One of my favorite handouts to give in birth classes is a “Cliff’s Notes” to labor support. It is a two page handout with a variety of reminders and ideas about supporting your partner or wife during her labor. There are small illustrations as well and a review of the stages of labor. The handout is available here from the website Transition to Parenthood. This site offers a variety of useful handouts for childbirth educators and for parents-to-be and I really appreciate the educator’s generosity in making her materials available online like this!
The handout referenced focuses primarily on physical support and comfort measures of the laboring woman. Some additional, less concrete things I like to remind fathers-to-be of are:
- Follow her lead. Labor is like a dance and your partner is leading the dance! Anything I say in class or anything you’ve read about is less important than what she is actually doing and you responding to her.
- The most important thing you can do is just love her. This is more important than learning “techniques.” Just love her the way you love her and she will feel your love and support.
- Let it happen. I encourage women to “let birth happen” and to let it flow. As her support person, you can help her by letting her let it happen (instead of hushing her or telling her to calm down or asking her to do something different than what is working for her).
- Don’t interrupt a woman who is coping well with a new technique or idea–if what she is doing is working for her, encourage THAT instead of trying to introduce new ideas or tips.
- Remember that as a support person you may also experience the three “emotional signposts” of labor–these are excitement, seriousness, and self-doubt and they correspond to stages of labor. A woman in early labor shows the excitement “signpost” a woman in active labor tends to be very serious and “busy working” and during transition many women show a self-doubt signpost maybe saying they “can’t do this anymore” or “I can’t do this much longer.” It is okay to let your partner know that you are experiencing excitement and seriousness, but try to keep the “self-doubt” signpost under wraps and don’t show her that you are also experiencing that one! Be as calm and supportive and confident and trusting as you can as she journeys through the sometimes challenging time of transition in her labor.