Partners often say things to me half jokingly about being worried that they’ll be harmed by the irrational and angry actions that come with labor. The reports of such behavior are largely exaggerated and mostly in the realm of TV and movies. In over 20 years of attending births, I’ve never seen any violence, no anger, and lots of annoyance.
So if you’d like to avoid annoying your partner in labor, here are the three things to avoid:
Making jokes when they’re not funny any more.
Laughter is good! It can relax people and relieve stress. So if your laboring partner is laughing at your jokes, you’re golden. Keep it up!
Many people find as they move into the stronger sensations of advancing labor, they need to be able to focus. This means they often get really serious and need to devote all their attention to working with their labor. So don’t be surprised if there comes a time when even your best jokes just don’t work. When you notice that happening, pull back on the humor. Try to make your mood match theirs. If they’re quiet and focused, be quiet and focused. If they’re chatty and laughing, you can be too.
Take your cues from them to be the best support you can be.
Paying more attention to your phone than you are providing support
It’s a lot of work to have a baby. (Pretty sure that’s why it’s called “labor”, right?) Most of the time, people want to have others helping them as they do that work. Having a partner who is absorbed in something else leaves them feeling isolated, abandoned and alone in doing that work. The number one distraction in labor is the phone. Make sure that you keep your phone use to the bare minimum. You might pull it out to use an app to time a few contractions while laboring at home. You might need to text a neighbor to go let the dogs outside for a bit. Taking photos can be nice, too. Even I use my phone to take notes when I am at a birth! But labor isn’t a great time to watch videos, play games or scroll through social media. Tell family and friends you’ll fill them in when big things happen, and put the phone aside to focus on support. Maybe put it in your luggage or turn it all the way off if notifications are distracting you. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone in labor tell their partner to be on their phone more, but I’ve seen dozens tell their partner to put the phone away!
Giving a play by play of the monitors
There’s something really alluring about a machine that goes Ping! at the bedside. It’s very easy to fall into watching the monitor to see what’s happening in hard numbers. I know I’ve done it many times! Unfortunately, I’ve seen that dynamic resulting in some really unhelpful comments like these:
(Both of those are actual quotes from actual parents at actual births, by the way…)
Just like with phones, it’s important to keep your focus on your partner while they labor. If you find the monitor too distracting (or if it’s too bright at night) grab some towels from the supply cupboard and throw it over the monitors.
The bottom line is that the stereotypical laboring person screaming at their partner and wanting to cause them pain, too, is largely a myth and not too likely.