When the best labor support is doing nothing

Once a client shared the birth of his son with his first wife.  “She didn’t want me to do anything, the doula and I just sat watching”.  I asked him what feedback his wife had given him afterwards, had she considered him to be doing nothing?  “No” he said, “she said having us there had been really helpful”.  I always say to doula clients and couples in my birthing class that although you may have plans for certain things you are going to do in labor which seem so helpful now, such as massage; things change, you are in a different place and may not want to be touched or talked to.  The hardest thing for a partner to do when they see their partner in pain is to give them space and ‘do nothing’.  Now when I say ‘do nothing’ you are really doing what is needed right then.  Here are some things to consider in the birthing room:

Hold space

You may be considering that you are doing nothing by sitting quietly in a corner when the birthing woman has asked you to, but you are still energetically connected to her.  She can feel your energy, especially in her heightened sense of awareness of her body.  She has left her thinking mind and entered ‘laborland’ where she is feeling, sensing and moving in a place of self-awareness. Sending her calming thoughts and a sense of strong emotional support will be felt clearly.

Stay connected

Be in the moment, try to stay off your phone or computer.  So rarely are we given the chance to disconnect fully in our busy lives, that the birth of your baby is the ideal opportunity; embrace and enjoy it.  Grandma may be awaiting anxiously for news or any one of a group of friends may be texting for updates, but they can wait, really.  When you get connected to someone through your phone you are disconnecting with your partner in the birthing room. 

Incidentally it’s one of the things I like most about being a doula, I get to say to the world on a regular basis that I’m not available, I’m with a birthing woman and that is all I am doing right now. So refreshing.

Don’t ask questions during contractions

As I mentioned before, mom is in laborland.  Her hormones have kicked into hyperdrive and her sense of self is heightened, especially during a contraction.  She needs to be left to focus on herself and what her body is telling her to do.  Asking if she wants a drink, some ice chips or telling her Aunt Maisy is asking after her on email, will not be welcomed right now.  Let her focus on what she is doing, and after the contraction is over offer her water but consider just doing it, sometimes words are not needed.  Oh and a reminder; Aunt Maisy can wait.

Sit where mom can see you

Mom may not want physical touch right now but still wants to know you are there.  Position yourself so she can see you, she may want you at any moment to connect with her eyes or she may want to grab your hand.  Try not to make her search for you.

Try not to hold ‘chit chat’ conversations with others

You of course may need to talk with the nurse, doula or other care provider while you partner is in labor, but if she wants quiet during a contraction then talk between. Anyone familiar with the labor room will be used to stop-start conversations.  Keeping conversations to the bare minimum may be necessary and talking about things unrelated to the birth can be irritating.  Again let her focus and concentrate on the task at hand.

And one last piece of advice, don’t take it personally when you are doing exactly what worked during your pain coping practice in childbirth class and your partner snaps at you to stop.  You just never know what you are going to need and want during labor.  Flexibility is key, good luck!