This is really it! You’re heading for the birth center or hospital, and your partner is relying on you to stay calm and offer encouragement.
Here’s what to do when you get there:
- Check in. If you've preregistered, everything should go smoothly.
- Create a peaceful environment in the labor room. You can try adjusting the lighting and playing music, if that is what your partner prefers.
- Pace yourself. You may be there for the next five or ten hours, or more, without a lot of time off. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Use your body, rather than your arms, to provide counterpressure. Sit down whenever you can. Have some of the snacks and beverages in your labor bag. Take a trip to the bathroom if you need one, but coordinate with the doula or nurse so your partner isn’t left alone.
- Provide labor support. Get into the rhythm of contractions; breathe together through them; give back rubs or massages if either helps. Be alert to changes in the labor pattern, and encourage her to try different options (getting on all fours, using the birth ball, rocking, slow dancing, taking a shower or applying heat or cold). Always ask permission before starting anything new; you want to be sure the steps you’re taking are helpful and soothing to her.
- Give her emotional support. Tell her often that she's doing a great job.
- Keep her informed. Don't chatter, but let her know how long the contractions are lasting and how long she's likely to have to relax before the next one.
- Communicate when questions come up. She may be asked whether she would like pain medication. The choices are hers to make, but that can be hard in the middle of a contraction. Planning based on what you learned in your childbirth classes, and discussing your wishes in advance with your healthcare provider, are your best defenses against the assumption that any drug is fine with the mother.
- If it looks as if a cesarean will be needed, ask detailed questions to be sure there’s no other choice. You'll rarely face an immediate crisis, so you’ll both have time to communicate.
- Keep the ice chips, Gatorade, popsicles and apple juice coming.
- Help her through transition and pushing. When contractions are doubling up and she's using every way you can think of to breathe through them (and she’s too busy breathing to say anything), you can honestly tell her it will be soon. When your partner feels the urge to push, stay close. Look her in the eyes, speak calmly, breathe with her and look happy.
- Help her through the birth. First the baby’s head will emerge, and then the whole body slips out. Don’t miss it, but be sure your partner can see, too. The placenta comes next, and its delivery can be stressful. Also, your partner may need every bit of help you can offer if a tear or episiotomy has to be sewn up. Focus her attention on baby, who is either in your arms or on her chest. What a beautiful moment for the three of you!