I think I speak on behalf of virtually all mothers everywhere when I say that giving birth is really stinking hard. It's something that cisgender men cannot truly understand (unfortunately) so we kind of just have to give them directions on how to navigate and assist their laboring partner, and hope that those men will go above and beyond the call of duty. Yes, there are things grown-ass men do during their partner's labor that can and do make a difference. A very, very big difference.
I'm pretty lucky; my partner went as far as reading The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin, so he was utterly and completely prepared to offer support to me. He knew exactly what I needed, offering humor to break up the tension at some points, and telling me I could "do this" during the moments when I didn't think I could. He let me practically draw blood with my nails, in the spots where I squeezed his arms as I pushed our baby out, and he brought me snacks as soon as he knew the baby was okay, once I'd successfully given birth. He truly was my birth partner, and I hope every woman who is about to give birth has a partner who is willing and able to emphatically do the same for them.
So, with that in mind, here are 15 things grown-ass men do when their partner is in labor. Gentlemen, take note, because birth is rarely (if ever) a one-woman job.
He Times Her Contractions
I cannot stress this enough: do not leave this to your partner. She has better things to do, like try to focus and harness her energy and handle the pain. Download an app, or just use the stopwatch on your phone.
He Offers Her Water
Don't wait until she has to ask, because by then she has thought, "I need water" 47 times and wondered why she needs to actually say the words out loud and why has no one considered that she might be thirsty. Just keep offering.
He Cleans Up Any Messes
If your partner's water breaks at home, the last thing she wants to think about is having to clean it up. If she continues to leak at the hospital or birthing center (yes, that happens), she's not going to want to bend over and clean it up so she doesn't slip and fall while contracting. A grown-ass man doesn't bat an eyelash at the mess that birthing a child creates, and will do whatever he can to clean it.
He Encourages Her
Having done it twice, myself, I can tell you that giving birth is generally really f*cking hard. Thankfully, it will eventually end. Eventually. It's pretty easy to forget that when you're in the thick of it, though. Grown-ass men will continue to encourage their laboring partner to see it through, keep trying, they can and will accomplish the insurmountable task that is birthing human beings, and that they're so very proud of them for everything they've already done.
He'll Be Her Advocate
Chances are, a birth plan has been discussed at length and studied ad nauseam. Grown-ass men make sure what's on it (and were probably part of its creation) and will fight for the ability to stick with it (when it's medically safe). A laboring women shouldn't be spending her time fending off anxious nurses and doctors. She should be focused on bringing a human into the world, so a grown-ass man will do her fighting for her.
He'll Be Her Punching Bag
If she needs to hang off of your shoulders during the early contractions, do it. If she needs to squeeze the blood out of your wrist while she's pushing, so be it. IF she needs to curse your existence and blame you for her current condition, let her. It will help.
He'll Offer Her As Many Back And Shoulder Massages As She Wants
Unlike getting your partner some water, I suggest asking if being touched is something she, in fact, wants. Plenty of women do not want to be touched while they labor, and being touched by anyone (including their partner) can feel like it's making the contractions worse. Ask your partner if massaging a specific area or rubbing a certain spot will, in fact, help them labor effectively.
He Listens To Her
If she says she wants an epidural, even though she told you not to let her before her body started doing all the painful things, take a good long listen. Things may be worse than she was anticipating, or taking longer than she can handle, and if she requires some relief, that is exactly what she should get.
He Sneaks Her A Little Snack When She Needs It
I don't care what anyone says; a little bit of banana or a spoonful of honey can make all the difference, especially when your energy is flagging at the end of labor. Trust.
He Doesn't Panic
When I had my first baby, things were a bit tough. Nothing went terribly wrong in the end, but there were a few close calls, including the moment I pushed my baby's head out and the midwives saw that my daughter's umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Twice. Her shoulders were still inside of me, and I had stopped pushing, not realizing that she hadn't started breathing yet. Apparently the midwives looked at each other in distress and then started urging me to push again, to which I protested that I was too tired. My husband saw all of this going down (and was terrified, he told me later), looked at me and told me I really needed to push now. I had no idea what was really going on, but his calm but firm demeanor helped me focus on finishing the task.
He'll Remind Her Of The Bigger Picture
It can be hard to keep your eyes on the prize (you know, the baby) when you're in so much agony. Grown-ass men will remind their partners that the pain is there for a reason, even if it does completely suck.
They'll Swallow Their Pride
Whatever is going on during the hours of labor that your partner is in, remember that this is probably the most challenging moment of her life. You may want this to be all about you, but it's not. You are not pushing a baby out your vagina or having one cut from your body, so get over it.
He'll Tell Her What A Badass She Is
Like I said before, she's either pushing a baby out of her vagina (WHICH IS REALLY HARD TO DO), or having it cut out of her. She is a badass. She deserves to hear it over and over and over again.
He'll Kick Someone Out Of The Delivery Room
If a laboring woman suddenly decides that she doesn't want someone to share in her birthing experience (whether it's a mother, a dear friend or even a nurse/doctor that has made her uncomfortable), a grown-ass man will show them the door. Again, there's no reason for someone contracting to deal with the logistics of "who stays and who goes," so do it for her, gentlemen. She has more pressing matters to deal with at the moment.
He Won't Bat An Eyelash When (Or If) She Calls Him Names
This is key. You may end up seeing a different side of your partner than you've ever been exposed to before. Excruciating pain will do that to a human being. Take it all in stride, and remember that she, currently has the hardest job.