Labor can be intense, overwhelming and empowering. But it also can be, dare we say... boring. You can spend a decent amount of time just waiting around for your little one to show up. Dad, this is where you have the opportunity to really shine.
See, the act of physically having a baby is mostly a mama-and-baby show. They're the stars, yes, but you have the (best) supporting role, and there's lots you can do to help your partner.
Here are 10 ways you can support your partner during labor.
1. Take a childbirth education class together.
Be proactive. Learn about what labor and delivery entails—together. This process is all about supporting one another, and if you kick off the journey by supporting each other even before baby has made his appearance, you're ahead of the game.
Paying attention in class gets you extra points! It's good for you to understand how labor works—the different stages of labor, why a woman might need a C-section, what happens in those first moments after the baby is born, etc. The more you know, the less fearful you'll be. Knowledge is power, papa.
Pro tip: Take Motherly's video birth class! We discuss the father's role in-depth and share specific tips and tricks for you both.
2. Discuss birth preferences in advance.
Our Birth Editor, Diana Spalding, emphasizes the importance of being on the same page. “It's really important for couples to have lots of conversations about her birth preferences ahead of time so that her partner can advocate for her while she's in labor. It's not that she won't be able to talk, of course—and she should be included in the conversations—but it's nice when the partner can help her get her wishes expressed."
3. Consider hiring a doula.
A doula can provide another form of support during labor, which can take some of the pressure off you and mama. Doulas knows many pain-relief techniques for mom to try out in order to keep comfortable, like massage, different positions and relaxation visualizations. They also understand all the procedures involved with different types of births, so they can help you make any necessary decisions—think of them as well-informed birth advocates.
Ask friends if they've used doulas and if they could refer anyone. Or visit Doula Match to find someone in your area. Typically, you can interview this person in advance to see if you have chemistry, and you can ask questions and voice your concerns.
4. Time those contractions.
Once labor starts, get out your contraction timer app! (Note to self: Download and understand how a contraction timer app works in advance.)
Mama should not be in charge of timing her own contractions if she doesn't have to, so this one falls under your responsibilities. Count the frequency of contractions in minutes. Once they are about five minutes apart or less, lasting 30 seconds or more—it's time to go to the hospital. Be sure this is something you talk to your medical provider about in advance so you know exactly when they want you to head to the hospital (and what you feel most comfortable with).
5. Fend for yourself.
We're kidding. Kind of.
Mama is going to be pretty busy, so it's important for you to take care of yourself during this process. Pack your bag in advance with everything you'll need, and make sure you're eating, drinking water and resting while mom is resting. You're going to need energy, too!
6. Provide distractions.
Labor may take a while. Honestly, many couples wait around for a while before any action happens. So, provide some distractions for your wife. Suggest walking the halls together if she's able. Make conversation if she's up for it. Put a TV show on for her if she'd like. Get her a snack. Rub her back. Remind her to drink water (often). Put her birth playlist on. Let her squeeze your hands as much as she needs.
Follow her lead when figuring out what she's up for, but be prepared with a couple of tricks up your sleeve.
7. Document this experience.
Discuss this with your partner beforehand, but if there is some downtime or you're able to have your phone readily available (without it being a nuisance), snap a few pictures or videos. It'll be so nice to look back on this very special day together.
Plus, mama is going to be pretty focused on birthing a baby, so it may all feel like a whirlwind for her by the time it's over. Having pictures or a video will be a cool way to relive the process or just watch herself be a total boss.
8. Praise + encourage.
Hearing positive words of motivation from you can make such a difference. Tell her what a wonderful job she's doing, how in awe you are of her and her strength, and that you love her. Say things like, “You're doing great!" or “I'm so proud of you!"
Keep your voice quiet and calming. If you can stay calm, hopefully that'll help mama stay calm. Remember—you're working together as a team.
9. Be ready for the big moment.
You're about to go through the most life-changing experience. You're almost officially a dad. Soak it all in. Remember this moment. Appreciate that seriously amazing woman in front of you. And memorize every inch of that newborn baby once he is finally in your arms.
Understand that you may be asked to cut the cord, so think about whether you'll want to do that. You may change your mind in the moment, who knows! But giving it some thought in advance is a good idea.
10. Be her biggest supporter.
Studies have shown that just having a continuous support person with you during labor reduces the level of pain, time of labor and interventions needed. So even if you don't know exactly what to do at all times, you should know that your presence alone is incredibly important.
You guys are going to do great. You've got this.
Pro tip: Let mom nap first. ?