Woman goes into labour…
Man freaks out…
Man faints when he sees needle/blood/the business end…
Woman has baby…
Man wakes to find that he missed the whole thing…. reported every movie ever made about childbirth.
Men are the butt of all jokes when it comes to babies and childbirth, and I feel sorry for any father-to-be who mistakenly takes them seriously.
Most of the time the jokes aren’t even that funny. Instead, they completely downplay the role that men/partner’s/father’s have in the delivery room.
“Don’t look down the ‘business’ end“… hardeeha!
“Don’t pass out will you“…. ha.ha.ha!
“Don’t check the footy scores“…. sooo funny!
Men’s role in supporting their partner during childbirth is so minimalised by society, but it is one of the most important roles in the room, and the most important role in supporting the woman.
My husband believes his role when delivering our children was moot. He says, ‘I didn’t really do much’.
How wrong he is.
You see, without him, there was no way I could have had the childbirth experience that I had.
For me, he was pivotal in me getting through it in a relatively controlled state.
He was the reason I pushed harder, breathed deeper, and focused on the important role that I had to do… concentrating on pushing a watermelon out through a straw!!
So for him, and all the other father’s-to-be who are pondering what their role in the birthing suite is actually like, I have put together a short run down of what men really do in the delivery room.
1. Helping mum-to-be through the pain
This might be in the form of distraction, keeping her focused with key words she wants repeated out loud, helping her breath, rubbing her back, or all of the above at different stages of the labour.
In the early stages, she will probably want her back rubbed or some distraction. In the later heavy going stages where the pain is unbearable, she may want you to keep her focused on breathing, and in the pushing stage she may want you to held her hand and motivate her to push harder with lots of ‘come on, you can do it’.
The most important part of this point – communication. If she hasn’t already told you want you want her to do, ask her. The bossier a woman is in labour, the better, in my mind.
2. Monitoring when she needs you to help her and when she needs you to back off
Mum-to-be may wish for all the motivation, rubbing and distraction in the world during a contraction, but when the contraction stops, you can go back to sitting down again.
She should be able to communicate what she needs, when she needs it. But if she doesn’t, just ask. Communicate!
3. Making sure she is hydrated
She cannot eat during labour, but as labour can go on for many, many hours it is important that you ensure she is well hydrated. This may be in the form of short sips of water or giving her ice cubes to suck on. The nurses can point you in the direction of the ice machine.
4. Making sure she has a cold press/face washer for her brow or back of neck
This is important as she will be working bloody hard, so keep replacing that paper towel or re-wetting that face washer in cool water to ensure that she doesn’t get too hot. Apply during or in between contractions as instructed by her, or when she asks for it.
5. Making sure her wishes about her birth plan are being conveyed accurately to medical staff
This is critical. She may be losing control. She may be freaking out. Hopefully you would have discussed prior to going into labour what birthing plan she wants. And hopefully, you would have also discussed Plan B.
While it is common to have a birth plan of a drug free, natural labour, what happens if things don’t go according to plan and your partner has been in labour for forty hours and the labour is not progressing?
What will you do if the medical staff are telling her she needs a c-section but she is adamant she doesn’t want one?
How will you know when her Plan A has changed to Plan B?
These are things you need to discuss prior to getting into the delivery room, as this will be part of your role in either explaining to the medical staff what she wants, or encouraging her to listen to the medical staff. A tricky role, but a very important one.
6. Keeping well meaning family and friends at bay
This is important if word gets out that she’s in labour and gets 934874 texts or calls asking “have you had the baby yet?”. But don’t think that your role ends once bub is born, this is when you need to again give family and friends strict visiting times. New mamma will be recovering and exhausted (and so will you), so it will be up to you to ensure that you, mum and bub are not overwhelmed.
7. Praising her (a lot) on her efforts so far and at the end
It is so important that you tell her she’s doing a good job. Everyone likes to get positive reinforcement. Praise her after she has had a particularly hard contraction, and praise her after a really good push. Do this a lot. It helps!
8. Keep your sh*t together, even when it’s not
Lastly, but probably most importantly, your role is to remain calm. If she sees you freaking out, she will probably freak out too. With this in mind it is important to educate yourself on what happens during labour prior to labour starting. You don’t want to be inside freaking out over something completely normal like a baby coming out slightly red and purple because you didn’t realise that some babies are this coloured when they’re born. Get educated about what to expect so you can be ready for Plan A, Plan B all the way down to, Plan-lets-just-get-this-baby-out!
If you still don’t think your role as a partner during the birth is important then you need a slap. While I suspect my husband was downplaying his role in an attempt to make me feel good about my role as chief-deliverer, the point remains – his role, your role [points at dads], any support person’s role for a woman in labour is the cornerstone for her being calm during labour.
Good luck daddy-to-be!!
If you are having a baby soon, please share this with your birthing support, whoever they may be – partner, sibling, parent, bestie!
For all other mums and dads, what was your experience like in the delivery room?
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