I’ll admit it. This is a VERY reactionary post. I saw this list: 27 Dumbest Things Dads Have Said in the Delivery Room and it bugged me. Because in the many births I’ve attended, the amazing, supportive, helpful and loving partners have far, far outweighed the fumbles. And I’m really tired of the “dad as useless buffoon” stereotype. So in a knee-jerk response, I’m going to list the amazing and helpful things I’ve seen partners do and say at births:
1. “Let me do that for you.” Mom might be trying to press on her own back, or get her hair out of her face. Partners do a good job of picking up on helping those things.
2. “I’ve seen you run a marathon, I know you can do this.” A shared history, seeing mom conquer obstacles, and bringing that experience to help her find her inner strength goes a long way.
3. “I’m proud of you.” No matter how the birth goes – I’ve heard partners say this after all kinds of births. Often followed by specifics – the way she navigated an unexpected turn in the plan, the way she pushed through a longer labor than she anticipated, etc.
4. “I’m scared too, but we are in this together and I’ll be with you every step of the way.” Loved how this dad was able to connect with mom and feel okay about the fear and vulnerability she had just expressed.
5. “I don’t know why people say women are weak. Birthing babies takes so much strength and power!” I had to agree. That mom was powerful! (As are all the other moms I’ve worked with.)
6. “I’m right here.” And often, not leaving mom’s side. Sometimes I have to convince partners it is OK to take a moment to use the restroom or get something to eat, they are so focused on mom.
7. “Seeing you do this makes me love you more than I ever thought I could”
8. “Remember how you thought you couldn’t make it to the top of the mountain when we were hiking? And you pulled it off anyway? Whatever you did then, do it again!” Again with the shared history. The partner/doula team is a good one. The partner has experience with *this mom* and I have experience with birth.
9. “It’s OK to make sounds. I can take it.” Helping moms feel comfortable with whatever they need to do in order to birth is a very useful thing.
10. “I’m turning off my phone because I cannot deal with all of them and also help you.” Laboring moms who get partner’s total focus benefit from it. And thankfully partners who don’t give full attention is pretty rare.
11. “You did it! You really did it! and you were AWESOME!” I can’t adequately express the giddiness this particular dad had, nor can I convey the way he was doing a little happy dance for her. This particular dad was very skeptical of mom’s initial plans to birth unmedicated. But when he got on board, BOY did he get on board!
12. “You know what you’re doing. Keep it up.”
13. “I’m so excited to see you become a mother. You’re going to be a great one!”
14. “What do you mean you can’t do it? You ARE doing it!” Sometimes this encourages moms to keep going. But sometimes instead partner will say something like:
15. “Would you rather try something else? How about (Fill in the blank)? You said before you wanted to try that in labor.” This shows thought and remembering what was important to mom.
16. “Remember her birth plan asked for (fill in the blank)” Taking charge of reminding staff of mom’s plan if mom is too deeply into a labor zone to have that discussion can be a huge help. And partners are in a much better position than doulas to do it.
17. “Yes, I am tired, but I’m happy to keep going with you.” Moms know you’re lying if it is 4 am, you haven’t slept all night, and you say “I’m not tired!” – honesty goes a long way.
18. “I’m here if you need me, but if you don’t want to be touched, that’s fine too.” It’s hard for partners to feel like the massage and hand holding they’d envisioned themselves doing to help mom in labor isn’t wanted. This dad understood that it wasn’t a rejection and just sitting nearby would meet her needs just as well.
19. “Remember when we were on our honeymoon? We landed in Madrid and….” I had one dad spend five straight hours talking his wife through a detailed trip down memory lane. Mom listened quietly with her eyes closed, occasionally adding a detail or two he forgot. He did a wonderful job telling the story with detail, color and storytelling. Best use of visualization ever, and it wasn’t even planned.
20. “You are my hero.” This dad said this to a mom who had just birthed by unplanned cesarean. It meant the world to her.
21. “I’ll go tell my mom to go away if you don’t want her here.”
22. “Anything you need, I’ll do.”
23. “Lean on me. I’ve got you.”
24. “I’m so excited to see our baby.”
25. “Go ahead and cry if it helps. My shoulder is right here.”
26. (Silence) I’ve had two moms who wanted NO talking. And two partners who spent hours pantomiming everything that needed to be communicated. Every question they had, every time they needed to step out for a moment, etc. Initially it’s not easy, but in both of those births, the partner and I noticed we became pretty highly in tune with the mom, just because we had to spend so much time watching body language and behavior to know how to help.
27. “I love you” – Nearly all the partners I’ve supported alongside have said this to laboring moms. It helps every time. Hard to go wrong with a heartfelt “I love you”
As simple as that, I came up with 27 helpful supportive things partners say. What helpful things did people say to you in labor? Share it in the comments!
And here’s to all the great partners out there!