You’re pregnant, you’re having a hospital birth, and you’re due in the next few weeks or months. You’ve been told that you can only have one support person, and you figure you should probably have your partner instead of us. I’m joking. Of course your partner will be your first choice.
Here are the 10 things that you and your partner can do, to help them be the best support to you:
1. Educate yourselves. Watch a few documentaries together and a few births. Once they have an understanding that 90% of births don’t look like movie births, they’ll be more prepared to help you labour at home for longer. I recommend: The Business of Being Born, Orgasmic Birth, and Birth Story. You can google these - The Business fo Being Born is even streaming for free right now. If you have a midwife, they might have the other two in their lending library, and others! We also have a youtube channel where we are always adding videos that we feel show valuable things about birth. You'll find them under "Birth without Fear", "Birth videos we approve of" and "HOME BIRTHS". Here is the link to our channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLa8r6Y5bu9RWmbPFxXbC6nf6rQl9dx8BZ
2. Take a prenatal class! I’m particularly biased to ours because of course I know what I cover and the value of it. But if you can’t make it to one of ours, find yourself a great prenatal class online! Little plug, I teach our class online through zoom calls and I can do it one on one, or in a group.
3. They need to understand that birth happens in motion. The body moves your baby down as you move around and labour in different positions. They need to know when to let you labour in the same positions, and when to encourage you to move into a different position. In active labour, a good pattern or rhythm would be to have a sip of water after every contraction (straws will be your best friend), and to pee once an hour. Every time you make a stop at the toilet, stay there for 3 contractions. Your toilet is an amazing tool to help you relax, soft and open. Your body is used to releasing on the toilet, so it will do this automatically. These contractions may feel more intense, but try to stay there for 3.
4. Have them download a contraction timer. Explain to them that the timers are extremely cautious. You want to have had a contraction lasting a full minute every 4 minutes for an hour before you think about going to the hospital. One of the advantages of having a virtual doula (call/text/facetime) is that they can help you decide if your next move should be a bath and gravol or packing up to go to the hospital. In our experience, about 1 in 10 first time births are really quick (meaning under 4 hours start to finish), and 9 are not - meaning that early labour can be about 6-10 hours, active labour about 3-6 hours and pushing about 30 mins - 3 hours. Getting to the hospital in early labour when you aren’t 4 cms yet, can mean that you won’t be admitted. Also, during a time when people are being encouraged to not be at the hospital because of Covid-19, it is in your best interest to get there when you are in active labour.
5. Snacks! Have them pack themselves gum and a toothbrush and no tuna sandwiches. No labouring person deserves bad breath in their face. Enough said. Pack so many snacks - more than you think you'll need. I'm not sure what the rules are on leaving the room to go to the cafeteria, but it is in your best interest to not get those germs anyway. Pack light things and substantial things.
6. Decide what kind of support you love. Tip: it may help you to look at what you enjoy in bed? Do you like words or silence? What gets the baby in, gets the baby out. No i don’t mean you’ll be having sex in labour - well, maybe early, early labour, but loving touch, kind words, words of affirmation, empathy, safety - these are all things that are necessary for labour to progress easily.
7. Have them guard the room and the space. Privacy and darkness are really great for helping your body to relax, soften and open. This can look like your partner keeping the door shut, keeping unnecessary lights off, and getting you into the bathroom and into the bathtub with the lights off. It can mean that they ask nurses and doctors to keep their voices low. It can look like playing music! I have been at births where meditative music was played, and it made a really big difference! Each nurse that came in was really soothed and calmed by the music, and it really set the tone. Another tip would be to bring headphones and an eye mask. This is a really great way to control yourself without having to control your environment.
8. Create a pack together, or a safe word. For example. If you really don’t want an epidural, but are afraid that you’ll ask for one anyway, tell your partner that you have to ask 3 times. Or if you want to have a word that you can use if your partner is doing something you don’t like, or someone in the room is doing something you don’t like, have a word that means they will know to buy you time.
9. Know that you are always allowed to ask questions. And that consent is often assumed. At most births, there are very few things that are emergencies that can't have a couple of minutes of questions and clarifications introduced. You can ask questions like, "What is this for?", "What happens if we don't?", "What happens if we wait?"
10. Talk through every situation that you can think of. If you are hiring a virtual doula, include them on these conversations so that you can be as prepared as possible. Have you and your partner text, call and facetime your doula throughout the labour, pushing and after so that you can feel safe, seen and supported.
At some point in the birth, your partner will feel helpless and useless. This is okay. They love you so much, and would do anything to help you through. But they can’t have the baby for you, and so will likely feel like there’s nothing they can do. This isn’t true. By keeping eye contact with you, breathing with you and staying in it with you, you will feel supported and not alone.
If hiring a virtual doula is something you can afford right now, I highly suggest checking out our virtual package. We can support you, your partner through text, phone and screen throughout your pregnancy, labour and post partum. This can help you to feel less alone when your doula can't be in the room with you.