|(Umm, this website is hilarious. )|
If you are anything like my husband you simply HATE having a woman tell you what to do. I wish I could pretend I was a bro or something, but I can't. But I CAN give you some tips for the laboring woman that will help her still like you after the baby is born so you can keep "playing" with her.
So, even though I am decidedly not a dude, there might be some useful things for you below.
I have noticed something about women as I have talked to them and watched them take their journeys into motherhood.
~They almost ALL want their partner to be an important part of the birth process.
~Women don't always know how to tell a man how or what he can do to help.
~And lastly, she will remember (and maybe even bring it up again in the future) what you did or didn't do when she was in labor. (OK, I admit, I harbored a grudge against my husband for a long time for believing in the laundry fairy after I had our first child. I have since let it go. Kind of.)
With that introduction (and threats of future mood swings and dirty looks if you don't pay attention right now) here are some tips for the dad with a partner giving birth.
1) STAY CALM-
For real, this is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do. My hubby was calm during my labors with all of our children (except one, but that is a different story) and it was the best gift he could have given me. I hear of dads who freak out, can't handle things (especially if the birth takes a turn towards heavy intervention) or start focusing on THEIR stress while mama is in labor.
Don't do that. For one, it is annoying. For two, your calm presence is a gift that helps HER feel more confident in herself. Women in labor are very open to suggestion. Your stress will feed hers and impact her labor and birth experience.
2) Give her sips of water after every contraction in hard labor-
Have a cup or bottle ready, full of her favorite labor drink, (water, herbal tea with honey, coconut water, Recharge) with a BENDY STRAW in it. (The bendy straw is important!) Don't ask, just hold it up to her lips after she finishes a contraction.
This will help her labor efficiently because she is hydrated and it will give her energy and it is extremely helpful.
3) Don't ask questions-
Questions are annoying in labor. You should know what to do. They also denote panic. This inhibits number 1. Birthing should be an instinctual, almost animalistic experience. Having to use your logical brain to answer questions inhibits this.
How will you know what to do? Read number 4.
4) Take a birth class with her-
Yes, you are busy and freaking out about having a new baby too. But taking a birth class with her will make her feel better and loving towards you, and it will also benefit YOU big time.
In my experience most men really WANT to help and be a part of the process. Sadly, life doesn't always prepare them for this. A good birth class that focuses on dad and his role and SPECIFIC things he can do to help is invaluable. (I suggest Birth Boot Camp classes. They are really good. I admit to a personal bias, but still, I wouldn't lie to you.) A hospital class rarely fills this need.
Knowing what is going on and how to help her will also help you stay calm.
5) Don't fall asleep or make it about you-
This seems obvious, but it isn't.
Nothing makes me want to rip off my husbands......tongue, more than listening to him complain about his aches and pains when I am 9+ months pregnant and 50 pounds overweight.
Don't get me wrong. I am ALL about women taking care of their men and being kind and nurturing the relationship.
But if she is in labor and you are complaining about how you hurt or how tired you are, well....don't say I didn't warn you.
If you take a class it should help you learn when to sleep (early labor for both mom and dad) so that you hopefully still have some energy when you are in late labor.
6) Compliment her to others-
This sets a tone for the labor personnel. You don't have to tell her she looks skinny, but "She is doing a great job" or "She is laboring beautifully" can make her feel confident when she doesn't and also prevents the staff from saying things like "She looks tired. Do you want an epidural?" because nobody argues with a compliment.
7) Run interference-
Mom should never have to ask for a different nurse or tell mom or cousin to leave. Dad gets to do this stuff AND he needs to do it in a quiet, non-confrontational way so that it doesn't disrupt the labor zone.
She also shouldn't have to stand up for herself or continually remind staff about things on the birth plan. If people keep offering pain medication and she doesn't want it- then ask them to stop. If people talk loud, disrupt her or are wearing irritating perfume, it is your job to take care of it.
8) Be aware of smells-
Women are aware of smell in labor like they were in the first trimester. Breath mints are a good idea (gum smacking makes somebody in labor want to smack you) but smelly fish sandwiches are a bad idea. Be thoughtful of her wants and needs. It may irritate her too if you eat in front of her if she isn't "allowed" to eat.
Think of a doula as a helper for YOU too- This is a person who can remind you what you know, can spell you if you need to pee or eat an energy bar, and who can be supportive for everybody involved. This isn't something that everybody wants or needs- but if it is something she wants- it will benefit you too.
10) Be respectful of her wishes-
This covers lots of subjects-
The birth experience is important for the whole family. Mom however is the one who will be giving birth. If something is really important to her (like a home birth or a class or going medication free) then at least consider all these things, don't mock them, and be thoughtful! Discuss her thoughts, listen, learn, and listen some more.
Sometimes it seems a lot "easier" to just get the epidural for dad. Everybody in the room can kind of just sit back as the epidural takes care of the pain. But if mom WANTS you to be her comfort, don't chicken out and encourage her to get it. Remember how important it was to her BEFORE the birth if she changes her mind IN labor. Remember- a prepared woman asking for pain relief is probably almost done with labor or just needs your support!
Sometimes what seems like the "easy" or "comfortable" option will come back to haunt you. Women often talk about being sad that their partner didn't respect their wishes or didn't stand up for them. This can be really hard if you are part of the medical machine- but it is imperative that you do it. A woman in labor is literally in a different place in her mind than she ever has been before. She really needs you to help her, stand up for her, and be her advocate so that she can just labor.
11) Some obvious extras-
Get off the phone/computer/TV. Birth is THE family experience. Be present.
She might poop. Probably no worse than yours so don't consider it gross- consider it payback for that time you played "covered wagons."
Listen. Some women like touch, some talk, some just to be alone. Respect whatever it is she needs and go with it.
Labor can be loud- moaning, screaming, grunting- just go with it. It doesn't mean she is in pain it can just be a coping mechanism.
Dads- one thing I know- YOU CAN DO THIS. I have seen blood phobic men be fabulous partners or timid men stand up for their woman. Macho guys can be sensitive and tender. Whatever it is she needs from you- you are capable of delivering it- if you prepare yourself.