All about partners: how to be an amazing birth partner
I think it's safe to say that most partners want to be supportive, loving, and genuinely helpful while the laboring mama does the work of bringing their new child into the world. And the good news is that you're not as unprepared as you may feel! With just a little practice & preparation, you can be an amazing birth partner. Here are some easy & straightforward things you can do!
This is the #1 piece of advice that I want to drill into every birth partner's brain. Be present! And really put some time into thinking about what you'll need in order to be present through a potentially long & strenuous labor. Will it mean that you need to take a 15-minute walk every few hours to clear your head and take a few deep breaths? Will it mean making sure that you're well-rested & caffeinated? Will it mean hiring a doula so you have support & encouragement, too?
There's nothing more disheartening to a laboring woman than getting through a big contraction, feeling powerful and amazing, and looking over at her birth partner to find them playing candy crush. It's understandable that most people can't stay 100% focused for 20+ hours, so do your due diligence to think about how you have stayed focused through marathon work days or athletic events, put some plans in place, and discuss those plans with her ahead of time so she knows that you'll do your very best to be there for her.
Even if you do nothing else, being present & by her side to support her will be the thing she remembers most.
Use your Toolkit
While labor support may be a new job role that you've never experienced before, you are no stranger to offering support to your partner at the end of a long and stressful day or through an emotional experience. Sit down & make a list of the things that you do on a regular basis to be a supportive partner in daily life. Maybe you give amazing foot rubs, stroke her hair, tell corny jokes to make her laugh, or run a hot bath for her. Seriously, make a list. And remember that you already have so many tools in your toolkit that will be amazing support for her in labor!
If you're feeling lost in the labor room & not sure what to do, make sure her water is full & keep offering juice/snacks. Many women in active labor enter "labor land" and aren't quite their normal communicative selves. So rather than asking if she wants something to drink, just hold the straw up to her mouth and say "water?" She'll either drink some or shake her head no.
Nurses or doulas will be happy to fetch things for you, so if you don't want to leave her side, ask the them to make the trip for you!
Lastly, have a plan for what meal you'll get for her after the baby is born. Many women describe this meal as "the best they've ever eaten," so put some thought into it and make a plan for food delivery!
Keep her comfy
Make sure that she's as comfortable as possible:
-Make sure she's not too hot or cold (if at the hospital, there are thermostats in the rooms and heated blankets in the hallways)
-If she's laying in the bed make sure that she's comfortable and has enough pillows to support her neck, back, & belly
-If she's taken a bath or shower, make sure she's dry and warm
-Offer chapstick occasionally
-Make sure her hair is out of her face
Learn the Double Hip Squeeze
The trick I always encourage partners to learn is some variation of the hip squeeze. I have two favorite videos to send partners as a reminder of what we practice during doula prenatals or what you might've learned during a birth class.
Video 1: Classic Double Hip Squeeze
Video 2: Rebozo Double Hip Squeeze (fast-forward to 3:40)
I particularly love this second technique using a rebozo (or you can use a top bed sheet!) because it's much less labor-intensive and sustainable to do for many contractions during a long labor! You can practice these techniques during pregnancy and get to know where "the spot" is on your partner.
Be an Advocate
There may come a point in labor when your partner enters "labor land" and is so focused on coping with contractions that processing complicated medical information or making decisions becomes more difficult than usual. That's where you come in. Get to know her birth plan/preferences, and have many conversations ahead of time about how she would want to handle decisions that need to be made during labor.
You can be her voice if she needs you to be - asking all the right questions & making sure that she hears a comprehensive list of pros & cons about each option. Write this acronym on a business card & stick it in your wallet so that if you're faced with a medical decision and neither of you is sure what to do, you can pull it out as a guide:
Benefits - ask about the benefits of each option being presented
Risks - ask about the risks of
Alternatives - ask what other options are available
Intuition - do you or your partner have a "gut feeling" about what to do? Listen to that.
Nothing - what happens if you do nothing?
Remember that, unless it's a medical emergency, it's always a good idea to ask for a few minutes without the care provider in the room to discuss your options and make a decision.
You've got this, partner!