AKA – what does dad do during labor?!
And no, he doesn’t HAVE to catch the baby. So then exactly how to involve dad with labor and birth?
Understand how birth works & what to expect
One of the biggest things I can think of to help dad be more involved during labor & birth, is for him to attend a childbirth class with mom so that he knows how birth works. Some dads are really good about reading the baby books and asking their wife questions. Many are decidedly squeamish when it comes to details, and even though they know the logistics of how baby arrives, most come to me pretty anxious because they know their wife knows more about whats going on than they do.
Know what mom wants (before she even knows what she wants)
Dad is an expert on mom. While a doula can support mom continually with her labor, only dad has the intimacy and knowledge to truly understand her. You know how when she says “sure” but really means “no way in hell”? Or when she gives that certain look that means “you better not be thinking what I think you’re thinking.” Instead of sitting on the sidelines, a doula can guide dad to have the confidence he needs to help mom before she even knows she wants help.
Ask for help
If dad isn’t sure what to do, he should ask. Ask mom. Ask the nurse. Ask the doula. If dad did take a birth class, hopefully he can remember that mom is supposed to change positions, eat light snacks, and rest between contractions. He can ask mom if she wants to try getting in the shower or if she’d like a sip of water. Or he can ask the provider “what can I help with?”
Keep an open mind
Don’t freak out! And don’t become impatient. You know how mom used to be a year ago when her “monthly visitor” would come? Emotional? Wishy-washy indecisiveness? The hormones flowing during labor and birth can often seem similar, sometimes not at all. Most couples discover that birth isn’t at all like what they’ve seen on TV. Keep an open mind, don’t be too rigid in your preconceived notions, and go with the flow.
Simply be present
Sometimes all you need to do is just be there. Just telling mom you love her and support her is all she needs. Think of it like those helicopter parents, they want to help, but sometimes there’s just not much to help with. Hold the space and be present. Turn off your cell phone. Take time to savor the experience and just BE.