This letter was one I wrote to my brother-in-law when my sister was expecting her first baby over a decade ago. I recently found it saved on my computer and thought it would make an excellent blog post. It has tips that would help just about any friend or family member supporting a laboring mom as well. I’m posting it below without any editing.
I know you’re not the one birthing, but I feel pretty strongly that childbirth classes are for the dads as much as – if not more than – for the mom. After all, when she goes into labor, who is she going to turn to first? YOU. And so it is important for YOU to learn how to cope with labor as well. She will not likely be thinking rationally and logically in labor, so you will be the one to think of what to try next and how to help.
So I thought I’d write up my very own “Top Ten Ways to help a Laboring Woman” just for you.
10. Bring with you everything you’d pack for a quick overnight stay – toothbrush & paste, deodorant, change of clothes. Labor can be long, and laboring women are highly sensitive to smell. Plus, sometimes moms will pull a dad into the shower with them, or the mom’s water will break and they’ll be in the way, or something like that. It’s nice to have a change of clothes.
9. Keep an eye out to help her stay modest. Sometimes the nurses & doctors are not the greatest at making sure moms are covered up again after exams, etc. Or they leave the door open and the curtain pushed aside. Knowing her, she’ll appreciate it if you help with those things.
8. Try to stay calm. She’ll pick up on your tone, and she doesn’t need added stress from you. If you’re feeling anxious, talk to a nurse, the doctor, or even call me, anytime.
7. She’s queen of the room. If she wants the lights off – they are off. If she wants the TV off, it’s off. If she wants it on, SHE picks the channel. Even if it is Super Bowl Sunday, and she wants to watch Trading Spaces or something else.
6. Don’t rush her. Ignore the clock. Don’t complain about how long it is taking, how tired you are, or make predictions about when baby will come. Don’t go to the hospital too soon – it won’t make baby come faster. The time to go to the hospital is when she feels there isn’t time for a shower on the way.
5. Pay attention to the MOM, not the monitor! Too many dads make the bonehead mistake of saying “Honey, you’re having a contraction now!” when mom is struggling to cope. Or “This one doesn’t look like much on the monitor, why are you moaning for such a little one?” Or my favorite – one I’ve heard several dads say “Wow! This one’s off the charts! Does it hurt really bad?”
4. Take care of yourself – bring foods you can eat quickly and that won’t leave much smell behind. Scarf a granola bar while she’s in the bathroom, etc. Time bathroom trips so she’s not alone during a contraction.
3. Follow her lead. If she’s laughing and cracking jokes herself – it is OK for you to do it, too. If she’s quiet and serious, you should be too.
2. Stay positive. Tell her she is doing well, even if you’re not so sure. Help her stay focused on the fact there is a baby coming. As unbelievable as it sounds, many women forget the whole point. Reminding her that soon she’ll be holding Vale, soon she can count fingers & toes, etc. can be very helpful.
1. Stay close to her. Be within arms reach as much as possible. This is especially important if she chooses to have an epidural. Many women feel abandoned after the epidural, as everyone tends to back off once she isn’t as needy. Affection & love go a long way to making a woman feel supported in labor, and that’s something only YOU can provide. The nurses, doctor, even a doula cannot do that for a laboring mom.
I hope this is helpful. I mean it when I say you can call me any time. I’ve included in this package a book that I think you should read. It is one specifically meant for birth partners. If you don’t crack any of the other books, read that one!
Call or e-mail me with any questions.