If you are supporting someone through birthing, be it your wife, partner, sister, daughter or another family member or friend, its important you clearly understand the birthing mothers intentions, boundaries and expectations of what your role will be.
Below are a list of questions and suggestions you may want to consider:
• Has the birthing mother written a birth plan? Do you know what’s in it? Do you understand the reasons why she feels that the points she’s written on the birth plan are important?
• Does the birthing mother expect you to speak for her if she cannot, if she’s in too much pain, or “not with it” during the labouring process or due to pain relief, have you discussed with the mother how and when she would like you to speak up for her?
• Do you know what is in the hospital bags? Would you be able to locate a treasured item, a cd, a camera, food or drink at a request?
• Are you prepared for a long labour? Do you have enough snacks and drinks to get through several hours if you are unable to leave her side? Do you have a change of clothes for yourself if you get wet (if you need to support her in the shower, bath or birthing pool)
• When she is in labour she likely won’t talk a lot, and most women can’t talk at all during contractions. You are likely going to have to read her body language to work out how to best support her through the pain.
• If she is in an upright position and looking like she’s struggling or shaking, offer to help take some weight for her, let her lean on you and support her. If she protests or pushes you away don’t feel put out, it can also be incredibly frustrating to be touched while labouring, some women will not want to be touched at all, even a gentle hand on the shoulder can be very upsetting to her, so be mindful to watch for any sign she doesn’t want to be touched and then back up immediately.
• Some women like to be held, cuddled, kissed, massaged, try firm steady pressure on her lower back with your hand or if she’s laying on her side with a pillow pushing steadily on her lower back.
• Do you know where to park the car, and take the birthing mother when she is in labour? Do you know how the parking at the hospital works and what/if it costs? (if you are having a hospital birth)
- Do you know if and when you are allowed to announce your baby’s birth? If the mother would prefer you don’t announce when she’s in labour? These things can be very important to a woman in labour.
- In an emergency, have you discussed whether or not the mother wants you to stay with the baby, or stay with her, if for whatever reason they need to be separated
All women are different, all labours are different and sometimes her mood can change instantly so stay present, stay alert, ask the health care professionals supporting her with how to help as well. Otherwise be prepared that your role may be just to be there and wait.