You're going to be the one panting and pushing, but your partner is probably afraid too-of letting you down, of seeing you in pain, of something happening to the baby during birth, or of having to make tough medical decisions on his own. Prepare your partner to participate in the delivery room by discussing his fears and offering ideas for making delivery as easy and memorable as possible.
Tell him exactly how to help. Before you go into labor, give your partner specific instructions on the kind of assistance you'd like during labor. If you're planning to give birth naturally, give him information on how to support your early labor and help you breathe. Ask him to advocate for you if the medical staff suggests interventions-such as an IV or fetal monitor-that you'd rather not have unless there's an emergency. Of course there are always situations where a cesarean delivery will be necessary, but your partner will be best able to talk to the medical staff and make medical decisions on your behalf if he knows your wishes ahead of time.
Warn him. All of those TV movies with pregnant women screaming "I hate you!" at their partners are based partly on fact. Women do feel intense pain during childbirth at times, and that can lead to primal outbursts of anger or fear. Let your partner know, here and now, that you don't know what you might say and do during labor but that some of it you might not be able to control.