Here’s another extract from my upcoming book “The Speed Bump: What To Expect When You’re Unexpectedly Expecting”. This is a list of my top ten tips for birth partners.
If you’re going to be a birth partner, read this. If you are pregnant, make your birth partner(s) read this. You’ll be glad you did.
- If you are the only birth partner, take responsibility. It’s you and you alone who will be the familiar comforting presence for the woman in labour. She’s trusted you to be there for her during one of the most difficult things she’ll ever experience. Try not to screw it up.
- If you’re one of two (or more) birth partners, and you’re not happy about it, suck it up. Your only focus right now should be on what you can do for the labouring woman, not why she asked her mum/sister/friend to be the birth partner too.
- Fairness does NOT apply. No, father of the baby. Having her mother/sister/friend there does not make her obligated to ask your mother/sister/friend to be there too. Would you invite her family to watch your vasectomy?
- Take snacks. Okay, you may have to sneak out into the corridor to eat them, because the sight of you munching on Haribo when she’s not allowed to eat anything is liable to make her murderous – but it’ll give you more peace of mind than you’d have, sat in the hospital canteen, wondering whether she got to 10cm dilated and pushed out the baby while you were eating what you assume is shepherd’s pie.
- Get permission to do everything. Don’t rub her back without asking first. Don’t go out for a smoke or a toilet break without checking she’s okay with it. Once labour is in full swing, you’ll be scared to breathe without running it past her first.
- Stay calm. If she starts to panic, you need to step in and reassure her. If you start to panic, she’ll just panic more (or kick you out of the labour room, whichever works best for her). Take deep breaths and reassure her.
- Do your bit. Being one of two birth partners doesn’t entitle you to sit and do nothing. She’s asked for two birth partners for a reason – pull your finger out and help.
- Don’t question, just do. If she asks you to slow dance with her, just go along with it. Yes, it does help with the contractions, actually.
- Take everything she says with a pinch of salt. Okay, right know she does regret sleeping with you, and she doesn’t ever want to have sex with you again, and she probably does hate your stupid face right now. Don’t let it get to you, and definitely don’t retaliate. Once that baby arrives, she’ll be so glad that the two of you made that beautiful baby together, and your “stupid” face will be absolutely perfect to her, as she marvels over how the baby has your nose, your ears and your eyelashes. If you’re the birth partner but not the baby’s father, she may scream and shout at you, but once it’s over she’ll be so grateful that you were there to support her.
- Be proud of yourself. For some reason, this never gets included in lists of tips for birth partners. You are helping a woman give birth; you’re supporting her as she brings a new life into the world. If you support her, reassure her, encourage her and congratulate her, you’re already doing a brilliant job, and should be proud of that. She may not show it straight away, but she’ll be grateful that you were there.
The reason I chose Daf and my mum as birth partners wasn’t just because I knew Daf would be encouraging and supportive, or because I knew my mum would be able to reassure me because she’s given birth before. It was also because I love them both so much, and I wanted to share that moment and that experience with them.
If someone has asked you to be their birth partner, try not to fear it, or see it as nothing more than a huge responsibility. It is a big responsibility – but it’s also a sign that they love and trust you, and want you to be a part of this huge moment in their life. Try and see it as an honour, and enjoy it – from what I’m told, it’s an amazing thing to witness.