While we tend to focus on preparing mama for birth, it is also essential that papas, partners or any other labor supporters to feel prepared. While it would take the length of a book (or more) to fully prepare papas and partners for the birth experience, here are ten quick and easy essentials to keep in mind.
1. Be responsive to your partner’s cues and protect her space. Follow her lead. Do what you can to ensure she is feeling safe and supported. Keep the lights dim, the room quiet and the atmosphere calm.
2. Minimize questions, distractions, and instructions (from yourself and others) especially during contractions. Don’t take silence personally, it is probably a sign that she is going inside and focusing on the monumental task she is undertaking. Silence is often a really good sign.
3. Help her to be comfortable. Suggest position changes regularly. Observe her alignment and support her head, torso, low back, arms, hips, knees, and feet as needed. Keep her warm, but offer ice packs or a cool cloth if she gets too warm. Use comfort techniques you’ve learned together before the birth.
4. Maintain your center and your stability. Find your own breath. Tend to yourself so that you can tend to her. Do so discreetly so it doesn’t serve as a distraction.
5. Take her to the bathroom hourly.
6. Help her keep the pitch of her voice low and monitor her facial and physical tension. Help her relax.
7. Give her encouragement and tell her you love her. You might even kiss if it feels right. Feelings of love from mama help her release oxytocin, which can help with labor.
8. If her breathing gets rapid, shallow and panicked, model a slow, even, deeper breath for her. Maybe try to make eye contact with her as you do this, it can help to ground her.
9. Keep her hydrated and nourished. Offer regular sips of water (you can do so without words). Offer labor snacks in early and active labor.
10. Help her maintain her rhythm. Let her find what works best for her and find ways to support her there until its time for her rhythm to change again.