Here are 8 top tips that will teach you how to be the perfect birthing partner.
It's not easy being a birth partner. Taking a backseat throughout the pregnancy, you now find yourself standing nervously on the touchline in your very own World Cup Final. There's one minute left, the scores are level and the manager's assistant is holding up the electronic board with your number on it. It's time for you go get on the pitch and score the winning goal. Nervous? Don't be. Here's eight top tips on how to be the perfect birthing partner.
1. Be prepared
You don't throw a player who has never even kicked a ball before into a game as important as the World Cup Final - they would have been training for that moment all of their lives. You should be equally as prepared when it comes to you and your partner's big day. Read as many books as you can, attend NCT or NHS classes, watch documentaries - anything that will help prepare you for when you have to cross that line onto the pitch. Knowledge is the key to confidence and being confident in the delivery room can be a big help to any mother-to-be.
2. Be flexible
Remember the birth plan? How it said a water birth and absolutely no epidurals under any circumstances? You may find that things do not go strictly as planned, so it is best to remain flexible and go along with the events as they unfold. Railing against the injustice of having to abandon the home birth after spending half the night inflating the birthing pool will not help. No matter what happens always take reassurance from the fact that everything is being done with the best interests of both mum-to-be and baby at heart.
3. Look after yourself
One of your most important roles will be to ensure your partner has a steady supply of liquids and food throughout the birthing process. But don't forget to look after yourself as well. You're no use to anyone if you pass out on the floor due to exhaustion or hypoglycaemia. Birth is a marathon not a sprint and it's crucial that you maintain your stamina through regular eating, drinking and getting some rest (when possible).
Most hospitals will have a canteen or sandwich shop, but if they're closed you'll quickly find that you're never more than sixty seconds away from a vending machine in any hospital. Try to get rest whenever possible. You may find that you will need your strength most in the period immediately following the birth - particularly if your partner has undergone a Caesarean section and has very limited mobility.
4. Don't panic
'Keep calm and Carry On' should be your mantra for the day. Don't worry yourself with thoughts or what could go wrong. Instead try to always deal directly with what is happening.
You may have a front row seat, but that doesn't mean that you have to watch all of the action. If you don't like needles or don't want to see what is happening downstairs then don't be afraid of looking away until it's all over. Remember that you're no use to anyone passed out on the floor!
As mentioned previously, if you have done your homework then your knowledge should give you the confidence to cope with most of what happens in the delivery suite. You should also take confidence that the midwives, anaesthetists and surgeons are all highly trained and experienced individuals who have brought hundreds of happy, healthy babies into the world.
Even if you are struggling to keep it together on the day, take reassurance from the fact that these exceptionally professional people will ultimately play a far more important part in your baby's safe delivery than you!
5. Be supportive
We all know what a difference a positive approach can make in life and during the birthing process is no exception. Talk to your partner. Reassure her. Tell her how well she is doing. Likewise, she may just want to be left alone. So also respect her wishes if she needs some space. Take the time to go outside and get some fresh air.
Also remember that whatever happens in the delivery room, stays in the delivery room. Your partner will be going through an incredibly powerful, possibly life-changing experience and any cruel words directed towards you in the heat of the battle should never be taken to heart.
6. Ask questions
Again we are back to being well-prepared and confident about the whole birthing process. Your partner may not always be in a position to fully appreciate what is happening around her. This is where you can play an important role.
Talk to the medical staff. Ask them questions. Find out why they wish to perform a certain medical procedure. Familiarisation with your partner's birth plan can also help if you find yourself in a position where you have to make a decision on her behalf.
7. Be organised
Obviously, your partner will have more important things on her mind, so it is important for you to take care of everything else. From making sure that you have your pregnancy notes with you to having the right change for the car park, the more organised you are the more your partner is free to concentrate on the important task of giving birth.
8. Being there
Once you are in the delivery suite you may begin to feel that familiar feeling of taking a backseat. Don't! Even if your role is reduced to merely topping up your partner's glass of water, never overlook the fact that you are already performing the most important role: simply being there for your partner.
Also think about it from your point of view. How many opportunities will you have to see a new life enter the world? It may at times be frightening and confusing, but it will also be one of the most emotional and rewarding moments of your entire life. And who would want to ever miss out on that?
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