WORDS: Professor Stephen Tong, Obstetrician and author of The Birth Book
The day of the birth looms. It’s simply assumed that you, the birth partner, will register a flawless performance as a bedrock of emotional support – a radiant source of positive vibes. While thrilled, you are also terrified: hospitals, needles and blood… just not your thing.
Here’s are some do’s, don’ts; from an expert who’s more at ease assisting birth than changing a downlight. Or fixing a leak tap (eek). I also end with relationship threatening pitfalls to sidestep.
Don’t miss it! Sounds obvious but there absolutely cannot be phone mishaps. On occasion, birth is rapid and we simply cannot locate the partner in time. The family reunion can be a touch frosty. Never good when the first words uttered from one new parent to next is: ‘where were you?’.
I’ll tell you now, ‘sorry babe, on silent/didn’t hear/important meeting/fell asleep/phone updating’ won’t fly.
Really be there
In an era awash with mindfulness memes this tip should make perfect sense. You should be always present, and hundred percent focussed on your birth partner.
Surprisingly, many do not heed this. The siren lure of smartphones proves too much as the hours roll pass by the birth suite. Mindless zombie scrolling starts. I can tell you now, no one chuckles at a cat vs cucumber video during labour. And providing running updates to those outside the room on ‘What’s App?’ is not a good idea. I suggest phone off. Cold Turkey.
Provide moral support
There is no secret how: moral support is best offered via constant focus on the labouring partner (see point above). Unwavering attention on the needs of your labouring partner. It’s all about them.
Well timed hugs. Words of encouragement. Light touch. Tweak the ambience of the room to suit your partner (replenish aromatherapy candles, music as requested). But no to constant chit chat – during labour, long periods of silence is fine.
Try to relax and enjoy the occasion
Yes, it’s about supporting your birth partner. But she would love to know you are also savouring the occasion.
Try not to faint…dramatically
Look, it happens and is nothing to be embarrassed about. We see it. Your partner will not mind if it does. But if you see spots or feel giddy, don’t just ride it out. Do something. Let the midwives or doctors know, step back for a moment, take a seat, step out of the room.
Don’t ignore the signs of an impending blackout by trying to stay bolt upright. Let me warn you now: hospital floors are rock hard.
Finally, two things to avoid unless you enjoy pain.
Don’t reveal the name before the birth mum’s blessing
Whoever gives birth has first rights at announcing the name. If you didn’t incubate bubby, you don’t get to tell everyone the name is Olivia, unless there is clear permission. It’s utterly bad if you prematurely pronounce the name on social media when in fact your partner wanted a ‘cooling off’ period first.
Never show the baby to others before mum spends time with her
In Australia, some thirty percent of births are by caesar. Straight after the op, the father will often be left cuddling his newborn on the ward for a while mum spends time in theatre recovery. But danger lurks… relatives may be loitering about the hospital, constantly texting for news.
My advice is to hide the gorgeous bundle until mum has had her precious first moments with her. Having the birth mum witness relatives passing around her new baby as she is wheeled into the ward is epically bad.
In short, laser beam focus on your birth partner (and try to stay conscious). Do all this and you will be brilliant. Good luck!
Professor Stephen Tong is Obstetrician and author of The Birth Book (Big Sky Publishing, February 2022, RRP $32.99)