First. Don’t make jokes about stitching or you might be asked to drop your pants and show us how small to make it.
OK, now that’s over…
Labour is not a team sport; it is a solo activity with a support crew and you are the support crew. Think of it like swimming the English Channel – it’s probably going to take a while, one person is doing all the work, there needs to be nearly round the clock watches, and the support crew must be ready to step up and help whenever they are needed.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts compiled from years in the delivery suite. For more advice, get your copy of Hatch and Dispatch – tales and advice from a midwife
- Shut the door when you use the bathroom – midwives don’t do boy bits. Secondly, bring swimmers. Some men get in the shower with their partners, which is fine and often very helpful. However, chances are she will call for one of us to help her while she’s in the shower, or we will need to check on her, and while we don’t get embarrassed at nudity, many men do when surprised by a middle-aged midwife knocking at the bathroom door. If you’re not surprised, don’t flex as one gentleman did, pleased to discover he had an audience. Yes, he looked fabulous, but I had more important things to do than admire a solid set of … pecs.
- Bring a pillow. Hospitals eat pillows like washing machines eat socks.
- Prepare to experience a labour and birth. It will be messy, and there will be blood and probably some faeces. She will be in pain and that will be hard for you to watch. It will probably not be short. There may be needles. The baby will come out covered in a variety of coloured goo. Know your limitations and discuss with your partner any parts you can’t deal with. For example, if you faint at the sight of needles, step outside when the epidural is being put in.
- Be encouraging, not sympathetic. Most women don’t like the “Are you OK?” questions, or “This looks really painful!” It is painful, so use encouraging comments to help her breathe or anything you learnt in prenatal classes. Statements like “She can’t do this,” because you don’t like watching her in pain are not helpful. She can do this. You are the cheer squad telling her how well she is doing and that she can do it.
- Panic. Many partners panic during labour and birth. It can be quite traumatic as no-one wants to see someone they love in pain. But please remember, she is the one who is in pain and any panicking you do does not help. Take the time now to think about what is most likely to cause panic – blood, needles, etc. You can ask the teachers at your antenatal class for advice on dealing with the stress.
- Make jokes about stitching. Every now and then some humorous man asks us to “Throw in a few extra stitches,” with a wink and a grin. This is not funny to anyone in the room. You’ll go from super helpful wonderful partner to bad dog in the corner, or be asked to drop your pants and show us how small to make it.
- Be embarrassed about crying. Most partners cry when their baby is born. This is a very special moment in your life and it deserves a tear or two. Big boys do cry. We see it daily and will probably have a box of tissues in the room.