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.
Suggest distractions. Labor can take a long time, and much of it might be boring for both of you. That may be especially true if you've had an epidural and your partner doesn't need to support you physically the way he might during a more active, medication-free birth. Let him know what you'd like to do during breaks. Want him to read you a trashy novel? Play cards with you? Bring along your favorite CDs? A portable DVD player? Ideally most of the less active time will be spent in the luxury of your own home.
Drop hints about your post-baby celebration. Whether you want him to bring you roses or fudge, let him know or you'll set yourself up for disappointment. Tell him what would make you feel extra special when it's time to celebrate.
Have him pack a bag for the hospital. You're not the only one who's going to spend hours in the hospital. Your partner may want to pack a few things for himself:
- Bottled water
- Call list of relatives and friends
- Books or magazines
- Toothbrush, deodorant and comb
- Comfy footwear
- Change of clothes
- Portable music player
- Pictures of labor positions
- A notebook and pen (questions for providers, notes from partner)
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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