During the birthing class my husband and I took before having our son, the instructor started all of us off by splitting us into two teams of dads and moms. She taped up two large sheets of paper on the walls on opposite ends of the classroom and first told each group to make a list answering the question, “What can dads do during labor?” And boy were the answers different for each group.
All the dads/partners put things like “Hold her hand” or “Tell her to breathe and/or push.” The moms’ answers were a little more in-depth, while some were pretty straight forward, including “Leave me alone,” and “Don’t talk to/touch me.” Others that I thought were pretty awesome included “Help me remain focused on the goal” and “Remind me why I’m doing this and help me remain calm.” I asked some other moms I know about what they thought their partners and/or baby’s dads did that were helpful, and the responses ranged all over — kinda like our chart in the birthing class – from “Leave me the h*ll alone" to “Rub my back.”
Every laboring mom is different, dads. So I would highly suggest you ask your own soon-to-be mother of your child. But perhaps some of these suggestions can help get the ball rolling and give you an idea of what to potentially expect. As for what is not helpful, my husband said, "vomiting, fainting, sleeping, eating, drinking coffee, saying, 'Hoo boy, I'm tired' or 'Stop squeezing my hand so hard.'" I mean, I was there and I agree — those things are definitely not helpful.
1. Help Maneuver The Bedpan & Change The Pad
One mom said she felt like the nurses were busy enough, so her husband helped her on and off the bedpan every time she needed to go, and he changed the chux — that's the big giant pad under you on the bed — whenever they got soiled.
2. Communicate The Plan Beforehand
"It helps when we talk before labor about what relaxes me, and what things I might find helpful or not helpful (read: irritating) when I'm in pain," Laura Doroski, a mom of four tells Romper. "We read through the books together, practice relaxation techniques together, etc. starting a month or two before my due date. Since I've been through this four times now, we have the benefit of reviewing what happened the last go-round."
3. Be Attentive & Read Non-Verbal Cues
We may not be able to speak when we are having contractions — Lord knows I couldn't — but it's helpful if your partner can pick up on head shakes and other little non-verbal cues, Doroski says.
4. Be "Intentionally" Calm
Doroski adds that "if he were freaked out and/or obviously stressed while I'm in labor, then I would be, too. He is my rock. So I'd say to guys: practice being mindful and calming yourself long before labor starts if that doesn't come naturally. But practice it with mom, because otherwise your calmness might freak her out even more when she's not used to you acting that way."
5. Be A Good Helper & Just Be Present
For Tiffany Russel's first labor, her husband was in charge of putting in DVDs, handing her the remote, and answering phone calls and questions. For her subsequent three children, she tells Romper it was helpful for her husband to just be there and make sure the epidural didn't make her sick.
6. Tell Fun Stories
"While I was lying on the operating table shaking uncontrollably out of anger and fear (partly drug induced) during my C-section, my husband just talked to me about memories from our trips together," mom Laura Braddick tells Romper. "He talked about our honeymoon, our adventures and stuff we laughed about, like the spirited, goofy activities director at the resort. 'What was that guy's name?' he asked. 'Alex,'" I sniffed, calming down. "He talked about our trip to Europe and paddle boating on the Danube and lots of other stuff I don't remember. But I do remember it calming me down. The OR nurse told me afterward she'd never seen a partner do something like that for a mother, and it touched her. It makes me teary just thinking about it. Love that man so much."
7. Be Her Advocate
"Second time around, I knew that I didn't want an epidural until 7 centimeters, as it had stopped my labor first time around," mom Brandy Sheriff Hendry tells Romper. "I also knew that I didn't want Stadol as it made me feel very drunk. Tyson really made sure they listened to my requests and held them off so I could focus on resting."
8. Have Food Ready For When It's All Over
Hendry adds, "My husband had Jimmy John's delivered before my son even finished his Apgar test." This, y'all. This. I had never been hungrier in my entire life than I was after I delivered my son. I also hadn't been allowed to eat for the last 28 hours because I was induced and got an epidural.
9. Be Quiet
"Seriously. For some of us, presence means a lot more than soothing words, because even though well-meaning, 'You can do this,' is sincere, there are times we are in so much pain we feel like we can't do it. And we are entitled to those feelings," mom Simone Lynch tells Romper. "So sometimes quiet — while combined with hand holding, getting ice, or back rubbing — is really helpful."
10. Remind Her To Breathe
While some moms (like above) need you to be quiet, others may appreciate the reminder to breathe. I know I did, because I'd hold my breath during contractions and I almost passed out. "When it was go-time, he was an amazing and supportive coach," mom Diana Chastain tells Romper. "He would remind me not to hold my breath and to breathe, and he told me how great I was doing. Before that I just wanted him to be quiet."
11. If She Wants To Be Touched, Use Counter Pressure
12. Describe Movie Plots (Or Just Distract In General)
"I made my husband tell me the whole plot of the movie Dances With Wolves," mom Emmy Ipock Noël tells Romper. "I have no idea why. I guess that’s just what I needed in the moment."