Ahh, Labour. Or ‘Labor’ for our American friends.
According to popular culture labour is the most frantic, stressful, cow like moaning & then banshee screaming filled, liquid covered, sweaty-haired and white-knuckled ride to the hospital that ends with your wife’s waters breaking immediately after walking into the hospital, resulting in a noah-esque flood and an unintentionally hilarious injury of a passer-by who slips and falls in the amniotic fluid, most likely while carrying a large tray of instruments.
And barring any plot twists, no more than 5 minutes later, you and your partner will be presented with a sweetly wrapped (and cleaned) baby that probably isn’t even screaming.
The truth about labour is somewhat different. It’s often slow and gradual, involves a lot of waiting, and as a husband your entire involvement is on the sidelines as support staff. So as the support staff in this production, what help can you provide in labour?
“Forewarned is forearmed.”
The absolute last thing you want to be doing when your partner goes into labour is a mad scavenger hunt, searching for your keys, your clothes, spare jumpers, tracksuits & matching socks – all while trying to ensure your partner (who is probably moaning in absolute agony & liable to scream at you) remains as comfortable as possible. So Plan ahead. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my experience.
1) Know the route to the hospital (ward).
Even if your wife has previously traveled to the hospital 10 times for scans, you need to know that she will be in NO STATE to direct you. You need to know your route to the hospital. This includes any shortcuts in case of traffic, expected travel time, and most importantly how to get from the hospital car-park into the maternity ward. Hospitals are big and complex and you DO NOT want to be that guy who runs his partner to the emergency ward, when you should be walking her into a maternity ward on the other side of the industrial sized hospital 15 minutes away. Yeah, don’t be that guy.
2) Have a go-bag packed & ready.
From as early as a month ahead of your due date (just in case) you should pack your ‘go bag’. This is the bag for yourself and your partner at the hospital, you need enough stuff to last at least 2 days. Pack it early for peace of mind with the following:
– Clothes (I won’t go into details – but at least 2 changes including a jumper you’re warm enough to sleep in).
– An extra T-shirt & Jumper (You’ll thank me after the delivery)
– Board-shorts (In many delivery rooms there are hot baths / showers to help during the labour, and it’s a good idea to NOT sit back and watch and let ask for someone else to be in the water with her if you value the long term viability of your relationship).,
– Snacks (No-one tells you about the 12 hours of sitting in a room waiting & not being able to leave the room). Go for the Low GI snacks.
– Phone chargers (Everyone forgets these).
– Toiletries (because you don’t want to smell like 3 day old tuna when your family starts arriving to see the baby you’ve spent 36 hours waiting for).
3) Know the plan.
You need a birth plan. Before you skip this step, I’m not saying you need a 3 page essay on your requirements for lighting, candles & music you require for the optimal ambiance to encourage a relaxed childbirth. But knowing the general principles is a good thing. Water birth? Natural birth? Partner prefers to be on her back or knees? C-Section? Happy gas vs Epidural? Speak with your wife and midwife / obstetrician at least once about your wifes preference for this – because when things get painful you will be required to do the speaking.
Also – know the hospitals preferences ahead of time.
Some prefer you to call the maternity ward when contractions begin (they start out as very uncomfortable stomach tightening), and then as the pain builds – only head to the hospital when they are less than 5 minutes apart. Others may want to book you in ahead of time & induce. Speak with your partner & DR to know when you need to wait it out – and when you need to drive like a maniac to the hospital.
4) Stay calm.
If you’ve got steps 1-3 sorted above, you’ll be in good shape. Your partner needs you to stay relaxed so that she stays relaxed. Don’t get frantic. Tell them how great they are doing, find something to help be it helping her move into comfortable positions, rubbing her back for the pain, or simply holding her hand & talking with her – be useful and relaxing.
The aim is to be as relaxed as this guy – as his wife just casually delivers her own 10 pound baby in the front seat.
5) No jokes.
Seriously – she might make growling or moo-ing noises. If you value your relationship – No jokes. Robin Williams could have charged into a delivery room and delivered the worlds best ever routine and still left with a black eye.
6) Be Roy Orbison.
While your wife is in labour, you’re Roy Orbison. Anything she wants, you got it. Anything she needs, you get it. While she is in pain, screaming because your offspring is trying to force its way out of her body – put your glasses on and be Roy Orbison.
7) Be PRESENT.
Labour is a crazy stressful experience, so make sure you experience all the craziness and stress together with your partner. It doesn’t happen every day, so make sure you’re present & listening to your partners needs and being supportive. Everything will be smoother for it.