The day (and more) that I gave birth to my son was the most intense, exciting day of my life thus far. After weeks of being impatient and so over being pregnant, I went for a massage, ate a giant bowl of Phở, and finally felt the kind of unmistakably legit contractions that let you know it's time to call the midwife. I always expected to feel nervous when I gave birth, but once it was happening, I didn't. I felt prepared and ready, especially because my partner made me feel capable during labor and delivery.
My husband was the best birth partner I could ever have hoped for. Part of reason why was a result of our preparation, including a trimester's worth of birthing classes and in-depth appointments and community care sessions with my midwives. By the time I went into labor, we knew a lot about what to expect, so we weren't thrown off or worried about what was going on. However, it was also just because that's who he is: a caring, supportive, feminist Army vet who is the literal best person to have around during any intense, high-stakes situation where staying calm and making good choices quickly really matter. He knows how to be responsive and supportive without being intrusive and getting in somebody else's way, which meant he was able to hold space for me during labor and support me, while letting me do the work that was ultimately mine — not the midwives', not his, but mine — to do.
There were so many big and small things he did that made a difference for me during labor, though if you asked him (as several of our friends did after meeting our son for the first time), he'd just humbly reply, "I mean, she was doing the hard part. I just did my best not to be a total dumbass." We laughed when he said that but, unfortunately, in a society that doesn't really help people (especially cisgender men) to not be dumbasses during birth, that is actually more of an accomplishment than it perhaps ought to be. I reminisce about that day a lot, and if I thought about it further I could probably come up with plenty more ways my partner helped me feel capable during birth, but the following are the first that come to mind:
He Demonstrated How Much He Believed In Me Throughout My Pregnancy
Throughout my entire pregnancy, my partner would let me know how amazing he thought I was, and how grateful he was to me for making our son. When anxiety and worries about being pregnant or having a baby would occasionally get me down, he'd build me back up and remind me of how strong and capable I am.
He Respected My Decisions For My Body And My Birth
When my OB scared me and I decided I needed to switch providers, even though I was already pregnant, he was 100 percent supportive and on board (like he was for every other aspect of my birth plan with our incredible midwives).
Like any decent, caring human, he recognized that it was not his place to make decisions about my body. It's his job to support me in the choices I make, just as I would do for him if the situation were reversed.
He Encouraged Me
From the moment I started having the kind of contractions that erased all doubt regarding whether or not I was in labor, until I finally pushed our baby boy into the world, my husband was there reminding me how strong I was and how well I was doing. Even when I felt like I'd been laboring forever and was starting to get discouraged, he reminded me of how much I was accomplishing, and helped me find the courage to keep going.
He Followed My Lead
At no point in my pregnancy or labor did my husband try to push me into anything I wasn't down for, whether it was something big like selecting a prenatal care provider, or something small, like how much I ate and drank during labor. He trusted me to know what I needed to do and when, and remained attentive so he could figure out the best way to help me.
He Listened To Me
Throughout my whole pregnancy, including almost three full weeks being faked out by Braxton Hicks before going into real labor, my husband kept listening to me anytime I felt anything that excited, worried, or bugged me. He never projected his opinions on to me, or judged me or anything else; he just listened and offered support. That reassured me that I could trust myself in what I was feeling, and that I could trust him to be there for me, no matter what happened.
He Made Sure I Could Focus Exclusively On Birth
My husband made sure to handle all the little logistical things that were going on. For a home birth, those logistical things included; making sure we and our midwives had enough food and drinks, ensuring they could park (without getting towed, which is an accomplishment in our neighborhood) and get into our house, helping them move in their equipment and helping them find our birth kit, making sure our cat wasn't being a nuisance, and more. By doing all the tiny, seemingly minuscule but important things, he made sure I didn't have any distractions that could mess up my focus and pull me out of labor groove I'd established (which would have rattled my confidence).
He Offered Whatever Support I Asked For
When I wanted to hold onto his shoulders and sway, he stood with me — literally, for hours. When I wanted a back rub while making hip circles on my birth ball, he figured out how to get it done. When I needed someone to pour water over my back as I labored in our tub, he was on it. Whenever I needed something from him, he did it, without hesitating and without questioning me. That reinforced the fact that he trusted me to know best, and that I was capable of rocking my labor, my way.
He Worked Well With My Midwives
Partly because I picked really great midwives whom we got along well with, socially and philosophically, and partly because's he's wise and humble enough to defer to the experts in the room — the trained, professional women who've been catching babies for decades, and the laboring woman who was actually feeling everything in her body — my husband worked well the people I picked to assist me in bringing my son into the world. He made sure they had what they needed to work, stayed out of their way when needed, and helped out however he could. That reinforced that he trusted me to make the right call regarding my birth team.
He Didn't Flinch When Sh*t Got Real
As I said earlier, my husband is fantastic during high-stakes situations, and has a "game day" face to match. Seeing that face — open, calm yet intensely focused, without a hint of worry or hesitation — while I birthed helped me stay at ease. His calm let me know he believed in me, and inspired me to keep digging deep until our baby was finally in our arms.
He Stayed By My Side
At one point, after I'd been laboring all night and well past dawn, my midwives suggested that my husband take a break to get something to eat. It was the only time I saw anyone disagree with anyone else during my entire labor, and the incredulous look on his face was funny enough that I almost laughed out loud during one of my hardest contractions. "No way! I'm not leaving when you're all in here doing work!" I managed to mutter that it was OK, and he was gone and back with a mug of beef stew in what felt like no time at all (impressive, given how many stairs exist between our bedroom and the kitchen).
Having him by my side virtually the whole time I labored made me feel so supported and strong. Internally, I felt like he saw I was doing this incredible thing, and didn't want to miss a moment of it. That reminded me that I was doing an incredible thing, and made me feel the kind of pride that can sustain you through, well, just about anything.