My husband is going to be the most kick-ass labor support partner that ever walked the face of the earth. But I have no idea how I’m going to tell him everything he needs to know before then.
Tim is so smart. He knows so many things about so many subjects. I feel like an ignorant kid around him sometimes, like I should be smacking gum and flipping my pony-tail around while he speakes of Plutarch and hydrosomethingorotherpower economics. He knows the stories of how nations were built and toppled stretching back to ancient history. He sees geometry in the garden and physics in everything. He speaks politics and romance (and a little bit of French). He is amazing.
I couldn’t want anyone else to hold my hand through this journey of childbirth, away from machines and medicines. Away from people rushing in and out – people I don’t know. Away from beeps and antiseptic smells and wires of which I have to stay mindful if I want to do something as simple as roll over. We’ll be away from all that together.
And yes, there’s something a little scary about that. What if I fail at this? What if I don’t have what it takes to bring my baby into the world without reaching for a button to push more pain relief into my veins? What if I lose my center, if I forget to drink enough water, if I become afraid and lock up, unable to progress?
This is such a big thing. And Tim is always so calm about the big things. I’ve never really seen him afraid of anything. And I suppose I’m not even sure of what I need from him during this. Do I want him to be different than he was at my first birth?
I want him to have all the answers, fix all the hurty spots, and make it all a magical adventure. Realistically? I just want him to be my center. I just want him to bring me back from the ledges.
Neither one of us is big on birth classes. I know about the mechanics of birth. I know about the stages, the options, the treatments, the conditions, the anatomy…I know the positions and the breathing techniques. None of that will be helpful to us right now. The big thing for us will be communication, beforehand and during the birth of this lovely baby.
My husband likes to read. So I have been scouring the internet searching for just the right articles to send to him. As of yet, I haven’t found anything titled, “How To Properly Support Your Laboring Wife in 5 Easy Steps.” Especially not for a home birth. The great majority of articles are geared toward hospital births, and contain suggestions like “Make Sure You Don’t Run Out of Ice Chips” and “Learn How To Time Contractions,” neither of which are particularly helpful or important. (I’ll eat as much as I damn well please during labor, thank you very much).
So I’ve been trying to figure out the right keywords to search for articles that he can read and magically become the labor support person I need. But I realized just recently that no one on the internet has written an article about me. Everything is generalized and one-size-fits-all and, well, pretty common sense stuff that I’d be positively panicking if Tim didn’t know already.
Faced with the obvious lack of personalized labor support articles, I am writing my own article to send. I’ve already failed at making it the short, sweet, to-the-point type article that my husband appreciates. I’m lucky that he finds my long-windedness endearing (most of the time?). So here goes, I’ll consolidate the rest into a list.
1. Acknowledge and Validate.
When I say that I’m feeling something (pain, fear, anxiety), I don’t mean that I want you to fix it. I just mean I need someone to know I’m afraid, or fearful, or anxious. I know I’ll have to work through it. I just want someone to be with me in it. I don’t want to avoid fear. Without fear, I cannot be brave. I just don’t want to be alone in my fear.
I may not always say “I’m fearful,” either. If you see my brow furrow upward, or if I begin to stare with eyes wide open, those are signs of fear. Bring me back down from that ledge. Remind me that you are with me.
Things You Can Say That Will Help Me
— “Hey. I’m here. Look at me. We’re going to do the next one together, just you and me, so I want you to look at me the whole time. Just look at my eyes, and we will do this together. Let’s breathe.”
— “You are a mama having a baby. This is all normal. You’re just a mama having a baby. I’m right here with you. Let’s do it together.”
2. Protect Me
I’ll want to be able to focus. I’ll want to have people around, or not have people around. I’ll want to see our little Pup, or not see him. I’ll want more hot water, or less. I’ll need to trust everything that is happening to me.
I may not really need protection from anything. But I will need to feel protected, if that makes any sense. In other words, I might not mind that people are walking in and out of the room without knocking. I might like it. But I also might be so focused and distracted by pain that I don’t have the words to tell you when I don’t want them coming in anymore.
So protect me. When you see a person coming with a hot towel, or the midwife coming to check me, or the photographer coming to take snapshots of us together, waive them off for a moment while you make sure I’m ready for them. Maybe I don’t want a hot towel, or to be checked, or to hear a shutter going off, and I’m just not strong enough to say so. Help to make sure I don’t feel overwhelmed by people. Look out for me. Ask my permission for those things before you let people into my little sphere. Be my bodyguard. LIke I said, I may not really need one, but feeling like I have one will help me feel safe and in control.
3. Remember the Things I Can’t
Remind me to drink water. Especially with this birth, I’m afraid of dehydration. I don’t want to end up delirious like I was with Little Pup. Remind me that music helps me. Remind me that I am strong, that you are proud of me, that you think I’m beautiful. I’ll be afraid that all those things are untrue. Remind me of them frequently, and honestly, and lovingly.
4. Be Romantic With Me
The hormone that encourages an efficient, productive labor is oxytocin. It’s also known as the Love Hormone. It is the rush you feel when you first kiss a person you’ve had a crush on forever. It’s the buzz you feel after an orgasm. Not only does the hormone make you feel good (quite literally, it is a pain blocking hormone) but it encourages contractions, helps to minimize maternal bleeding, and helps get baby and placenta out in a timely manner.
Things You Can Do:
— Kiss me. Make me feel pretty.
— Be strong and protective of me. It makes me feel small and loved.
— Tell me I’m a good mother. Tell me I’m being a good mother to our son by showing him what birth should be like, and that I’m being a good mother to the new baby by bringing him/her into the world peacefully at home.
— Remind me of stories from when we were younger and falling in love.
5. Use Your Intuition
You know me. I’m your wife. We’ve been learning about each other for 10 years. There will be many times through the course of this labor that I do not have the words to tell you how I feel or what I need. The same way you do with our son, do with me. Trust your instincts on what I need. Watch my face. Am I afraid? In a good place? Have I suddenly changed, meaning it’s getting closer? Am I struggling to speak? You know me. When you suspect I need something, trust yourself and help me.
— Remind me to make low sounds, not high ones.
— Push me the way you used to do at the gym. Small steps. Guide me through just the next contraction. Don’t remind me that I have a hundred left to go. Just help me focus on the next one.
— Remind me to read my affirmations. They mean a lot to me.
— Touch me. I’ll tell you if you should stop. Light, feathery touches. The kind that make goosebumps. (releasing oxytocin again!)
— Remind me of the moment baby gets here and we find out if it’s our son or daughter. Ask me questions about who little Charlie will be.
— Rest. If things are slow and easy, please rest (and eat). I will feel better if I know you’re taking care of you, too.
I think these are the basics. Just a few (five!) easy steps, for a really big job. I know you can do it. We will, together.