Contributed by Birthways Doulas
As the partner to an expectant person, you are having your own experiences of pregnancy, preparation, birth and early parenting. While the focus during this time of growing your family is typically on the expectant person, it is very common for the partner to have their own questions, concerns, worries or fear. During the COVID pandemic, there may be additional fears arising for you as you think about what this experience will be like for your family. Please know, you are not alone—all expectant and new parents have worries or fears. This a time of great change for your family and it may be filled with the full range of emotion.
When we look at fear, we may notice that it arises when we think about the future. The future is always filled with unknowns, but preparing for birth and parenting is particularly rich with the “what ifs” for both the pregnant person and you as their partner.
Common concerns among birth partners include:
- Will I know what my laboring partner needs?
- How will I know what to do to support them?
- When do we go to the hospital/birth center/call the midwife?
- What if something happens to my partner or my baby during the birth? Will I know what is really an emergency?
- How will I manage with all of the fluids and body functions of labor?
- What if I get queasy when I see blood? What if I pass out?
- How can I make sure my laboring partner is safe and ok?
If you are experiencing any of these concerns or worries, here are 3 practical steps you can take:
1) Talk about what is on your mind.
Talk with your pregnant partner. Be curious about what their excitements or worries may be. Be open about what is on your mind and heart. Discuss how you are each imagining this birth experience to be—don’t assume you know what is important to the other person. Together, spend time considering what steps can be taken to help you both feel a sense of preparation and support for the birthing process. Often, when we make space to say out loud what we are fearing or worrying about, we discover they have less power over us, and that we can change our relationship to what lies ahead. You may also find it very helpful to talk to your friends or other family members who have been through the birth process in the partner role. Hearing about their experiences can tap into our own sense of empathy, compassion, and kindness for others and ourselves. It may also provide insight into how to hold the fear alongside the excitement and joy.
2) Take a birth preparation class.
Setting aside time to attend a class together can be a big commitment and bring big benefits to your preparations and actual birth experience. Being with other expectant families can be an incredible resource for empowering both of you. Sharing the time together to learn and grow, to hear from other expectant people, with the guidance of a Childbirth Educator, can help you take in information balanced with your preferences or priorities in birth. A class will also provide a sense of what to expect with stages of labor, comfort measures, and common complications that can arise. For many, the more informed and educated we feel, the more confident and calm we can be as we move into what comes next. There are many different formats available for birthing classes that accommodate varying schedules—during the COVID pandemic many classes have moved online, making it even easier to access!
3) Consider hiring a labor doula.
A doula is a professional labor support companion whose role is to support both the physical and emotional needs of the laboring person AND the partner. They will be a resource and guide during pregnancy to answer your questions, to help both of you prepare together, to support communication with the midwife or doctor providing the medical care during pregnancy and birth, and will keep the two of you at the center of this unfolding experience. A labor doula will also support your stamina and energy, making suggestions for what to pack in your partner bag, when you should rest, and supporting you throughout the process whether it’s a few hours or longer. Your presence, your focused and affectionate attention on your laboring partner is key—the birth doula will support you in being the best support you can be! In-person and virtual labor support are options to consider when finding the best fit for your family’s needs.
Finally, offer yourself gratitude for recognizing the fears and excitements that are a part of this time of transformation for you as the birth partner! You are a vital part of this process—your presence and support are incredibly valuable to your pregnant partner during pregnancy, birth and beyond. Taking these steps now to work with your own experience just as it is, creates the possibility of being more present during the pregnancy and birth, and more capable of showing up, over and over again, for whatever comes to you as a new parent. Being at the birth of your child will be a memory you carry with you always.