Bringing a new baby into the world can be a difficult, beautiful, emotional event. Expectant parents are often nervous about labor and delivery. You may have been through birth classes or other classes at the doctor’s office or hospital, and you are probably hoping that you do everything right. Bear one thing in mind, there’s no such thing as right. Each family has it’s perfect. Textbooks, classes, and even talking to other new parents can be helpful, but the experience is the best teacher. There are some good practices, so let’s start looking at what they are.
How Dad can help Mom during labor and birth
Create a plan
Each couple should look to their physician and discuss what is best for them. For example, does the mother want to have the baby medication-free, or is she willing to be medicated? This is a personal choice. Some medically safe medication interventions could be used. There’s nothing wrong with a medicated birth. Likewise, there are some great natural interventions that will help the laboring mother.
The labor plan should include more than her medication preference. American Pregnancy Association provides a list of questions to ask when creating a plan. Some of these include preferences for the birth position, mobility, episiotomies, IV administration, music, clothing, and aftercare for the baby such as cleaning and breastfeeding. Some guidelines now include best practices for many of these, but they are ultimately up to you and your partner.
Honor her wishes wherever possible. Learn and understand the plan. Create the plan with your partner whenever possible. In their recent article “Helping Dad Prepare for BABY” LifeMomma has discussed planning for a baby in detail.
Attend classes and appointments
It may be unreasonable to expect you to make every appointment, but you should make as many as your schedule will permit. Ask questions at the appointments so that you understand everything that is happening too. Your knowledge will help you to make decisions during the birth if your partner is unable to consult with you. You have the right to understand what is happening with your child and the birth. Providers are usually happy to answer questions.
Listen to her wishes
This is true before labor begins and after you are at the birth facility. You need to understand ahead of time what she plans and what to do if those plans need to change for her needs or the needs of the baby. More likely, though, your willingness to listen to her wishes while she is laboring is what she wants most.
If she wants ice, get her some. If she wants something else, help her within reason. If she is going to need an unplanned cesarean, getting her a cheeseburger will probably not be allowed, no matter how hungry she is. They want the mother to go at least 8 hours without food most of the time.
Be supportive of her physically
She may need help moving around or getting comfortable. She will likely be struggling to get comfortable at times. This is normal. She will probably want to shift position frequently during this time. This might seem frustrating if you feel like you’re constantly helping her move, but it is important to remember she is frustrated because nothing is really comfortable when you’re in labor.
Massages, warm washcloths, ice chips, and other comfort measures might also be helpful. Her back will likely hurt even if she isn’t experiencing “back labor.” Supporting her needs can be a challenge because, in the most active stages of labor, comfort can be elusive.
Take care of yourself
You will do her no good if you do not take care of yourself. If you are only focused on her needs and pass out from lack of food, you will not be helping her. Bring snacks, take a walk if you need to, sleep when she does, and bring something to entertain you when she is less active.
You don’t want to burn out trying to care for her. Taking care of her is a big job. If the hospital will allow multiple partners, see if you can bring a second loved one in for a few minutes here and there to rest or get fresh air. Don’t leave her alone, but don’t avoid your needs, either.
Document the experience
Be respectful of her right to privacy and don’t post pictures to social media without her permission, but take pictures, make notes, or journal for her. She will likely not feel like doing these things, and she will be self-conscious about her looks, but ten years from now, she probably won’t care what her hair looked like. She will just want to enjoy the memories.
You can save the photos to a private space so that she has the power to share them with whomever she wishes. Notes and journaling can also be helpful. Write down funny moments and important conversations. You might want to tell the kids one day and she will probably forget some of it because of exhaustion.
Plan ahead for homecoming
Even if you are the primary cook, the first weeks are difficult enough without having to plan for dinners and cleaning up. Cook several days or a week or two worth of meals ahead so that you just have to pop them in the oven or slow cooker throughout the week.
Buy gift cards to local favorite restaurants for takeout too. Some nights you just want someone else to do it for you. Organize everything you can before the baby comes so that there’s less to consider when you get home. She will also be grateful that she isn’t worried about the house from the hospital room.
Be the voice
Be an advocate for your partner and your baby. They will need someone in their corner if something suddenly changes, and they will need your support. The advocacy may simply be standing up for her right to tear naturally rather than having an episiotomy. Your advocacy may be advocating for or against circumcision for a baby boy. Advocacy is not always a major undertaking. Sometimes it is simply standing behind your loved one and insisting their voice be heard.
If they don’t want a cesarean unless medically necessary, stand up for that right. Your baby will be too small to have a voice. If you, as parents, want to formula feed, don’t let anyone change your mind. There are certainly great benefits to breastfeeding, but your wishes need to be respected. This is rarely an issue, but you should be ready to stand up for what you want within reason. You aren’t going to convince the hospital to change the color of the sheet, but you can request an extra blanket.
What is off-limits?
The previous tips were all about what to do, but what should you avoid?
Don’t annoy her
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to do. Some women like lots of activity during birth and others like a quiet setting. At times, some women might like the opposite of what they normally want. Follow her lead.
Don’t just chatter or fidget with nervous energy. She will feed off of you. She will feel what you are feeling. If you are overly nervous or fidgety, she will have trouble relaxing too. If you are having trouble, refer to the “taking care of yourself” tip. Find someone to sit with her while you calm down.
Don’t be too loud
This one might be obvious too, but this one is more of an excitement control issue. When you are encouraging her, yelling, jumping, and being loud can be distracting. She needs soothing, calming voices to keep her from being distracted and to keep her focus on pain minimization.
She will be more appreciative of a soothing voice than a loud one. She may also ask you to be quiet. Don’t be offended by this. She may just find your voice distracting at the moment.
When do we go to the hospital?
Physicians will often let their patients know their preferences, however, once your partner’s water breaks, a trip to the hospital is due soon. Kaiser Permanente suggests when contractions are regular and 3-5 minutes apart for first-time moms and 5-7 minutes apart for moms who have given birth before. This may be different for your situation so discuss this with the doctor. Some women will experience contractions throughout the last trimester. Let the doctor know if this is the case. Sometimes it can be a sign of preterm labor and other times it is just the body preparing.
These are just suggestions as mothers need different things. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t interrupt physicians or healthcare workers, but if they suggest something you don’t understand, it’s okay to ask them to explain. Your partner and your baby will let you know what they need. No blog or book can express what another person will need at all times, but hopefully, this has given you some tips that you can use as you await the arrival of your new baby. Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your new baby.
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