The Big Day
Knowing what to expect on Delivery Day can go far in quelling fatherhood fears. During a hospital birth, nurses typically check on the mother every half-hour and are always available by speaker. Don't hesitate to ask for tips from the nursing staff on techniques that can make labor more comfortable. Men should communicate desires for a natural birth and ask what the staff can do for Mom as far as options. This may include hot or cold packs, showers or tub, and allowing the dad-to-be to walk with his partner in the halls.
Be prepared for the staff to offer pain medications. Most childbearing mothers in hospitals today use some form of pain medication, with the most popular being epidural anesthesia. Don't buckle under their doubt: husbands should forge ahead with the game plan and take cues from their mates on how the labor is progressing.
Laboring in a birthing center or at home will be more supportive of drug-free birth, and this option should be considered if available or desired. Many fathers appreciate the out-of-hospital experience because the midwife, doctor, or birth assistants are readily available to guide the father in his role as the support person.
Calling in a Second String
Being a good birth partner also means knowing your limitations. Some fathers feel that despite all the preparation, they want someone to show them the ropes and guide them in being helpful. Adding an extra support person will take some of the pressure off Dad.
A second-string support person may be a doula (birth assistant) or an experienced friend or relative. If you and your partner choose to have extra help in the birthing room, meet as a group before the birth to discuss preferences and wishes. If the goal is to have Dad be the most involved support member, make sure that is stated up front.
Whether the father will be the sole support for the laboring woman, or if the team approach has been decided upon, the key to providing support for a natural birth goes beyond knowing tricks for comfort. Providing the mother with support in her choices, a sense of freedom, and a safe space, will go the farthest.
A woman's body knows what to do, and if the woman is determined and prepared to birth on her own terms, providing a calm, protected space with some loving guidance and coaching will lead your team to victory.