Lessons for the Labor Coach

You’re in the home stretch of pregnancy and in mere weeks, you’ll be greeting your baby girl or boy for the first time! You may think all you have to do now is sit back and wait for Baby. Moms-to-be, feel free to take a nap. Dads, you’re officially up to bat.

As the labor coach, you play an integral role in assisting your significant other.  When you’re in the delivery room, the finer details may become a little blurry in the wake of all of the activity. Your spouse may be in a lot of pain and unable to fully communicate her needs to the medical staff. This is where your preparation will come in handy.

The first step is to do your research. What are the pros and cons to having an epidural versus an all-natural birth? Home birth or hospital birth? Do you know the difference between Braxton Hicks and labor contractions? Are you aware of how far apart contractions need to be before bringing her to the hospital? Would she prefer an episiotomy or a natural tear? Are you cutting the cord? What is the hospital’s policy on pictures and video recording? This would be a good time to review the birth plan and ask questions for clarification.

If you’re educated on these topics, it will be easier to help weigh the pros and cons of each, thereby relieving her of sole decision making responsibilities. You can then relay these decisions to the doctor or midwife and nurse that are assisting in the delivery.

Once you’ve done your research and solidified the birth plan with your spouse, ask her what her expectations of you are. Every birthing experience is a little different. Some women prefer to have their spouses by their head to offer ice chips or remind them to breathe. Tonganoxie dad Todd Bruce says, “Be patient and listen. Do everything you can to keep her comfortable. Make a playlist with her favorite calming music and immerse yourself in the moment.”

Soon-to-be mother of four Tiffany Jones says, “My husband is right there. He holds one of my legs and fully experiences the birth of our children. He is there for what I need.”

Others, however, may not want to be touched or encouraged in the throes of contractions. “I told mine that if he told me to do the breathing exercise one more time I was going to punch him,” Liz Wilson, Tonganoxie mother of two, says. “When I’m in pain, I usually don’t want to be told it’s going to be fine, especially when they’ll never be able to understand how bad the pain is.”

Basehor mom Katie Norman says, “Don’t go near the blood pressure machine. My husband figured out how to push the button, and I think he took it every five minutes. It was super annoying.”

The most important piece of advice veteran moms want to give you is this: No food. An overwhelming majority shared their annoyances with their spouse’s need to talk about and bring in food during labor. Soon-to-be mother of two Heather O’Brien says, “Don’t talk about food when I can’t eat for who knows how long!”

Tonganoxie mom Jessica Clark says, “Don’t bring food around us when we are not allowed to eat. That’s just cruel!”

And Lenexa mom of two Margaret Sarver adds, “Don’t bring Taco Bell into the room while your wife is in labor. Something my husband learned the hard way.”

Again, every experience is a little different. Confirming the finer points with your spouse will ensure a more enjoyable experience for the both of you.

Some births, despite the best-laid plans, can go off course. After an intense day of labor and pushing with our firstborn, the doctor informed me that I needed an emergency C-Section. I was terrified and exhausted. With tears in my eyes, I turned to my husband and begged him to take me home. “I’m done now. I can’t do this anymore.” Rather than laugh at my absurd request, he held my hand and reassured me that I could do it. He gave me the boost I needed. Remember, your job throughout is to stay informed, remain calm and be there as much or as little as you are needed. When you’re holding your little one afterward, you can take pride in knowing you helped bring a new life into the world.

Hospital Checklist

  • Copy of birth plan (Doctor should already have one on file too.)
  • Change of clothes (for Mom and Dad, if staying overnight)
  • Nursing bras or tanks, if Mom plans to breastfeed
  • Nursing pillow
  • Toiletries such as toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, hairbrush, deodorant, makeup
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Camera and battery charger
  • Coming-home outfit for Baby
  • Extra swaddling blankets
  • Installed car seat for Baby’s ride home

Jennifer Bosse lives in Kansas City with her husband and two sons. She blogs at Defining-My-Happy.com.

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