One of the main points the instructor of my birthing class emphasized was that labor is not like you see on television and in movies. The likelihood of actually going from zero to screaming in 0.2 seconds is minimal, and we’ll probably be able to breathe calmly in between contractions. Awesome! Also, partners can be involved during labor if you so desire it, since the bumbling fathers-to-be shown in birthing scenes are often exaggerations, too. I know circumstances don’t allow every father or partner to be there for the birth of a baby, but for those who can and do make it, and who are committed to supporting your partner, you have my enthusiastic thumbs-up and approving eye contact (I can’t go much bigger than that since the rest of my encouragement is reserved for your partner who's about to remove a human from her body).
While there are plenty of birthing professionals who will likely have some clear instructors for you when everything’s about to hit the fan (”Hold her leg! Count down the contraction! Stay focused!”) I wanted to offer some suggestions for the rest of the process, too. Labor can be long and hard and full of surprises (sometimes, they are even fluid-filled surprises; how about that?!) so hey, it can’t hurt to have a few key phrases stashed in your pocket, right? Here's what your partner actually wants to hear when she's in labor:
“Don’t Worry, I Will Time Your Contractions So We Can Figure Out What’s Happening.”
The timing of the contractions is one of the earliest indicators that it’s about to go down, so things are off to a good start if a partner can take this one off her plate.
"You Can Do This."
Speaking from my own experience, even in the midst of pushing, I had my doubts, so was quite helpful to have some reassurance.
"We Will Totally Get To The Hospital/Birthing Center/Tub In Time."
I mean, don’t lie to the woman if it comes down to it, but if you’re doing OK on time? Yes, make sure she knows. Again, this is about taking as many worries off of her as possible.
“I Am Here For You.”
Is this redundant? Perhaps, if you’ve accompanied her to wherever it is she will be giving birth. But is it a comforting reminder? Absolutely, especially if it's said with intense eye contact and hand squeezes.
“You’re Doing Great.”
How do we define “doing great” when it comes to giving birth? It’s easy: Anyone who is in the middle of it is doing great. Like, she's there, she's doing it; She's doing great. Seriously though, I think at one point when I was reaching the end of labor, I was actually asking for more encouragement. Obviously, every woman is different, but in my case, I couldn’t get enough.
“I’ve Got Your Birth Plan Right Here.”
That said, try not to give too much away about just how many ways you’ve veered from it. She doesn’t need to worry about that right now.
"You Haven’t Pooped On The Table."
I can’t stress this one enough. Even if it's not true. Especially if it's not true.
"Don’t Worry, I Grabbed Your Bag."
If I remember correctly, the only thing from my bag that I actually used was my toothbrush and my change of clothes. Still, she'll be glad to know it's there.
"What Do You Want?"
She might have an idea of something she wants to ask for. Then again, she might be totally distracted and not thinking straight. Either way, it’s a nice gesture to ask.
"How About I Bring You ______?"
If by chance she has no idea what she needs (as we just established is highly likely), feel free to offer her whatever you can think of. Even something as simple as a pillow or blanket or socks...really, just anything that could bring her a semblance of comfort.
"Here’s Water/Ice/Whatever Refreshment That’s Available To Us Right Now."
Hydration is everything, you guys.
"Whatever You Decide Regarding Pain Management Is Fine."*
This one is super important. No shaming, partners. No questioning even. Not even if it deviates from the birth plan. Everyone deviates from the birth plan.
"Do You Want Me To Rub Your Back Like Those People We Saw In That One Birthing Video?"
There is pretty much no bad time to offer someone a back rub.
“This Is Not Gross At All And I’m Totally Calm.”
Just keep saying it until you believe it.
"I Will Call Whoever We Need To Call."
Isn’t that one of the perks of being the partner of a woman in labor? You totally have permission to wake up whomever you want to wake-up.
"You Are Awesome And Beautiful And I’m So Proud Of You."
BECAUSE SHE IS, AND YOU ARE, RIGHT? RIGHT?
"I Can See The Head!"
*tear* We do like hearing this one.