At the end of my previous post (“IT’S A BOY!!!“) I said that this post would address my birth buddy duties. That is the things I needed to do to help support my wife. Some of these were serious, some not so serious. What follows is essentially what I would write to myself if I could write something about the duties of a birth buddy for younger me.
This is the grey zone between when the first symptoms of imminent labour appear and before the symptoms of labour actually begin. Things like, sporadic irregular contractions, loss of mucus plug (if you’re a first time Dad it is every bit as gross as it sounds). It could last for a few hours or up to a week. Be on your toes and ready to go. Things to cover include:
- Ensure that the hospital bag is fully packed and ready to go in a well known, easily accessible location. It may not be your job to pack it but it will be your job to make sure it gets in the car and to the hospital when the time comes.
- Understand and memorise the birth plan. This is important as you may need to make important decisions later on.
- Meet the mid-wives so you know who you are dealing with and so they have confidence that you understand your partner’s birth plan and can help them help her.
- Know how long it takes you to get to the hospital (this should probably happen earlier but this is the last safe moment for a practise run).
This is it, show time. Contractions become regular and gradually increase in intensity and frequency. Brace yourself, a baby is coming. Things to cover include:
- Help time contractions, both duration and separation. There are apps to help with this. Tip: Make sure you get an app that is hard to accidentally delete. I deleted the app during early labour when my daughter was born. My wife wasn’t impressed.
- Help to enact the birth plan. If you have older kids, enact their care arrangements, etc.
- Go to the hospital.
You’re now at the hospital and all going well you’ll leave with an additional tiny human in your care. Things can move quite quickly so look alive and execute the birth plan. Things to consider or remember include:
- Make sure the hospital bag makes it into the hospital. (This may sound trivial but it isn’t, we left ours in the car so I had to go back out to get it which is a pain at 2 am).
- If there are any specific requirements as part of the birth plan, make sure these are communicated clearly to the midwives upon arrival. Things will get real quickly and that is not the time for making decisions. In our case my wife is terrified of needles but we believe in the value of intravenous medicine so I needed to pass on that all medicinal needles are ok but there was to be absolutely no intravenous pain relief (including an epidural) and that my wife didn’t want to know when they were going to occur. This led to an amusing conversation about how if need be I’d distract her and the nurses jab her.
- Be the master DJ if you have music to help the mood.
- Mobility assistant. Help them up, help them down, help them on the gym ball, just help them get around.
- Listen to the instructions being given by the midwives. The more time passes the greater the likelihood that your partner will be distracted and miss something due to pain or pain relief medication. You need to be aware of what is meant to be happening.
- Offer encouragement and remain composed. Things can change rapidly and it can be scary. Remain composed and remain rational otherwise you are no assistance to anyone. This seems simple enough but it can be hard and it is also possibly the most important job you have (hence the bold). My wife was at 8cm dilation for several hours when we were informed that the baby was in a transverse position, was stuck in the birth canal and his heart rate was beginning to fluctuate significantly. This meant that we needed an epidural followed by a C-section (if the epidural didn’t help get things moving). My wife now needed to reconcile facing one of her worst fears (large needles and possible C-section) with the knowledge as to why it was needed in the first place (labour complications). As concerning as it was, this wasn’t the time to panic.
- Look after yourself. While you are there to support your partner, you can only do that if you are alert and cognisant of what is going on. So take a minute to get a coffee down the hallway or to have a quick sit. Don’t go to sleep though, that’s poor form.
- Chief photographer. Someone has to document the first cuddles, its your time to shine. Get those selfies.
- Dress the baby. A note of caution here, baby’s have a soft spot on top of their heads where their skull plates haven’t fused properly. Don’t touch it. I did (by accident) when dressing my daughter for the first time when she was about 20 min old and freak out that I’d somehow broken her. I stressed about it for 3 days before I confesses to my wife, who laughed at my paranoia. Turns out I was overly anxious about it but still don’t touch it.
- Start the phone calls to family and friends. Social media, the local newspaper, a ticker tape parade, get the word out there that your little hero has arrived.
- Buy the first teddy. By teddy I really mean plush snuggle toy. I got my son an elephant.
There you have it, more or less the duty statement by phase for what my wife had me doing before, during and after labour. Is there anything you would add? Leave a comment below.