If you didn’t know me you may not know that I recently delivered my second baby, vaginally, sans-medication… and it was wonderful, amazing, breathtaking, painful, and terrifying all in the same moment. I have given birth twice now, the same way, but in very different circumstances. The first time I was 7 hours away from home, my mommy wasn’t there, and my partner and I were not getting along well.. I also had a bitchy nurse who didn’t listen to me when I said “hey, this baby is coming” and an intern delivering because my doctor- whom I had only met once before- was about to leave for Christmas vacation. The second time I was in my home city, with my mom, my partner who I was getting along very well with, and a nurse that was literally hand-picked by the universe for us (complete with inappropriate humour, sarcasm, and kindness.. she fit in so well with our dynamic it wasn’t even funny).. and no, my doctor wasn’t there, but that one nurse made ALL the difference.
Now, I have seen many births, and heard about other births, and one thing I have picked up along the way were some great tips about how to be a good support person. I made sure I gave my partner these tips all throughout the pregnancy, however, there were some things he did during the delivery that I hadn’t even suggested, and I realized that there are some things you can learn from others and plan for, and other things you just have to learn as you go… but here is a list of things we learned that were extremely helpful.
1. Go with HER flow.
This is the most important piece of advice EVER. Sure, your best friend may have just had a baby and tells you that speaking in a calming voice and constantly saying “you’re doing good, honey” is the key to getting through this labour, but if your baby-momma starts telling you to shut up and that your “calming voice” is making her want to strangle you.. maybe it isn’t the best tactic. Remember, every person is different, every labour is different, and every relationship is different. Our dynamic is that we make stupid jokes, and are sarcastic. So, how did I get through my labour? By making jokes with nursing staff (though the only one who seemed to enjoy my comedy was our main nurse) and by letting my partner sit in the corner playing on his phone until the really bad contractions started.. Then I just wanted him to be quiet and let me break his hand. A friend of mine got through with her husbands encouragement and calming words, while another good friend of mine got through labour by having me in the room with her husband while we listed awesome (albeit inappropriate) songs to give birth to.* So what I am getting at is… do what makes her comfortable and relaxed and if she changes her mind.. go with it.
2. Don’t take it personally.
Your sweet, angelic partner may turn into a reincarnation of Satan himself during labour. She may swear, scream, and don’t even be surprised if her head spins all the way around and she projectile vomits all over the room in true exorcist fashion. She may even say things she doesn’t (or maybe does) mean.. like that this is all your fault, she hates you, she doesn’t want to have a baby any more.. Trust me, when you are in THAT amount of pain, your brain really just shuts off and you cannot be held accountably for the bullshit coming out of your mouth. In fact, I am not even sure if I was speaking English half the time, let alone making sense.. (Of course I knew I couldn’t change my mind and stop having the baby.. but for a split second I wished I could). So whatever she says, remember that right now she feels like she may die, and just let it roll right off of you. She will love you again in a couple weeks when the pain goes away.
3. Know your own strengths.
A good friend of mine asked me to be present with her husband at their birth because her husband was not good with blood and guts and he knew it. I, on the other hand, go into “auto-pilot” during crisis and don’t even notice blood or other fluids. Her husband stayed at the head of the bed, holding her hand, and being a supportive voice while I jumped into the blood, guts, needles, and vomit with both feet. Not literally. The fact that he knew what he could and couldn’t do and was willing to allow someone else to help her through her labour made all the difference. We didn’t need to stop, mid-contraction, to tell the nurse her husband hit the floor… it was really one of the most helpful things he could have done.
4. Tell her she did good when it’s done.
After the baby is born and in your arms, and you are no longer quite so crazed, you kind of start to realize how insane you were… you also still have stitches, and other painful procedures to look forward to, and one of the best things to hear at this moment is that you did really well bringing a child into the world. Thank her. Love her. Be proud of her. She just did the biggest, scariest job in the world, and you benefit in countless ways from this single event.
5. Don’t let her take care of you.
This was the most helpful thing my partner did for me. I am one of those people that always takes care of everyone else before me. During labour I was asking if he was okay. After labour, when I was sore, I was trying to make sure he ate, slept well, wasn’t bored, etc.. He refused to let me take care of him. He made me focus on taking care of myself and our new baby, and healing. He took care of me, and despite my protestation, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I healed faster, and felt better than I would have had he let me focus on him instead of myself. This goes for more than the first day, by the way. For as long as you can after that baby is born help her, and do not let her take better care of you than she does of herself. This is one of those times that everyone benefits from her being selfish. She will heal faster, and is less likely to burn out and suffer from severe depression. Also, you will get serious brownie points, and after putting her through that shitty labour you probably need some.
No. This is not a fool proof guide. And no, this will not prepare you for labour. It is a crazy roller-coaster, and it changes every time you go through it. But hopefully this survival guide will help you to be a bit more understanding and loose when you enter that labour room. The key really is to ride her vibes and take it as it comes. This is one of those momentous moments in life where you may feel completely lost, but once you find yourself at the very end of it, you will find yourself right in the middle of the best thing you’ve ever felt. True love.
*Note: Drop it like it’s hot, Push it, and Under Pressure were among the top contenders for the most amazing (albeit inappropriate) labour and delivery songs.. as decided by myself, my friend, and her husband. Put them on your play list. You’re welcome. 😉