Whether you’re a dad who’s done this before or this is your first time watching your partner give birth, every single birth experience is unique. In addition to the fact that there are so many choices when it comes to birthing plans, every baby and everyone’s body is different, which means that even if you’ve done this before, you may encounter all new experiences you’ve never seen or been a part of before. From home birthing to hospital, epidural-assisted birth, there are so many things to learn about birth.
No matter how far along your partner’s pregnancy is, it’s never too early or too late to start learning about the intricacies of childbirth. In addition to communicating with your partner and drawing on your past experiences — if you have any — you can learn about what childbirth might be exactly the right balance you need to be the best supporter you can be while your partner goes through the journey of labor. Here are some of the things you might want to know.
Labor Can Be Long
One of the most important things to remember — even though it’s one of the hallmarks of childbirth — is that labor can be truly long and at times, tedious. While labor can be painful during its span, it can also be a lot of “hurry up and wait.” Be prepared to wait a bit, as labors can stretch hours, even days.
Your Support Means a Lot
Support is a word you hear a lot throughout the labor process, and it means more than you might ever know. As the person who is by your partner’s side throughout the journey of labor, you are there to be her cheerleader — to remind her of how amazing she is and that she can do anything. Never forget how helpful you can be.
Advocating for Your Partner
While this can be especially helpful in hospital settings, it can be just as helpful no matter where you’re going on the childbirth journey and what kind of professionals you have supporting your family. You know how your partner deserves to be treated, and that she deserves respect and compassion. Childbirth is a vulnerable position, and it’s your job to be one of the people advocating for her.
Ask What She Needs
Likewise, your partner might need something that you don’t know to ask for yet. Make sure you keep the communication going, even throughout the birthing process. Ask your partner what she needs and do your best to provide that.
Helping Time Contractions
Sometimes, childbirth can be a hectic experience, and you can be a grounding presence by helping with contractions. If you’re in a hospital setting, you might be able to monitor contractions, or before you get there, you can time them. Pay attention if the contractions are five minutes apart or less, lasting one minute or longer, because it could be time to head to the hospital.
Don’t Go to the Hospital too Early
Speaking of the hospital, make sure you don’t head there too early. If you go to the hospital the moment your partner goes into labor, they’ll likely send you away until she is further dilated or the contractions are closer together.
Tearing, Bleeding, Hemorrhoids, Oh My!
One of the biggest things you might not know is that the impact of labor isn’t finished once your little one makes their way into your arms. While that might be a great fantasy, childbirth can cause tearing that requires stitches, hemorrhoids from both labor and pregnancy as well as consistent bleeding or soreness. Don’t expect your partner to bounce back immediately.
While childbirth can be an emotionally taxing experience for the supporter, you probably don’t need to be told that labor is a million times more difficult for the person actually experiencing it firsthand. Don’t complain — even if you want to — and especially not to your partner who is laboring.
Remember, This Moment Is Special
While birth can be painful and taxing, don’t forget how special of a moment this is for your family. If your partner is comfortable with it, you can take a few pictures, call up friends and family and even send out a birth announcement.
What Dads Should Know About Labor
Labor and childbirth can be a truly taxing, difficult process that requires effort, strength and recovery. It’s important that as a partner and supporter, you put her first and advocate for her needs however you can. Childbirth is a special, meaningful time for the family and for your partner, and part of celebrating that is making the process as comfortable and positive as possible. Whether this is your first time or your third, there are so many ways you can learn and support your partner however necessary.