So, y’all have made it to the last trimester and baby is due to arrive earth side any day now. Congratulations! The labor and delivery experience can be a big, scary unknown for the Mama and her partner. You’re probably wondering what you can do to support her and reading this blog is the first thing you’re doing right! Here are the do’s and don’ts of support.
The first few things you can do to support her begin long before the first contraction. A good place to start is to have a conversation about her expectations for labor. Does she have a birth wish list? What’s on it? What does she think your role will be? What do you think you can provide in the way of support? Are there any things you think you may not be able to do? Are there any other people she wants present during or after labor (doula, mother, sister, friend)? What are the “rules” for the place she’s delivering (allowed visitors, support people, visiting hours, food, etc.)? What concerns do each of you have?
The next pre-labor item is packing your bag. Your stay may end up lasting 3 days or more, so be prepared. Make sure you’ve got all of your toiletries. Get travel sizes to pack early, so you’re not rushing around to leave for the birth. You’ll need clothing, pajama pants/basketball shorts, slippers/slides/flip flops, and a hoodie (moms like it cold in the room!). If you’re trying a water birth, you might want swim trunks. You may want to bring a travel pillow and a blanket. Don’t forget to install the car seat properly now and learn how to lock it into the base before the baby needs to use it.
When leaving for the birth, be the “bag man”. Bring your bag, her bag, the baby’s bag, and the cooler of expressed breast milk if she has done antenatal hand expression. Bring a bag of snacks and drinks, some for you and some of her favorites. You’ll want to have some snacks on hand so you don’t have to leave to get food. She may be allowed to have light snacks or clear liquids (like Gatorade) during labor. She’ll also need nutritious snacks after labor and during the night feedings.
Labor can be a long process and boring. Getting mom to nap as much as possible is the best, but sometimes sleep is elusive. Bringing some entertainment can help the process go a bit quicker. Bring a deck of cards, travel games, crosswords, computer with movies, music, or whatever you enjoy doing together.
During labor, encourage her to “rest”, even if she can’t sleep. This is imperative for her to have energy to push the baby out at the end. Also, after the delivery, she’ll have so much adrenaline that she can’t sleep. However, your responsibility for yourself is not to sleep more than her. You’re not being helpful if you’re asleep and she’s uncomfortable or hurting. This also applies to the immediate postpartum period- don’t sleep while she’s up with the baby all night. Not a cool move!
Learn some different comfort techniques to offer her. Double hip squeezes, pressing a tennis ball on her sacrum, massages, using a rolling pin on her back and hips, ice packs, cool washcloths, and helping her change positions frequently are all useful things to reduce pain and discomfort.
Depending on the rules of the facility, you can offer her ice chips, sips of water, clear liquids, Jello, popsicles, or light snacks. You also need to eat to keep up your strength to support her. However, do not bring your yummy burger and fries into the delivery room if she can’t have any. Eat it somewhere else. After she delivers, get her whatever she wants as soon as she is allowed to eat! She deserves it!
Offer to help her with hygiene. Offer a wet washcloth (warm or cold), face wipe, deodorant, toothbrush and cup of water, mouth wash, or lip chap. She may be allowed in the shower or bathtub to relax. Using a wet washcloth to rub her back, calves, and thighs may feel really good to her.
Offer to field calls and texts and manage visitors. Messages from well meaning friends and family can become overwhelming quickly. Step up and let people know she needs her rest. You can offer to send out update texts and ask that people wait patiently for them. You can also turn off the phones and notifications when she is resting. Some people choose to keep the news to themselves until some time after the birth. Be the gatekeeper. Just because visitors are allowed, doesn’t mean she wants everyone there. If she only wants her mom, then make sure only her mom gets in the door. If she gets tired of her mom being there, find a way to send her on an errand. If she doesn’t want ANY visitors until the week after the baby comes home, it is your job to be the “bad guy” and honor her wishes.
The last way to support her is to simply ask what she wants or needs from you at the time. She may want a foot rub or for you to stay 10 feet away from her feet. She may want only the blue flavor of her favorite drink. She may want the room 65 degrees or 80 degrees. Whatever weird thing she asks for, do it with a loving smile on your face and treat her like the miracle of nature she is!
You got this!