Having a good birth can depend on a lot of factors, including how long it lasts, how much pain you're in, your pain tolerance, the location you deliver, your care providers, and who's with you in the room. For many, perhaps most people, their partner — the person they have chosen to raise a baby with — is one of the most important people in the room in terms of influencing how the experience will go. So, how can you help during labor? I asked moms to tell me the one thing their partner did during labor that made all the difference, for better or worse. Fortunately, in most cases, it was for the better.
My husband gets an A for his performance during both my labors. The only reason it's not an A+ is because at one point during each labor he complained about being tired and OMG, are you serious, dude? Still, in every other instance he was brilliant, so I won't take away too much credit here. My favorite thing he did was feed me. I was hungry and knew that hospital policy was that I wouldn't be fed once admitted (although, during my second birth my midwife encouraged me to eat, just not to flaunt it too much because, technically, yes, it was against the hospital rules). So my husband made a seven block trek down to Brooklyn Bagels on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, past several other bagel shops with perfectly fine bagels, but he knew I needed my "special bagel."
To this day, I can't eat pumpernickel with vegetable cream cheese without thinking about how my little boy came into the world, or how my man made sure that entrance was as comfortable for me as possible. So, yes, even a tiny little thing can make all the different. With that in mind, here's what other people's partners did to make their labors memorable:
"He took the [Brooklyn-Battery] tunnel instead of the [Brooklyn] bridge! Good thing he was willing to spend that $8.50, or we would have had an FDR baby."
"My daughter's dad was kind of useless during labor. But my mom and family friend were my saving grace. They both took turns helping me sit up, because I was using all my energy to try to sit up and push. With their help I was able to just focus on pushing. Unfortunately I don’t remember much else from that day, it comes to me in flashes almost, but my daughter's dad either wasn’t there or if he was he was off on the sidelines scared out of his wits."
"I did not want anyone to talk to me during labor. I was super focused so he, a man of few words anyway, was great with that. But he did stop along the way to get me a doughnut because I was convinced they would not feed me when we got there."
"He didn't tell me that my entire family was anxiously waiting just steps away at the hospital. I was pretty firm with them that they could stay home and chill until after baby was born. They were having none of it and as long as I was none the wiser that was dandy. He was very good at seamlessly keeping their secret, going from my bedside to the waiting room with updates without stressing me out with their anticipation."
"He shoved his mom out of the room as she tried to push her head into the door — when I was 20 hours into heavy pitocin-induced labor and two hours into pushing — asking if we arranged for anyone to take our dog out to pee. It was his most loving act ever."
"My induction with my first was really long and difficult — they started the process around noon on a Thursday and [my daughter] was born just after 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. By the time we got to pushing, I was so exhausted that I was literally falling dead asleep, snoring and dreaming, in between contractions. I pushed that way for over two hours and was completely spent and out of energy, and my midwife began to suggest 'getting me some help.' She was considering an episiotomy and maybe even vacuum assistance. He knew I didn’t want that and moved from holding my leg to stand next to my head, coaching and encouraging me quietly in my ear. I don’t remember what he said, but it worked because she was finally born shortly after and it was absolutely his encouragement that helped me do it."
"Just being super encouraging. I remember with my first I was trying to go sans epidural and I made it until the combo of pitocin and broken water happened. I remember being in so much pain and asking for the epidural but also crying and saying 'I'm sorry' and his response was just: 'You have nothing to be sorry about, you're doing great, I'm so proud of you,' and things like that. He never pressured me about any decisions regarding pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding. Just 100 percent supportive of whatever I wanted to do/ felt I needed."
"Pooping on the table was my biggest birthing fear. I kept asking if I was and my husband just kept saying 'No, baby, you're doing great. You're not pooping! Don't worry," which was really reassuring and comforting. I found out later from a nurse that I was basically pooping my brains out, but my husband knew I needed the lie. Please don't use my real name ... I'm still mortified."
"Our doula got stuck on the 405. If you're not from LA, the 405 is a notoriously congested freeway. If you are from LA you know the end of the story: our doula didn't make it to the birth. Fortunately, she had taught my husband some really great massage techniques for labor. He was rubbing my hips, back, and thighs and generally making me feel like a powerful and adored goddess."
"I wasn't allowed to have food in the hospital, but he snuck me food and I'm convinced that's the only thing that gave me the stamina to push for three hours!"
"He got a nurse kicked out of the room for me. It was so gangster I was turned on, despite being in active labor. ... She was so nasty and obnoxious and rude. I didn't have the energy to stand up for myself but after the third or fourth awful comment (she was seriously saying things like, 'Why are we bothering letting her labor? She's just going to need a C-section. Get her to the OR so we can focus on other patients!') my husband roared, 'You cannot talk to her like that! This woman needs to leave the room now!' I was so in love with him ... and I didn't have a C-section! Totally normal, vaginal birth without that awful nurse present!"
"My birth experience was one of the final nails in the coffin of our relationship. (The absolute last one was my first night in the hospital, holding our daughter and realizing I didn't need him to have love in my life and that it was bad enough he'd had such a negative impact on my life— I was going to minimize that for her as much as possible and not being with him was a great start.) Even with a laboring woman with a high-risk pregnancy in the room he made it all about him. I guess it's a good thing that he chose that moment to be such an ass, but I'm looking forward to a positive birth experience one day."
"I didn't expect him to be there, because he was deployed and I knew there was a chance I would go early or he would get held up. But I went late and he came home on time and it was incredible. I'd resigned myself to being alone my whole pregnancy, so having him at my side was the greatest, most unexpected blessing."