Being a birth partner is a one of a kind experience. It is a time of great joy and excitement, but it can also be a little scary too.
As a birth partner you are expected to provide emotional and practical support. For someone who has never been pregnant or given birth it can feel like being asked to be a tour guide in a country you've never visited, speaking a language you don't understand.
There are many things that can make being a birth partner scary. You may worry about the sight of blood and bodily fluids, you may wonder about the sounds you may hear, like other people screaming. You may even worry about getting in the way of the midwives and doctors.
In addition to the physical aspects of labour, there are also emotional factors too. You may be worried about your partner's safety and well-being. You may also be feeling stressed and overwhelmed yourself.
You are not alone, many partners will, at some point feel overwhelmed.
Fear not, you can be proactive in easing some of your worries.
In the lead up to the birth:
* Talk to your partner about your fears. It can be helpful to share your worries with someone who understands what you are going through.
* Educate yourself about labour and birth. The more you know, the less scary it will seem. Listen to podcasts, read books and attend antenatal education classes.
*Birth does not always look how it is portrayed on TV and in the films. Watch some positive birth videos on youtube to educate yourself on what it can be like. Pay special attention to the birth partner and how they are supporting.
*Ask your partner what would they like from you in the way of support from you.
*Hire a birth doula, they can be an amazing support to birth partners. It can be reassuring to know you have someone there at your side who can answer your questions and make suggestions on how you can help your partner. They also enable you to take a break, grab some fresh air and a bite to eat. Many of my clients partners remark that they couldn't imagine doing it without the added support, they felt it enhanced their own experience in a positive way.
* Take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating, drinking, and getting enough rest. You need to be in good shape to support your partner.
During the labour & birth:
* Be present and attentive. Let your partner know that you are there for them and that you are focused on their needs.
* Offer physical and emotional support. Help your partner with whatever they need, whether it is holding their hand, rubbing their back, or simply being there to listen.
* Be a calming presence. Your partner may be feeling scared, anxious, or overwhelmed. Your calm demeanour can help them to feel more relaxed.
* Be the Oxytocin making, give your partner lots of eye contact, help them regulate their breathing by taking long slow deep breaths, tell them how well they are doing and how proud you are of them.
* Respect your partner's wishes. It is important to respect your partner's wishes for their birth experience. This includes their choices about pain relief, positions, and interventions.
*Advocate for your partner if needed. Ask questions to the healthcare providers to ascertain what feels the right course of action.
* Be patient, Labour can be a long and tiring process. Be patient with your partner and with yourself. Make sure you both rest where possible.
Being a birth partner is a challenging but rewarding experience. You can be a supportive and helpful birth partner helping make it a positive and memorable time for both you and your partner.