What is a birth partner? a lot of people actually think that a birth partner is only someone you hire and while that can be true as far as a Doula goes but a birth partner is ANYONE who is your main person during labor a delivery. Sometimes you can have a "team" of birth partners in the room but I am going to go over what makes the best birth partner so you know how you and others can help when the time comes.
1. Be present. THIS IS HUGE. THIS IS THE BIGGEST AND MOST IMPORTANT. Sometimes I will have clients ask "What do I need to do to make the biggest impact"? Be present. Don't hover. Don't bombard them with questions or attention just. be. present. When they can see you awake and alert they will automatically feel safe and secure. That is so important especially when you are bringing life into the world. You want to feel that sense of security.
2. Communicate how you are feeling and ask how they are feeling. This is important especially since sometimes we have no idea what they are feeling or we can't really relate to what they are experiencing. So when they start to feel pain due to labor you may have certain feelings too. You may feel confused. You won't really know what is going on. You won't know how to really help at certain times and sometimes you just feel confused because you don't overall know HOW you can best help so try to communicate that. ASK HOW they need you. ASK how you can help. Anxious. You may feel anxious about getting to the hospital in time you may feel anxious to meet your baby. There are so many things to feel anxious about. As the birth partner you need to remember to breathe and understand that how YOU feel and express how you feel will reflect them and they can feel that anxiety. Concern. This is a common one. Especially when you don't know what is going to happen next. Communicate concerns with your partner or your partners caregiver. You are a huge part of the process so be sure to communicate any concern that you may have. Guilty. It is really hard not to feel guilty if you fall asleep or rest or get frustrated but be sure to communicate why you feel guilty or how you may be feeling. This is a team and or group effort and communication goes a LONG way.
3. Educate yourself before labor begins. This is really important to understand. Your partner isn't the only one who should be working on educating themselves throughout pregnancy in preparation of labor and delivery. Grab some books. DO YOUR RESEARCH. The more you know the less shocked you are when the time comes. Plus your partner will be super happy to see you putting in the effort to better prepare.
4. Check with your partners caregiver for reassurance and advice if need. GO to those appointments if you can. That will be a great opportunity to ask ALL OF THE QUESTIONS. If you need help PLEASE take advantage and ask. Make a list for next time.
5. Understand the stages of labor. This is really important because labor can go 0-11 in minutes or hours or even DAYS. But it is important to understand the changes and what comes with the changes. Brush up on how to help your partner during labor. Positions, key words and phrases, stepping in when need, helping them use their voice and when to use it. Encourage your partner to breathe and focus on ONE contraction at a time during each stage of labor. Gain that extra knowledge that way when you hear things about "Stage one, transition, ect" you know and you know how to better help in that moment.
6. Understand that it is NOT about you. I don't care if you are the partner, grandmother, best friend or doula. THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU OR WHAT YOU WANT. This is about what the birthing person wants. If they want medication or change their mind. That is their choice. If they decide they want to have the medication vs going all the way medication free THEIR CHOICE. do NOT say things like "WELL YOU SAID " or "I THOUGHT" ect. Because once you throw a little bit of discouragement out there it can really impact labor and their mood and confidence. Be a cheerleader and super supportive. You are there to SUPPORT so support regardless of your feelings or wishes or what you THINK they should do. There is nothing wrong with saying "Hey do you want to try this instead" ect. But never jump on a decision that the birthing person has made.
7. Stay busy and occupied. I like that a lot of hospitals have tvs. Bring some of their favorite movies, bring a tablet for distraction, suggest a snack, bring them water or ice chips, suggest a bath or going for a walk if they have not received any pain medication. Distraction is KEY and actually super effective. As a doula I am constantly suggesting things to distract or occupy my laboring clients or couples. It helps change their focus from pain to something else even for just a few minutes which can feel really nice.
8. COMPLIMENT, encourage, have patience, hug if they feel comfortable with touch, respond immediately if they need. That's it. GO IN and be the best that you can be.
9. Be their rock. They will endure a lot emotionally and physically. Hold them if they want, hold their hands, be that person they need because labor and delivery can be scary even though it is an incredible journey it can be a really intense situation. Be there to hold them physically and mentally.
Remember sometimes we have a "Plan" but plans can always change so be prepared for that. Be present and understanding and go in with confidence YOU CAN DO IT. If you are a team of people, ONE person, grandma, partner whatever. Be the best you can be FOR THEM but also give yourself a little grace because as a birthing partner you are doing a lot as well.
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