When I first became pregnant at a very wise (ha!) 22 years old, I had a major pet peeve. I absolutely could not stand hearing a father or other non-pregnant partner say, “We’re pregnant.” Whenever someone said to me and my husband, “Oh, you guys are pregnant?” I would jump in with a very adamant, “Well, I am. He’s not.”
And of course, it’s true. My entire career and passion in life is empowering women to own their pregnancies and births. However, as the years (and another pregnancy) have gone by, I’ve come to understand that while yes, I was the pregnant one…my husband was affected by it. He had emotions, fears, hopes, and concerns that were equally as valid as mine. He may not have been growing a human being, but his time, energy, and attention were very deeply invested in my pregnancies and labors.
Which is why, when it comes to being a doula, I always want to make sure the birth partner has access to the same quality of information and support as the birthing mother. Because while they aren’t carrying the baby, experiencing labor, or needing hours and hours of hip squeezes (one would hope), they should have access to information and support that will lead to more ease and confidence in the birth space.
A more relaxed and informed birth partner will not only contribute to a better experience for the mother, but will also be able to navigate any decisions that need to be made from a place of understanding instead of fear.
So, how can a partner prepare for labor?
First and foremost, educate yourself. If you aren’t familiar with birth, it’s time to get cozy with a book, a podcast, a documentary, a childbirth education class…or even YouTube. The more you familiarize yourself with the whole idea of pregnancy, labor, and newborns, the more comfortable you will be when the time comes.
There is a lot of information out there, but I’ll list just a few of my top educational resources for birth partners.
If you are committed to being an informed and helpful birth partner, this book will be invaluable. It dives into what happens during labor, pros and cons of common interventions and medications, labor positions, and more.
This documentary is especially helpful if you are having any difficulties understanding why your partner might want an unmedicated birth, or if you aren’t sure how you will respond to the sights and sounds of the delivery room. I highly recommend watching together with your partner and discussing any concerns or realizations you have while watching.
Childbirth Education Classes
Taking a childbirth ed class with your partner is a wonderful way to learn about birth, get some ideas on how you can be helpful during the process, and bond with your partner and baby during the pregnancy. If your partner doesn’t have one picked out already, you could even find and suggest a few options in your area.
Hire a Doula
I promise, doulas are not there to take your place in the delivery room! Having a doula can actually be a wonderful way to make sure that you are able to really focus on your partner during labor, because you aren’t worried about remembering every detail of your classes or if you are doing the most helpful thing. My goal as a doula is always to support the participation of the birth partner in the way that feels most comfortable to them. I also love meeting with couples together prenatally so that I am aware of the birth partner’s hopes and visions for the birth as well as the mother’s.
While these are just a few practical suggestions, remember that the most valuable thing of all is just to be present and available. Be open to learning. Approach pregnancy and labor with at least a little curiosity and a healthy dose of awe. And take your partner’s wishes seriously. If she says she wants something that you don’t understand or are fearful of, find out why she wants it instead of dismissing her. It’s okay to have concerns, but use those concerns to fuel discussion and learning. It will not only give you a better appreciation for your partner and her abilities, but it may even bring you closer together as a team as you prepare for this new stage of life together.
What was the most helpful thing that you or your birth partner did to prepare yourselves for labor?