My love. My constant companion. My masseuse. My supporter. My photographer. My practical partner. My husband was all this and more during the labour and birth of our baby born in December. Something really magical and overwhelming happened after our son was born- it was like falling in love with my husband all over again.
I will never forget how I felt when I had the chance to reflect on how supportive my husband had been through it all. I found myself wanting to say "I love you, I love you, I love," because he was present in every way possible. I directed him about a few things- get the camera, "that feels good-" as he rubbed my lower back, asking him to help me into the bathroom, but other things he did instinctively. This was my husband's third time attending a labour with me and without sounding like I'm bragging, he rocked it! But was he always so supportive, calm and confident in helping me through labour? The short answer- no! Let me take you on a journey of how his knowledge and confidence evolved over time so he could be the kick ass birth partner I needed!
FIRST TIME DAD
To say my husband was nervous before the birth of our daughter is an understatement. In fact, both of us were nervous. My first labour wasn't a positive experience and I felt very fearful while preparing for my second. I kept wanting to compare my first negative experience to the uncertainty of what could be the second time around. I had classic "fear of the unknown." What would contractions be like? Would my labour be easier? Longer? Shorter? My thoughts would spiral out of control. Thankfully, my husband and I hired a doula and had wonderful support beginning around 20 weeks of pregnancy. Our birth doula not only supported me, but she was a great resource and helped my husband feel more confident too. Becoming a dad was unknown territory for him and he was the first of his friends and family planning to be present in the labour room. He had no one to talk to about what to expect from the male perspective! I think my husband enjoyed knowing there was a professional doula, who was not hospital staff (read: working for us), who could support us both physically and emotionally during our journey. He also didn't want all the responsibility of supporting me landing solely on his shoulders. The thought of that definitely made him anxious! I encouraged (and I mean forced) my husband to look at a few books regarding birth and spoke about birth regularly but I don't think he ever was 100% confident in supporting me. He was worried about seeing me in pain, he knew I wanted low interventions but he didn't feel like he knew how to support me to help make that happen. My husband did end up being a great supporter, especially while I was pushing! He helped keep my spirits up, even when my labour stalled for over four hours! We were both thankful for the support we had from our doula- without her I don't know if I would have been as confident or stayed at home labouring as long as I did. She brought such a calm presence and reassured my husband when he had a wobble, or two!
My third birth was a planned home birth. This time I had been very ill during my pregnancy so some prep was put to the wayside. I painfully remember being very anxious about how my autoimmune flares could impact my birth experience. I still spoke to my husband about my birth preferences and we met with the same doula we had at our last birth. As my guess date approached, I became so in-tune with my body and went into my labour feeling far more confident than my last birth. My husband was nervous about me giving birth at home- our first home birth. It had nothing to do with safety, but giving birth in a different setting. There were more practical elements to consider- like heating our household water and filling the birth pool. We also intended on having our two older children at home and he wondered how that would work out. When I woke up in transition at 4 am and had our baby boy just over an hour later, I think it's safe to say we were both shocked! My husband was trying to balance filling the birth pool and supporting me during what was a very fast and furious labour! He did great and even got some pictures and video of our baby boy entering the world! My labour was so fast in this situation that no one made it to our house, including our doula. I caught my baby boy by myself in the birth pool in our sitting room after only 2-3 contractions in water!
... but this last time. Wow. My husband didn't bring any anxiety or fear into the labour and I could feel that. I think when women are in labour they are much more likely to pick up on peoples' moods and the type of energy or tension they may bring to the birth space. During my pregnancy my husband read maybe 10 pages from a birth preparation book- again, pages I bookmarked for him, ha! I did show him some hands-on labour comfort measures but to be honest, he didn't need to use many of them! While I was in early labour for 12 hours, I was in active labour only two hours before meeting our third baby boy! During my super easy, laid back early labour my husband was calm. He cleared the dining room where the birth pool was to be set up and he began filling it. Meanwhile, I laboured in the sitting room watching television on a birth ball and using the CUB. He would come in regularly and bring me food, water or just sit with me. After labouring for three hours like that, we decided to take a nap. Again, super chilled and no anxiety whatsoever. The following morning I was still in early labour for an hour, then we got the kids organised for my in-laws because whoa! labour kicked up a knotch like a switch was flipped and away they went! When my husband returned from his 15 min. journey, I was already labouring in the pool. He poured warm water on my back (this is heaven, I tell you!), he brought water to my mouth and I sipped from a straw between him also feeding me grapes (like the labouring queen I was!). He kept telling me I was doing great, he held my hand, he rubbed my face with a cool cloth and he was totally on his game with the camera and video camera. Yes, we filmed parts of it again!
He kicked ass. Period. The energy he brought to the room was that of an experienced birth partner who knew he could trust me, my body, our baby and the labour process. For some reason during this labour I did not want my husband leaving my side and I told him this. When he went to get more water, I remember telling him to hurry back- and he did. He rubbed my lower back, he helped me out of the pool, we even laughed and had a lovely conversation as I sat on the toilet where my waters would eventually break. And when our baby crowned and his head was outside of me, my husband took a picture! He also got a picture of my son emerging completely with his eyes wide open, ready to meet the world. I felt so supported, so loved and so taken care of during my labour. It was perfect, honestly. Every single bit of it...
The story of my husband's birth partner evolution is why I'm so passionate about supporting everyone who interacts with me. My birth doula services are not only designed to support an expectant mum, but her birth partner as well. A confident and prepared birth partner can really help you have a more positive experience. They bring knowledge and an entire "tool kit" of comfort measures and affirmations that can make your experience more manageable and even enjoyable! Most birth partners who contact me say they don't want to stand on the sidelines as their partner labours- they want to help, they want to be involved and they want to experience the joy of supporting the person they love as they meet their baby.