too.
I would also remind birth partners to make sure they are comfortable. They should also stay hydrated, eat often, and take some deep breaths regularly.
Q3: Was there anything helpful for you to have on hand during our son’s birth?
A: Honestly, other than knowledge, not much! I think having aromatherapy (a diffuser with calming essential oils) and a Bluetooth speaker for music were nice to create a peaceful environment. If not at home, a change of clothes or two for the birth partner will be helpful. My only pants were unfortunately covered with meconium after our first son’s birth.
Q4: What advice or words of wisdom do you have for first-time birth partners?
A: Don’t go into the situation thinking, “This is the way it will happen.” Seeing two different labors now, things can progress quite differently. Be open, as calm as possible, and trust in the natural process. You will be seeing the birthing mother in pain, but know that this pain is a gateway that leads to greater strength! Birthing mothers are strong and it goes back to knowledge of the natural process.
It’s also not just up to the mother to prepare. A supportive birth partner must prepare too — for labor, supporting breastfeeding, and for the postpartum period. Ask, read, communicate and research.