It’s tough being a birth partner… said no mum ever. OK, so pushing half a stone (give or take a few pounds) of baby out of your body is incomparable to any other life event and, sadly, no matter how many game men attempt to simulate labour pains in the name of YouTube lols, unless you’ve actually given birth, you will never understand what it really feels like.
But still… it’s a difficult time for them too. You might feel out of control – but they’re properly helpless, witnessing the person they love the most in the world going through a whole range of new emotions and sensations. Plus, they’re scared – possibly more scared than you, due to the aforementioned lack of control thing – and nervous about “getting it wrong” and upsetting you. But, the truth is, they can’t really get it wrong (unless they bugger off to watch Match of the Day while you’re crowning) since, when it comes to giving birth, we’re all really just making it up as we go along.
Sweeping generalisation: everyone enjoys feeling useful and helpful, so here are a few ways you can get them involved while you get on with the small matter of bringing a whole fricking human being into the world using your body. Yeah yeah, you’re kind of busy here, but there’s no harm in helping them help you.
Tens machines are a godsend – sure, they can help with pain relief particularly during the early stages but, more importantly, they are a great distraction. Getting your partner to take control of the strength of the vibrations will make them feel genuinely useful, even further down the line when you suspect that that little machine is no longer doing much. It’s the ultimate piece of practical help, and feels a bit like playing a video game. A really painful video game.
Many of us fixate on the music that will be playing when we give birth, spending hours crafting the perfect playlist and even forking out for portable speakers because we don’t trust the hospital to provide them, only to completely forget about the whole thing when we’re actually giving birth because it turns out labour is quite distracting. Putting your partner in charge of the entertainment situation will make them feel useful and supportive – plus they’ll enjoy geeking out over it anyway.
You’ve packed some snacks in your hospital bag, of course, but if you have a long labour, you may find yourself demanding random culinary whims when you’re at the hospital. Suggest that your partner does a reccy beforehand so that they knows exactly where to get that suddenly crucial cup of tea/dirty burger/Slush Puppy should the mood take you. Bonus points if they also offer biscuits to midwives.
Chief liaison officer
Best case scenario, nobody else knows you’re in labour yet. But if you’re having a scheduled induction or c-section, or you went into labour at work (sorry, it happens!), or you just had to tell your mum because she’s your mum, chances are, there will be unsolicited comms flying in from all directions. This can be extremely annoying for you, especially if things are taking longer than you’d hoped (suddenly the seemingly innocent words “Any news yet?” will seem like THE most annoying in the English language), so hand your phone over and let them send any genuinely necessary messages* on your behalf.
*This may include asking your neighbour to feed the cat/water the plants/put the bins out, because you may be here for some time.
Remember that birth plan you drew up? Well, it might be the furthest thing from your mind when you’re actually in the thick of it, but make sure your partner is aware of the stuff that’s really important to you so they can relay it to the midwives when needed. However, they also need to know that they should button it if you really, really change your mind about pain relief.
Therapist, Samaritan, Punchbag
Contrary to televisual depictions of birth, many women are actually quite nice to their partners during labour what with them, hopefully, loving them and what-not. But there will be stressful moments where your partner bears the brunt of it. The best thing they can do in this situation is listen, definitely NOT try to offer helpful suggestions, and then implement a “what happens in labour stays in labour” policy for afterwards. This also applies to anything gross they see. And they WILL see gross things. And then probably joke that the placenta would go down well with a bit of barbecue sauce… vom.