Here are some light-hearted tips to help you have a positive experience through labour, birth and postpartum:
1) If you are having a hospital birth it may be hard to turn away from the contraction monitor. Try not to get too hypnotized by that monitor! This can distract you from mom and can make the experience less connected for her. Avoid comparing the monitor to her pain level, and steer clear of phrases such as “these contractions aren’t nearly as big as they were two hours ago” or “here comes a contraction.” She knows.
2) Be mindful of your words and body language. She is working through the most intense, all-encompassing experience of her life. Here are some examples of things not to say: “Does it hurt?”, “Are you okay?” You have every right to be tired, hungry, sore and anxious. But for the love of love, act like you are perfectly fine! Nothing you are experiencing is as intense as what she is going through, so be strong for her.
3) A labouring woman may quickly tune in to how others are feeling and acting. If you think you aren’t coping well, don’t let her see it. If you can, leave the room until you feel more composed. Be mindful of your expressions and body language.
4) Don’t ask open ended questions, especially late in labour. Stick to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, if at all. Instead of offering her three types of juice, just put one to her mouth, she will let you know what she wants. Instead of asking her which type of massage she wants, just try one! Labour is literally taking every bit of energy and attention she has. Asking questions that don’t end in ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will likely irritate her and break her focus. Avoid speaking to her during a contraction.
5) Don’t interrupt a labouring woman who is coping well. Encourage what is working for her instead of trying to introduce too many new ideas or tips. Her intuition and instincts are strong. She knows what to do.
6) Do not encourage her to do things that do not fit into her birth plan. For example, if she really wanted to avoid pain medication, do not suggest it because it is hard to see her in pain. Her pain is normal and natural and she knows what she needs. She will tell you what she needs when the time comes. Follow her lead.
7) Sense of smell is heightened during labour and many women become quite nauseous and irritated. Do not eat in front of her as the smell of food might be a big turn-off. If she is not allowed to drink, don’t drink in front of her! If you step out for a bite to eat then brush your teeth before you return. Bring snacks that aren’t smelly. Offer her sips of her drink often.
8) As labour progresses, she will likely want the chatter toned down a bit. Follow her lead. Be silent if she is being silent. Nap if she is napping.
9) Speak softly and be reassuring at all times. Hold her hand, stroke her arm, mop her forehead and try to look at her face rather than what's going on at the other end. There are plenty of other people concentrating on that end - a look into her eyes will calm her down. Tell her she’s doing great!
10) Don’t ask her what you can do to help. She is likely too exhausted to come up with an answer, or she simply just doesn’t know. Instead, just try things that you think might help or perhaps just let her work through it. She’ll let you know if she likes it and if she doesn’t, don’t take it personally. I repeat, DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. She is doing everything she can to cope and that’s all she can manage.
11) Don't leave her alone. Unless she is resting and is okay with it.
12) Pack a bag of your own. Bring a magazine, book, snacks, or anything else to keep you occupied during long waits between any action. Bring a toothbrush and some fresh clothes.
13) Be her guardian and protector. For example: If you know she doesn’t want anyone in the room or that she really wanted to avoid something specifically, advocate for her when she isn’t able to do it herself. This may mean telling Aunts and Uncles that they cannot come into the room. This may mean asking the doctor for some privacy so you can discuss what he/she is suggesting.
14) Consider hiring a doula. Doulas are an invaluable resource who will offer you BOTH support, information, and resources. They will empower you prenatally with tools, tips, guidance and information. And they will support you on the big day so you, as the partner, can actually ENJOY this process, participating wherever you feel most comfortable and taking the breaks you need to recharge.