How Your Partner Can Support You at Your Homebirth
As a virtual doula, I have the privilege of guiding birth partners on how they can best support mothers during labour. I believe that labourland (the sacred space where mothers prepare to give birth), should be intimate. Therefore, taking a hands-off approach seems to be the best strategy for encouraging fathers to confidently be more hands-on.
A crucial aspect of this support is open communication between parents so they can express how they envision the birth partner’s role in labour or postpartum. Mothers can share how they want their birth partner to be present, while fathers can discuss their strengths and how they might contribute most effectively.
Because birth is such an intimate experience, privacy is essential for parents to navigate this journey together. This is why we discuss partner support, allowing both parents to reflect on what it means to be attentive and supportive.
For example, I came across a postpartum doula who would struggle to lock down clients after excellent intro consultations. The issue? She would only interview the mom, not the couple as a unit. As a result, the husband was never onboard for the support a doula offers the family because both parents weren’t being considered on what it looked like for the family to receive full, postpartum support.
Our suggestions? The doula needed to request that both parents were present at the consultations. It’s important for dads to be in the loop for what kind of support is essential for a mom during birth and postpartum. Especially since as new parents, it can be tricky to find where you fit in and how to succeed in this new role.
The next time this postpartum doula ran into this situation again, she asked for the couple to write a list of all their daily and weekly household responsibilities. Then a list of added responsibilities that might occur once their baby was born.
Dishes, laundry, cooking dinner, taking out trash, cleaning the bathroom, deep cleaning the house, diapers + night changes, breastfeeding, grocery shopping, the list went on. Staring at the list, the parents knew that their priorities would need to shift, even for such essential tasks.
The doula began crossing out all of the responsibilities on the list that she could support the family on. This helped the couple together recognize that trying to ‘do it all’ alone will only have them cranky and exhausted. Especially since their rapidly approaching work schedules hadn’t even been thrown in the mix yet! Realizing that the best way they could support each other was to plan to have support themselves, was key for both doula and parents.
Since every birth and postpartum experience is unique, it is impossible to know for certain what will work best for a mother. Therefore, experimenting with different support measures is crucial. This way, your family will be equipped with the necessary tools to overcome the challenges of childbirth as a united front.
It’s natural for a father to want to approach childbirth analytically, but when it comes down to it, there are many aspects of birth that can’t be explained within that structure. Plus, it’s rare that birth will ever follow that one-size-fits-all model. So, what are other ways dad can actively support you in labour?
Protecting Your Birth Environment
Cultivating a stress-free, private space for labour is ideal for a mother and baby’s progression and contributes to the best birth outcomes. The task of the father becomes making sure no uninvited company is barging in, and no more people are in the room than necessary. He should keep the space quiet, especially during active labour, and limit distractions during pushing times when mom needs to focus. Additionally, he should ensure the lights are dimmed and provide easy access to pain-relieving tools such as birth balls, rebozos, the shower, or labouring pool, as well as hydration, ice, and heating packs. He will be the guardian of your birth space, which is an immeasurable role. He creates space for a mother to surrender to labour and enter into a peaceful, well-connected postpartum.
Reminding You He is With You
A firm, pulsing squeeze on the hips, snacks and labourade or bone broth at your side while recovering from contractions, reaffirming that she can get through any challenge, massages, praying over her and your baby, pre-occupying your mind with stories. There are so many ways to increase her bond together while in labour and not feel so alone in uncharted territory.
Often, just knowing that the person she trusts most in the world is simply there and present with her is enough. So, never underestimate the power of being fully present, phones away, and all attention on her.
Taking Time to Rest, Too
Labours are a marathon. There’s no certainty of any given outcome, and though we know there are many ways to promote a better outcome, some labours might still be long, difficult, and unpredictable. A supportive birth team is one that also allows for rotated rest so that the member who is showing up for a mother can be there for her completely. Taking time to rest, preparing snacks and meals beforehand while in early labour, having a well-stocked refrigerator, and being clear on expectations from the birth team are all great ways to ensure a birth partner has the tools necessary to help the labouring mother thrive.
Participating in Stress-Reducing Activities Together
Prayer, meditation, EFT tapping, walks in nature, exercising, being in water, cooking at home together, taking naps, and massages for mom and the baby bump are just a few practices to take on together. Once you both establish a healthy routine for reducing stress during pregnancy, you can enter labourland together with reduced anxiety and strengthen the secure bond you’ve developed with one another.
Attending the Birth Classes, Prenatal Appointments, Education Sessions
It’s just as important for a dad to attend these important sessions because both parents should have a firm grasp on what caring for their newborn might look like and what the healing process will look like for a mother. A father having an understanding of the changes a mother’s body goes through, what a true physiological birth looks like, different birth interventions and the needs of a breastfeeding mother is a great start. A mother being left to make all kinds of choices without consultation from the baby’s father or birth partner can feel overwhelming. It can feel so relieving to have a united front, four listening ears at appointments, and someone to debrief with and open up about fears to. It’s amazing to have a doula with you as a professional in the field, but when a mother and father can come together to be the experts of their own birth, it is powerful!
These are just a few of the never-ending ways a birth partner can support you, especially through a home birth. If you’re seeking additional assistance on how you can thoroughly prepare for your birth and postpartum, be sure to book a 1:1 consultation with me for more personalized care. Whether you choose to birth at home or labor takes you on another route, having a solid support team for this intimate and vulnerable time is key to lowering stress in labor. Being able to transition from the third trimester to the fourth with grace and support is the goal! So, arming a birth partner with the resources needed to help a mother through the ebbs and flows of labor will be just what she needs to keep her head above water!
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January 3, 2024