Becoming a Family: Preparing Your Partner for Birth
Published on: June 22, 2020
Here is a look at how your birth partner can prepare to provide the emotional and physical support you will need to bring your new baby into the world.
By Iasnaia Maximo
During pregnancy, nature pretty much prepares a mother for childbirth. Every woman has all she needs to bring her baby earthside, and while there is no denying that birth is very much between the mother and baby, her partner may feel like a mere spectator or somehow excluded from the whole event. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
The presence of fathers at the birth of their child is a relatively new development in our modern history that was propelled by pregnant women’s requests to be supported by those they loved and needed the most. French Obstetrician Michel Odent claims that having the father in the room may impact birth outcomes.
When I was in labor with our first child, my partner and I were alone in our houseboat for most of it, except for the last two hours when the midwife finally joined us. He patiently brought me drinks and food, and tenderly attended to me. He only came to give me a massage or a hug when requested, and for the most of it – 20 hours give or take – I got on with it by myself. He made himself scarce and didn’t intrude in my space but was just there in the corner of my eye. Mind you, he had thought that it would last for three days!
As the birth drew closer, our midwife arrived and subsequently announced the 8cm dilation. My partner realized it was the point of no return. That’s when I needed him to be physically close to me, and we received our baby together.
A well-prepared partner is not only the primary source of emotional and physical support, but he/she is also a fundamental part of what constitutes a positive birth experience for the mother and baby. The other parent’s behavior and attitude during labor leading to birth entail being truly present emotionally, being able to listen, preempt, and respond to the mother’s needs, as well as showering her with unconditional love. They are also the principal Oxytocin inducer by using his/her hands, voice, and intuition to support the mother.
How to prepare
Because of my work, I have been privileged to witness beautiful, intimate, and affectionate moments between partners during labor and birth. In my role of caring and holding space for the couple to bloom with minimal disturbance, I offer a list of things for the partner to follow. While most are commonplace tips that are easy to find and follow, my recommendation is to focus on the inner work that needs to be done beforehand and try to create a calm atmosphere at all times. It should be a joyous experience for both of you.
Inform yourselves, discuss all your wishes with your care provider and research the options. When I teach my Partner’s Preparation classes, we talk about “What, When, How and Why” things, events, procedures, and protocols happen or are performed. We explore the pros and cons that will be helpful if you need to make decisions or negotiate time limits. Discuss your birth plan and different scenarios, be on the same page and use it as a guideline, be flexible, and enjoy the ride.
Most of the time, the father (or other chosen birth partner) is the only source of support for hours and hours. Nurses only come for checks, and doctors will be present only when birth is truly imminent. Because no one knows you better than your partner, being the mother’s advocate and voice is essential. Being mindful of your words and avoiding negative connotations is also vital for the entire pregnancy.
Considering that it is likely the first time you will both experience a birth, get yourselves acquainted and start watching some of the thousands of positive deliveries available on the internet. We learn by observing, by modeling behavior and by watching. Demystifying, and to some extent, desensitizing to the birthing process, to its noises, fluids, and unique rhythm of labor, is helpful. This way, your partner can learn about the birthing process, gain an understanding, and feel confident in supporting you in bringing your baby into the world.
Understanding and accepting birth
Whether you are looking at letting the physiological process unfold, as in natural birth, or choosing the medicated or surgical route, it is useful for the birth partner to understand the “mechanics” of birth. Know the process, the stages, that it can take a long time, and that there is no predictability. Birth is messy, and there are plenty of bodily fluids, whichever way it goes.
However, it is not about how much you know or how to count contractions but observing and participating. Use this information to calm your mind and heart by allowing the process to unfold as seamlessly as possible. No training is needed to be a loving and attentive birth partner. Once fears and concerns are put aside, all attention should be on the mother, on her basic needs, making her feel safe, loved, and accepted.
Be a calm, confident, loving presence. Sometimes that includes taking a nap when labor is still slow, as any adrenaline in the room is detrimental, and keeping everything as relaxed as possible is fundamental.
Nurture your relationships
Relationships can and often do change after a baby, but your birth experience will remain with you and will shape both of your lives and your baby’s life, forever. The reality is that giving birth, especially the first baby, brings changes and transforms the dynamic of every relationship that you have in your life. This may well be with your parents, in-laws, friends, and your partner. Some marriages don’t survive the first year after a baby. Try to resolve issues before the birth and work out ways that involve mutual respect and partnership.
Work together as a team and communicate openly, accepting the adjustment, and embrace the changes. Adapting and making time to be an individual, and a couple at times is essential. Adjust your attitudes and behaviors in ways that will create a deeper sense of connection, and as a result, your relationship will develop into something far more special, a family.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for information purposes and should not be taken as a substitute for direct medical advice.
About the Author
Iasnaia, a Brazilian with a pinch of Irish, who started out as a Lawyer, now dedicates her time and passion to empower and support women in all aspects of motherhood as a Doula and HypnoBirthing practitioner. She has lived in Thailand since 2016 with her German husband and their two boys, who were home-birthed in Amsterdam. Together they enjoy eating their way through Bangkok and traveling. She is part of BAMBI Bumps & Babies team. www.maedoula.com
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