When you are going to be a father, you will probably start thinking about the big day (labor and birth) at some point and wonder what that will be like. Like many dads-to-be, you may want to be involved during labor and birth, but you might be unsure what to do or concerned that you may not be helpful. It is a good idea for you and mom-to-be to discuss expectations for your involvement in advance. You can ask her what roles she expects you to take on during labor and discuss areas where you feel you will be helpful and areas where you may need support yourself. (For additional ideas and topics, see our Labor Support Handouts.) Ultimately, the two of you will decide what your role will be and this discussion will help you both avoid being disappointed by unmet expectations. When you consider your role during birth remember that:
Your support matters
Society has changed over the past few decades and today most mothers expect their partner to be present and helpful during the birth. She may believe that the experience will bring the two of you closer and it will help you to bond with your baby. She may feel that your support and encouragement will matter more than anyone else's. She may want to be sure that she won’t be doing this alone.
There are a lot of things you can do to help during labor
Your best qualities can be put to use during labor to support mother. Maybe your strong arms can hold her up during a contraction or massage her back, maybe your calm voice saying encouraging words can bring her strength or maybe the look in your eye tells her that she is safe and loved. There are literally hundreds of ways to offer your support, including saying and doing nothing, just being by her side. Be sure to keep distractions to a minimum (such as your phone or the fetal monitor) and keep your attention on her.
You might see things you aren't prepared for
If you have no experience with labor, the intensity and length of the process might surprise you. Labor is hard work and women often act differently during labor than they normally do. They don’t communicate as frequently, they make lots of noises and sometimes look distressed (even though they are probably managing just fine). This may cause you concern, which may cause her to become worried for you or frightened of her labor. She will be better able to relax and surrender to her labor if she sees your calm face looking back at her and she isn’t worried about you.
Labor and birth can be messy
We won't go into details, but there are things that you may see that might ordinarily make you pause or you may find off-putting; however you will probably get caught up in the moment and they probably won't bother you as much as you think they will now. Seeing your child come into this world should not be missed over concerns of what else you might see. You can prepare for the sights, sounds and smells of labor by taking a childbirth course, reading books or websites or talking with experienced dads about the births of their babies.
Be fully present in the minutes and hours after the birth too
As the intensity of labor quickly fades, you will enter a whole new world. Take a deep breath and capture these memories in your mind. The moments will fly by as you get to know your new baby. Take time for the three of you to enjoy these moments together and celebrate. Wait before you rush to share your news with others. This time comes just once and it should be cherished.
Labor can be an opportunity for the two of you work together as a strong team, which can further strengthen the bonds you have as a couple and can help you grow as new parents. The minute you see your newborn or hear his cries, you will realize that you wouldn’t have missed it for anything and that it was worth every minute.
Do you want more? There is a brand new class just for the partners! SupportingHer is an online childbirth class that you can do in the comfort of your home. It is bursting with practical and helpful information to help you be ready for the big day.
Check out a preview here.