Birth can really make or break the start of your journey as a mother. When I got pregnant, I remember how I wondered – what would David do during the labor and birth? We took very traditional, old-fashioned Lamaze classes, and he dutifully wrote down what time each of my contractions started and ended. It kept him busy and gave him something to do – he also rubbed my back and never left my side.
I found it was the “never left my side” that was oh-so-important to me. (Seriously, he drank a lot of coffee so there must’ve been at least one other function he needed to leave me for. But I remember him being there every minute!)
And after that experience together, I couldn’t imagine how you could go through a birth together and ever have your relationship break up. Today I know – there’s so much more to love and parenting than just a birth. But birthing together is truly the experience of a lifetime.
In honor of Valentine’s Day and good dads and partners everywhere, here’s some things that help a mom who is birthing and mothering, to help the oxytocin flow and everything go a little bit better. And more full of love!
“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.”
(A Good Birth, A Safe Birth by Diane Korte and Roberta Scaer)
Talk about what you want ahead of time
Make sure you’ve talked about
- How long to stay home: Will you go by the 5-1-1- rule (contractions five minutes apart, lasting a minute each, for an hour)? Do you feel confident that you can wait until contractions are longer, stronger and closer together? (If the answer is no – consider signing up for a Lamaze class! It will give you the information you need to make informed choices, and build your confidence about labor and birth.)
- What do you plan on for pain control? This is important to talk about because partners may feel very uncomfortable watching moms during contractions. Especially if you are making noise and moving around to deal with the pain of labor, partners may feel that medications can “fix” things and they won’t need to feel so uncomfortable themselves!
Some mothers prefer to birth without medications. Others may choose to have an epidural – and it’s good to know that an epidural is usually given once you are in an active labor pattern. That means you’ll need to be able to deal with your partner’s contractions until the point where an epidural can be given. Other moms choose to have narcotics – a kind of middle road that “takes the edge off” the contractions and allows many moms to sleep. But the big deal here is that during labor you will need to –
Listen to what she is saying – and get the back story
- Once moms “get in the zone” during labor, they may get pretty quiet in-between the contractions. They may look or act pretty uncomfortable, or they may start talking about how painful things are. If that’s the case – ask a few questions.
- Where does it hurt? (If it’s back labor, try some changes in positioning, a hot pack, a birthing ball, a shower or tub. If it’s her neck muscles, give her a neck rub. If it’s just above her pubic bone – get her into the bathroom, because how long has it been since she urinated?)
- What is she thinking about during contractions? If she tells you she’s skiing downhill and she can’t take the moguls anymore – help her change the image! Don’t let her get stuck in some long tunnel of pain.
- As you can see, our assumptions can be far away from what’s really going on. So get the back story!
- You could play a lot of your favorite game during labor. (Is it true Flappy Birds was pulled because it was “too addictive”?) This is not a way to be popular in the room. Put away the devices – be here in the here and now!
- The only reason you are on earth at this moment is to wait on her, hand and foot. After every contraction, give her a small sip of that fresh ginger ale. Wipe off her face with the cold washcloth you’ve got ready in the bucket of ice. Get out the carmex for her lips….Go grab her an Italian ice. She needs towels? Go get ‘em, have your doula get ‘em, tell your nurse.
- Is she looking worried? Ask her what’s going on. You don’t have to fix it, but you should ask and listen.
Help her stay open
- Hospital rooms have bad feng shui – you walk in, and the focal point is the bed! What pregnant woman could ever get comfortable in a bed?? So remember your discovery exercises from Lamaze class……\Lamaze Handouts\How open is your pelvis.doc
- Sometimes moms are feeling very tense – and you can see it in their jaw muscles, or in their shoulders. Warm washcloth on the jaw? Hot pack around the neck? Dare I suggest it – a bit of soft kissing and hugging? Check out the Birth Without Fear
Be her protector: Offer your own strength
- When the going gets tough – and it does, in one way or another – help her find her own strength. If you can tell she’s at the end of her belief in herself – give her the gift of letting her lean on you.
- The leaning may be psychological, or spiritual – but it can also be physical! Slow dance. Get in the shower together. Or maybe get behind her in bed and just hold her. Now, that’s a gift beyond compare.
- Remember – health care professionals know a lot about birth. But the great gift that you bring is, you know her. If you feel afraid, or out of confidence yourself, talk to the nurses, the doctor or midwife. Ask questions. Tell them what you are seeing. Get the answers you need to go back, be in the moment, and be prepared to stand in awe at the birth of your baby.
You might just find you are more in love – with baby and with mom – than you ever believed possible.
Happy Valentine’s Day!