I will admit it: as a brand new labor doula, it was a little daunting to be with a woman in labor for that very first time. Thankfully, the first birth I attended was textbook, all natural with a midwife in a hospital, no complications and mom was a strong and confident laborer. Although I believe I supported mom and her husband very well (they hired me for baby number two), internally, I was nervous the whole time! Thankfully, thirty births later, those butterflies have quelled.
But for the dads who are the sole supporters of their partners in labor, they tell me that they feel the same jitters that I felt my first time at a birth. I reassure them that the love they have for their partner will trump everything, but then I do share some practical tips they can put in their labor tool box:
- Offer mom something to drink between each contraction to help her stay hydrated
- Massage something: head, feet, hands, lower back, neck, shoulders — wherever mom likes to be massaged that makes her feel relaxed
- Place a cold washcloth on mom’s forehead or upper back; moms often feel warmer as labor intensifies
When all else fails and dads can’t think of any way to support their partner, they can ask her: what can I do for you now? Maybe it will be helping her to the toilet to pee, or helping her into the tub for a soothing bath, or out of the tub so she can rest on the bed, or it might simply be holding her up during the next contraction. Just the partner’s presence can be all the emotional support a laboring woman needs.