As a doula, I have had the privilege of witnessing so many beautiful moments during labour. From loving embraces, to funny (but appropriate) jokes to lighten the mood, a woman’s birth partner can most certainly be her rock during labour. But I have also observed those moments that people in the Twitterverse like to call #epicfails. Someone says the wrong thing, or eats the wrong food. It really doesn’t take much to anger or upset a labouring mama, so here are some tips to help you stay on her good side:
1) This first one is a biggie but it can be a tough one to master, especially for all you men out there (sorry, but it’s true). Try not to say anything stupid. In case you don’t know what would constitute a stupid thing to say, here are some examples: “does it hurt?”, “are you okay?”, “how long is this going to take?” or “I can’t believe I am missing the big game”. Do not say any of these things. And keep in mind that this this is far from extensive, so think before you speak.
2) General complaining is also a BIG faux pas. I do understand that it has been a long night/day/days. You have every right to be tired, hungry, sore and anxious. But for the love of bananas, act like you are perfectly fine! Your partner doesn’t need to hear you whine. Nothing you are experiencing is as uncomfortable as what the labouring mom is going through, so suck it up, buttercup!
3) A labouring woman (or women in general, really) can quickly tune into how others are feeling and acting, so if you think you aren’t coping well then don’t let her see it. If you can, leave the room until you feel more composed.
4) If you are having a hospital birth it may be hard to turn away from the super cool mountain drawing machine (AKA contraction monitor). Those things are borderline hypnotic, but ignore that pesky monitor! All of those beeps and buzzes mean nothing of consequence and distract you from mom. In fact, I feel like they give partners a false sense of understanding what the labouring woman is going through. Avoid comparing the monitor to her pain level, and steer clear of phrases such as “these contractions aren’t nearly as big as they were two hours ago” or “here comes a contraction”. Trust me, mama knows what’s going on with her body way better than the machine attached to her does.
5) Don’t interrupt a woman who is coping well with a technique or idea. Encourage what is working for her instead of trying to introduce new ideas or tips.
6) Sense of smell is heightened during labour and many women become nauseous. Avoid eating in front of her (unless she is okay with it) as the smell of food might be a big turn off. During the labour of my first son I became very agitated when the smell of cucumber wafted in my direction. If you step out for a bite to eat then brush your teeth before you return. And if mom has medical circumstances that do not allow her to eat food, then eating in front of her would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
7) Try not to be preoccupied with other thoughts such as getting the car seat installed, getting to the coffee shop before it closes or calling your mom. Your partner is your main focus, and being overly concerned with anything else will earn you some evil stares.
8) As labour progresses, mom will likely want the chatter toned down a bit. Follow her lead. Be silent if she is being silent. Bring a book to read in the corner or nap if you can. Don’t ask open ended questions, especially late in labour. Stick to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. And most certainly do not ask any questions during a contraction. I’ve witnessed this occurrence on several occasions and it is never pretty
9) Do not encourage mom to do things that do not fit into her birth plan. If mom desires to avoid pain medication do not suggest it because it is hard to see her in pain.
10) Don’t ask her what you can do to help. She is likely too exhausted to come up with an answer, or she simply just doesn’t know. Instead, just try things that you think might help. She’ll let you know if she doesn’t like it and if she does, don’t take it personally.
Disclaimer: Evey woman is unique. Reading this blog post does not guarantee that you will not say or do anything stupid. I do not take responsibility for any omissions that have gotten you into trouble.
Kiss-ass doula, pretty okay-ish mom, spreadsheet enthusiast, punctuality freak, ice cream addict.