Congratulations! You just found out you're pregnant, and you're overjoyed! Whether this is your first child or you've already have a couple, you're probably already thinking about all things baby--clothes, names, newborn snuggles--but you may also be thinking about labor and delivery. You may also be starting to mentally prepare yourself for that big, life-changing moment and also wondering how your spouse will adapt. (They're probably wondering about that too!) They love you and you love them, and they want to help in so many ways but may not know how to start and what to do. In this post, we will share some great tips of what they can do to help you during childbirth and postpartum.
Supporting Your Partner During Labor
Be her advocate: This is very important during labor. Ask her ahead of time what her labor/hospital stay wishes are. Find out whether she wants delayed cord cutting; ask the doctors if the hospital lactation specialist can visit her if she hopes to breastfeed; find out if she wants immediate skin-to-skin contact with the baby after delivery, no erythromycin eye cream, or delayed/immediate first bath. It is also important to know whether she's doing an unmedicated or medication assisted birth process. If so, her mind will be elsewhere and she will be focusing a lot on her body and how to handle the pain. So the best thing to do is become her teammate (or mouthpiece when necessary) and advocate for her to her team of doctors on what she would want during childbirth.
Become her hype person: Tell her she’s doing great, that she can do this because she is strong. Tell her how proud you are of her. Keep her relaxed and focused. Tell her she’s beautiful and that you love her. She will appreciate hearing this, knowing you are there for her and that you believe in her, as well as helping her find her inner strength.
- Help her time contractions: She will probably be focusing on how uncomfortable her contractions are and trying to breathe through them, so you can help by timing the contractions for her. That way you can both know when it's time to go to the hospital.
- Don’t take it personally: If she yells, says some choice words, or squeezes your hand a little too hard during those contractions, don't worry. I promise you, we don't mean it.
- Keep her busy: Put on her favorite movie, play a game, make her laugh. You can also talk about the baby; make guesses on weight, hair color, face features, their name, or how family members will react when they meet him or her. This will help keep her mind busy and excited. Whatever you think will help distract her from the discomfort will be definitely appreciated after.
- Massage her: Massage her back, feet, hands, anything that is aching. Sometimes the pillows at the hospital aren’t the best, and she’ll love it if you ask for more of them and massage her back and neck as well.
- Inform yourself on what labor looks like: Take a class together before childbirth to help you and your spouse prepare. These classes can help inform the couple of the stages of labor, breathing techniques, phases and stages of labor, and ways you can give birth (positions). You can find out what an epidural looks like, or that bowel movements during labor are normal. Knowledge can be soothing, but don’t go overboard--we don’t want to scare anyone too much.
Be prepared for sickness: If she’s feeling nauseous, have a barf bag or bucket near her. Even putting her hair in a ponytail so that the vomit doesn’t get in hair is helpful.
- Don’t complain or seem bored: This is a crucial way to support her. This day and moment in your life together is all about her and how she feels. You need to focus on her--that means not mentioning how long the birth is taking or how uncomfortable the bed/couch is. Believe me, she is experiencing way more discomfort than you are and she wants baby to be here as soon as possible!
- Breathe with her: Breathe along with her, especially as she’s pushing and going through contractions. This lets her know that you are there with her. She may also time her exact breathing with yours, creating deep, calm, paced-focused breaths she needs to make it through labor.
Supporting Your Partner Postpartum
- Understand her needs: Put yourself in her shoes and find out what you can about her needs. Help her so she can have time for herself--hold the baby while she takes a shower or eats dinner. You can also take your other kids out, so she can sleep or create quiet time for herself. She will be exhausted and need all the rest physically and mentally she can get. Ask her what her needs are and offer to help whenever situations arise.
- Read up on newborn facts/tips: There is a lot to learn about a newborn. Learn about when you can expect her milk to come in, when baby will start pooping yellow, and how to keep their belly button safe. This info can help you both feel less scared or nervous about caring for a newborn. (A side note--remember that you are both going through this together and that this time will pass and that not every parent knows everything.)
Help lighten her plate: Help her around the house (hopefully you're already doing that!). In the first few weeks she will need your help the most. Chores may not even cross her mind and that's okay, she just had a baby. So help with dinner, help with the kids, help with the laundry or dishes. This will mean a lot to her, knowing she doesn't need to stress with things not getting done.
Take photos and videos: Pull out your phone and take that photo! (This applies for during labor and delivery.) Your partner will want to remember this and these moments. Take pictures and videos of the baby being born and weighed, take a picture of the delivery room, or of her enjoying her hospital snacks, and especially of the baby and her! Ask her ahead of time what angles she may like best. Once you get home, take photos of her holding baby, of baby falling asleep on her, or just as baby and mom share sweet tender moments. She and the kids will love looking back at these photos, so you can't go wrong!
Read her emotions: Pay attention to how she’s feeling after birth. Postpartum depression and anxiety is a very real thing that many women go through. Especially as a first time parent, these new feelings will seem very scary to her. Ask her how she’s feeling and how you can help. Let her know she’s not alone and certainly know that she's not silly or crazy for having these feelings. Help her see that she does love her child and is doing a wonderful job as a new mom. Allow her to feel comfortable, supported, and safe when seeking out professional help if it ever gets to that point.
Relate to her: As parents to a new baby, you will definitely have moments of feeling overwhelmed. Telling your partner that you can relate is a big way to help her know she's not alone and that you both will get through this.
Ask her what she needs: Every time she sits down to feed the baby, ask her if she needs anything, such as her phone, a snack, water, or the remote. If she needs help looking for something, pay attention and help her find it. These may seem small and simple, but they mean everything!
- Keep visitors away or informed: This goes with being her advocate--most of us postpartum moms won't be in the mood to see visitors or entertain them (for long). Your job is to kindly keep them away or show them the door when they've stayed to long. Keep friends and family informed about when they're welcome to visit. Just tell them that your wife and baby are resting right now and that you'll get back to them when they can visit. Momma and baby come first.
There are many other ways to be supportive during labor and after. The main thing is to let your partner know that you love them and that life with a new baby can be exciting and stressful at times. But through team work and lots of love and compassion, you two will get through this. Think about her and what an amazing, beautiful, and unforgettable experience this is. Let her know that she can do it and how proud you are of her. With these helpful tips, labor and postpartum can be a little easier and a happier experience for you both!