Just as everyone’s baby is different, every woman’s labour is different, and every woman has different needs from her support partner at different stages of her labour and her recovery. Between us we have had 7 very different births and 7 very different recovery periods. We are fortunate to have wonderful partners who helped us to deliver our babies and recover from birth. Here are our (and their!) top tips for being a support person through labour and beyond.
Supporting your partner - Before labour
Learn the best way to the hospital, in different traffic conditions
Make sure there is petrol in the car, a few towels and rubbish bags (to protect your car seats if your partner’s waters have broken)
Talk to your partner about the type of labour they would like, and remind them that on the day they may need to deviate from their preferences and follow the advice of their medical practitioners
In your partner’s hospital bag, make sure you have snacks (for you!), a change of clothes and closed toe shoes
Be reassuring and interested. The last few weeks can feel very long and your partner may be very uncomfortable. Help however you can and encourage her to rest
Have a plan for when your partner goes in to labour. With a few weeks to go you’ll be sitting on your phone, which may make concentrating at work difficult. When you are apart, arrange for her to text you when she thinks things may be starting to happen, so you don’t see missed calls and panic every time.
Supporting your partner - During labour
Be flexible, the birth may be quick or long. When you go into hospital, be prepared to stay or be sent home, and then to come in again. You may be in the birthing suite for a few hours or days. The chair will be uncomfortable but whatever you do, don’t complain!
With each contraction you are closer to meeting your baby. Tell your partner they are doing an unbelievable job
Acknowledge that it’s hard and together you will get through this
Rub her back if she wants. Be prepared for her to want you to rub her back one minute, and not the next
Let her hold one finger. A hand squashed hurts!
Wear shoes, birth can be messy (ask Christy’s hubby who wore thongs)
If you don’t want to watch the baby come out or cut the cord, that is OK. Stay close to your partner’s head.
Early Days at Home
Take a photo of your partner with the baby. Get one of you as a family in the first few days
Bring your partner the food they haven’t been able to eat during pregnancy or ask visitors to bring some food with them
No matter how your baby is born, tell your partner she is amazing she just created and birthed your child. There is no easy birth. Each comes with its own challenges
Try and get time off work after the baby arrives. Your partner will really need your support as babies don’t know the difference between night and day and two sets of hands makes the transition so much easier. Your baby will become much more alert from about 12 weeks - this is also great time to have some time off if possible
Tell your partner how beautiful they are. Even if they have a milk stained shirt, no makeup and hair a mess - tell her seeing her as a mother is the most beautiful you have ever seen her
Be the bad guy. If your partner is tired, tell visitors they can’t come, even if it is family. Put your partner’s needs first
If your partner doesn’t want lots of physical contact, try to understand that her body is different and changing every day, she is tired, and has a baby on her 24/7
Go easy on what doesn’t really need to be done. Enjoy newborn cuddles and supporting your partner however you can. The house stuff can wait. Accept all offers of food and help. Looking after a baby is a 24/7 job, especially in the early days (it does get easier)
Help settle the baby after feeds so mama can sleep. It takes time to recover from birth and feeding is exhausting
Prepare to feel overwhelmed. The responsibility is huge and its OK to mourn your old freedom
Prepare to feel more love than you thought possible, you will grow a new heart.