Back in the day, dads were relegated to the waiting room when their wives were in labor and your biggest job would have been smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch (Don Draper, is that you?).
Things have changed a bit --okay, a lot-- and personally we love that partners are not only welcomed but expected to be there to support the birth of their little one. But there's one tiny detail: most partners haven't witnessed labor before and certainly not their lady love working through it. It's easy for partners to feel lost at sea and, completely unsure of what to do, simply freeze up like a deer in the headlights.
Don't fret! You don't have to be Lamaze King to successfully help her through. Here are four simple tips to supporting your woman in labor that'll have you looking like a superstar:
1. Give her some lovin'
Ever heard of oxytocin? It's also known as "the love hormone" and it, along with endorphins (the body's natural pain killers), are critical to labor. When the body produces oxytocin and endorphins, labor progresses and a woman is able to cope better.
How to get these two things going? Keep the environment calm (think low lights, quiet voices) and hug and kiss on your lady. Hold her close and don't be shy! Gentle, steady touch also signals these two hormones so try rubbing her shoulders and neck or hands and feet.
2. Turn off your cell phone
Fellas, this is a big one. It's SO tempting to reply to all those text messages from your family* --"Is the baby here yet?!"-- but trust us when we say, no matter how far a woman is into "labor land" she WILL notice you on your phone. If a text or phone call is really needed, step out briefly. Then return and fully focus on your lady love because she needs you to be fully present with her.
*Better yet, avoid all those calls and texts by waiting to tell your loved ones you're in labor. It'll save both of you unnecessary stress and distraction.
3. Remember these two simple phrases
Partners often find themselves struggling to think of the "right" thing to say to a woman in labor. The good news? It's not that hard. All she needs is for you to stay positive.
DON'T focus on the discomfort she's in with questions like, "are you okay?" or "I know it hurts" (pro tip: never start a statement with "I know..." to a woman in labor)
DO focus on what great work she's doing with statements like, "you can do this" or "you're doing everything right"
When all else fails simply repeat these two simple phrases: "I love you" and "You're so strong"
4. Take care of yourself
In case you haven't heard, labor can take a really.long.time. (especially for first babies). Your lady love needs you not only during labor but also after to help care for your new baby, so be sure to top off your own tank! If you need a break, take it. You'll be so much more help if you're rested, hydrated, and fed than if you're completely depleted.
Having a birth doula on your team is a fantastic way to make sure you can self-care by spelling you to break for food, a quick nap, a shower, etc. while also ensuring mama has the continuous support she needs to do the work of labor.