THE CHALLENGES OF SUPPORTING SOMEONE DURING BIRTH
By: Michelle Mayefske
There's no doubt about it- expectant mothers have to endure the most during childbirth! While these physical and emotional challenges rest mainly with them, I think it's also worth asking- what about everyone else? Is birth "easy" for the mum's support team or do they have difficulties of their own?
Birth has the potential to be challenging for anyone involved, including your romantic partner or another support person of choice.
This became much more clear to me when I was training to become a birth doula. I was a mother of three at the time so I had been there and done that in regards to pushing tiny (and not so tiny!) humans out of my body. That perspective was the freshest in my mind. During my comprehensive training I learned some of the fundamental difficulties birth partners may face- they may want to help the expectant mum but don't know how, they may have fear or anxiety about the birth process, they may feel uninformed about birth in general, they may struggle with seeing you in pain, the toll of sleep deprivation, etc etc.
I got slapped in the face by the heaviness of these challenges after my training when I was first hired by a single mum. I was told she wanted me to be the only support person on the labour ward with her. Then it hit me HOLY SHIT, I'M THE ONLY SUPPORT PERSON SHE HAS! I wondered if this load of responsibility was what many expectant dads feel. Of course my client was under the care of a wonderful medical team but in my role as birth doula + birth partner, I was it. This dynamic was something new to me. That level of responsibility felt very heavy at the time and I've since called it the "pressure to perform."
Birth partners face a multitude of their own challenges, often while simultaneously trying to look after you to ensure you feel as comfortable as possible. They are multitasking to the max! This can feel very overwhelming and some birth partners are reluctant to share their experience because they feel it pales in comparison to what the expectant mum is going through. One of my clients had a partner who confided in me during labour (while mum was in the toilet) that he was absolutely exhausted. Both him and the mum to be had difficulty sleeping during her labour that spanned three days. He felt guilty saying it but I reassured him that it was 100% ok to feel that way. Labour is hard work for dads too! It's difficult for most people to survive on a fraction of their normal sleep AND deal with labour. Sleep deprivation hits us hard y'all and there's no shame in saying the lack of sleep sucks!
Yes! The challenges of labouring mums usually trump everyone else's but that doesn't mean we should ignore the emotional exhaustion, sleep deprivation and other challenges that are unique for birth partners. They need support and a safe place to say how they're feeling too. A mum and partner BOTH deserve to feel supported and that can really help make for a positive birth experience!
If you or your birth partner are looking for support in preparing for birth, creating birth preferences, going over concrete ways your partner can help you AND feel confident, let's connect! My private one:ones are exactly what you need! Is full pregnancy and birth doula support more your jam? Get in touch and I'll get you in my calendar!