The past nine months have been leading to this moment, and now you have an opportunity to help your wife bring your baby into the world. You can help make her more comfortable, be available as a support and even run interference with the staff. Just remember to be flexible; what worked for her one moment might not be what works for her in the next.
Long before the first contraction begins, get ready to help by understanding what’s about to happen. Learn about the stages of labor and how to recognize and time real contractions. Go to childbirth classes with your wife, talk about what she would like from you during labor and help her create a birth plan. Know yourself ahead of time, too, including what you can handle and what you’d like to be a part of during labor and delivery. All these things will help to bolster your confidence so you can stay calm for your spouse when the time arrives.
It’s unlikely you’ll pass out at the sight of blood -- it isn’t very common -- but you might just faint from going too long without eating. Be sure you’ve planned to take care of yourself during labor, too, with several healthy snacks to keep your energy up and drinks to keep you hydrated. Bring reading material to stay occupied during quiet times. If you’re staying overnight, bring a change of clothes and comfortable shoes, and a bathing suit for a water birth. When you’re at your best, you’ll be able to provide optimal support for your partner.
Most women won’t be admitted to the hospital until labor is well underway. In early labor, help keep your wife’s mind off physical discomfort with a walk around the block or through the mall. Once labor is in full swing, the process may be different, depending on your wife's birthing choices. If she’s opted for an epidural, focus on keeping her comfortable with conversation, music or cards. For a natural birth, your wife’s physical discomfort will likely be top priority. Help by keeping the lighting dim; set up pictures or focal points; and play the music she’s planned for the birth. Keep incomers quiet for minimal disturbance, seek out information from staff about procedures and any answers she’s not up to seeking out right now, and help ensure the staff sticks to your wife’s birthing plan.
Your role isn’t the passive bystander; get involved in your wife’s labor and help her get through it. Be available for massage; lower back massage is helpful in back labor and a foot rub feels good anytime. Offer cool cloths if she’s hot and ice chips to keep her hydrated. Let her lean on you during contractions, with her arms around your neck and your hands supporting her, or get into the birthing pool. Be ready to move and try something new; it might take your wife a while to find the position that works best for her. There may be times, as labor intensifies, that she doesn't want to be touched. Let her guide you to what will help most throughout labor and delivery, and you’ll know that you played an integral part in your baby’s arrival.
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