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The next couple of weeks on the JoJo blog will be dedicated to Dads! We thought we’d start at the very beginning of life as a father: the birth! Our friends over at Baby Centre have given us their top 10 tips to be the perfect birth partner…and no, it’s not as the picture suggests; waving a sunflower over her belly will probably not help.
Although it’s hard to watch a loved one endure pain, most dads find the birth of their baby to be one of life’s greatest moments. Of course, it’s even better if you know that you’ve been there to help.
So what are the best ways to support your partner through what’s likely to be the experience of a lifetime? Here are 10 tips from dads who have been there before to help you be the perfect birth partner.
1. Be aware of what she wants
Talk to your partner beforehand about what she does and doesn’t want during her labour. You’re the one who may need to take charge and let the midwife know. If she has a birth plan, make sure you bring it with you to hospital.
When the midwife asked about putting up a drip for Andrew’s wife, just in case she needed it later, Andrew knew his wife wouldn’t want it. “It helped that I knew what I could ask for,” he said, “and what I could refuse.”
2. Look after yourself!
The mum-to-be is the centre of attention, but you’ll probably be spending the night at the hospital too, so don’t forget to pack some things for yourself. Comfortable shoes are essential.
“We must have walked about three miles through the hospital corridors during her contractions,” says Andrew. “The next day, neither of us could work out why our feet were sore.” Pack a clean T-shirt, too. Being able to change will help you feel fresher if you’re up all night.
Consider bringing your swimming shorts if your partner wants you in the birth pool with her. Also remember to bring something to eat and drink – you could be at the hospital for a while. Find out what you should put in your hospital bag.
3. Know what to expect
Labour is not the right time to be flipping through a pregnancy and birth manual, so bone up on your reading beforehand. And go to antenatal classes with an open mind. You’ll get solid, basic information about what labour and birth entails, as well as a sense of how other dads-to-be are planning the event.
4. Be flexible
Labour strategies that work for some women, may not work for your partner. A birth partner’s job is to discern what works, and be prepared to drop what doesn’t.
“Our antenatal teacher stressed the need to keep an open mind and make decisions as we went along,” said Jay. “It proved to be very useful in what turned out to be a long labour.”
Well before your baby’s due date, you and your partner should take time to discuss her expectations and options. Later, you will be able to take the initiative while keeping her wishes in mind.
5. Be ready to do some hard work yourself!
Giving birth is often a long, hard job. At some point during the hours of labour, you and your partner will discover something she can focus on during contractions. It could be a breathing pattern, a spot on the ceiling, or even a soft baby toy you’ve brought with you.
Your job is to help your partner find this distraction, and then bring her back to it whenever she starts to think she won’t make it. Your partner will be relying on you to keep your concentration levels up.
6. Be prepared for surprises
Neither you nor your partner knows what labour will be like, or what will help your partner.
“I ended up rubbing my wife’s foot all the way through labour,” says Chris. “She told me to squeeze her foot until it hurt, so she could focus on that pain instead. Although I felt bad about hurting her, it helped her to focus, and ultimately to relax more!
7. Be a one-person support team
Though there will be lots of experienced people around to help you, you will be your partner’s most important support.
Do whatever she needs, from running to the cafeteria for a packet of sweets to getting her another drink or talking things through with your midwife.
Chris tried to pay attention to his wife’s emotional and physical state. “I was her primary advocate – anything she needed, I did my best to provide,” he says.
8. Know your limits
There’s a lot going on in the birth room. Be aware of what you are willing to do during the process, and what you want to leave to the professionals.
Mathew remembers the midwife asking if he wanted to catch his son when he came out. “I decided not to as I was worried about doing it,” he says. “But I did cut the umbilical cord. That was easy.”
9. Be prepared to take charge
Only you and your partner know what you both want, but she may not be in the best condition to make hard decisions. Be ready to step in with some decisive action if the situation calls for it.
David remembers that the midwife was going to break the waters during an internal examination:
“Jenny was having a contraction and in pain and the midwife suggested breaking the waters to speed things along. I stepped in and said, ‘Let’s just wait until we can discuss it with Jenny.’ The midwife was a bit surprised, but I knew Jenny didn’t want anything done without the chance to talk about it.”
10. Be prepared to wait
Unlike what you see in films and on television, most women are in labour for hours before they even go to the hospital.
Many couples find it more comfortable to spend the early stages of labour at home. Besides, many maternity units prefer you wait until your contractions are regular and close together before booking into the hospital.
Originally published by Baby Centre
We’d love to hear about any tips you or your partner have on how to be the perfect birth partner. Leave a comment below or tweet us using the hashtag #JoJoPapaBebe