How to be a great labour partner
The birth of your baby will be one of the most demanding and rewarding events of your life — and you’re the father! How well prepared are you for this big challenge? Take a deep breath — you’ll be doing that a lot once labour begins — and read on, as fathers and experts share their advice on supporting the woman you love as she brings your baby into the world.
Preparing for a birth begins with learning everything you can about the process. Chris and Jenn Gibson of Mississauga, Ont., started with prenatal classes. Chris’s advice? “Be responsible and open-minded about how you prepare. Learn something useful.” Chris asked a friend what he recommended and was advised to learn hypnosis. The Gibsons took four classes and then practised the relaxation and visualization techniques before daughter Sariah was born.
Books, magazines, the Internet and videos are all good ways to get informed. Penny Simkin, an American childbirth educator and doula for over 30 years and author of The Birth Partner, encourages couples in her classes to watch a videotaped birth several times to prepare them for the intensity of labour.
Develop your birth plan together. Make sure you understand what kind of birth your partner hopes to have: What are her thoughts regarding pain medication? Are there comfort measures she’d like to try during labour? After a disappointing first birth, Montreal parents Kareen and Reggie Aristide made very different choices the second time. Reggie listened to what Kareen wanted and agreed to support a home birth with midwives. Today they are the proud parents of four-year-old Abraham, Gabriel, two, and four-month-old twins Israel and Naylissah.
And how do you want to experience your baby’s arrival? Do you plan to cut the umbilical cord? When will you first touch your baby?
Spend some time considering your own feelings about the birth. Supporting the woman you love through labour can be emotionally tough. It’s natural to have some fears of your own. Prenatal classes may provide an opportunity to explore them, or you might want to talk privately with your prenatal instructor or midwife.
If you’re apprehensive about supporting your wife solo, consider some extra help. Simkin is a strong proponent of the doula. “The partner can still be the primary support while the doula guides and helps him to do his job better,” she explains. Or ask a friend to be on standby in case labour is unusually long and you need a break.