First time parents, Haris and Cambria that took our Bradley Birth Class to prepare for their Vancouver, Washington home birth. Out of the 9 couples, they were the very first to meet their baby! The new daddy Haris, full of wisdom and excitement, wrote a letter to our Bradley Class dads-to-be. He passed on to them what he learned from birth and tips on how to be a strong birth partner. Such fantastic advice for any labour coach, father, or partner to be!
Men, stay strong!
I just found out first hand, how challenging it is to be in the birth room, watching the person you love go through the biggest day of your lives. Your partner will need every ounce of encouragement they can get. Every gentle caress, and every firm reassurance that she can do it, and will make it through her labor. In the end, she is birthing this baby, but you need be by her side, being a strong birth partner.
1. To be a strong birth partner, get rest if possible.
I was up with Cambira for two nights before regular contractions came at a predictable pattern. By the time the real work came – I was really worried that I would be exhausted and that made me wonder how Cam would make it through? Sleep if you can sleep during early labor when contractions are sporadic and far apart. I think I was getting 15-20 minute windows of sleep during the first two nights before the big event.
2. Get educated for birth and then trust yourself.
Even though I was so exhausted, once active labor began and contractions really started to get strong and intense, two things happened.
1. I started remembering things we learned in our Baby Nest Bradley Birth Class (I went through the workbook a couple nights earlier when we couldn’t sleep as a refresher, and what I learned in class all started to come back to me).
2. An IMMENSE energy was released and present in the room which was all radiating out of mom and baby. This energy literally gave me the second wind I needed to get through the hard parts of Cambria’s labor.
3. Take care of yourself.
Make sure as the birth partner, that you are taking care of yourself leading up to the labor and delivery. Eat and drink to nourish yourself. This was one of the toughest workouts I have had as a man so you can only imagine what your partner is going through physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Taking care of yourself allows you to continue to be a strong birth partner for her.
4. Be strong, literally.
When it came time for the body work to go from gentle touch and light massage to heavy and forceful pressure to Cam’s hips, I literally thought I was going to break her hips at one point. I was using counterpressure and using all my strength to maintain that level of pressure on Cam’s hips, only to be told in a very desperate manner by her to “Squeeze Harder!!!”
At one moment, I thought I wasn’t going to make it, so I had to change from being on my knees behind her, to being on a yoga ball to support my weight and allow me to get in close behind her her (while she was laboring and delivering in the pool). Being a strong birth partner takes true physical strength in addition to mental and emotional strength as well.
5. Talk to your wife.
Ask her to discuss her concerns and express yours to her as well. Walk through your birth plan, and your alternate birth plans. We had a natural home birth in the Portland area obviously… but going so far past the “due date” scared us into considering other induction techniques, potentially going to hospital, and even the possibility of having a Cesarean if absolutely necessary.
Our biggest thing we wanted to avoid was the epidural, Cam said in early labor on night two “now I see why women get the Epidural”. I took that as a sign that we needed to talk about it, after discussing it with our Midwife she advised that we make a code word so that in case it gets to that point and Cam asks for that if we ended up in hospital I could really confirm she wanted to move forward with that instead of just needing to say it to get the thought out of her head.
Our code word was something I frequently say, which Cam refuses to say… “Shitballs!” lol
6. Finally, trust.
Trust your wife, her body, and mind. Trust your baby. Speak up for your wishes and desires with your healthcare providers and midwives before you go into labor. We sent our Portland, Oregon midwives our final birth plan about 1 week before baby’s due date and told them the things that we wanted and didn’t want to do… unless medically necessary obviously. This allowed us to put trust in our care providers (we used A Gentle Beginning, a home birth team from Portland) and focus on the labor and what we needed to do.
7. Enjoy it.
When you see your child in your wife’s arms the first time, followed by holding your own child for the first time ever… something will come over you that I cannot describe. It is joy, admiration, fear, nervousness, pride, happiness, and a breath of fresh air all intensified by the hormones and energy from the birth story of your new family which will be unique and different from everyone else’s.
Enjoy it as much as you can and remember, your baby is only born once. Your baby is only 1 day old once, today our baby is only 4 days old for the first and last time of her life… enjoy every second.
8. PS: Guys, your work isn’t over after the delivery.
Small acts of kindness go a long way. Remember it took two of us to make this baby, and it will take two of us to raise this baby. Do dishes, cook if you can, make sure you pay attention to feeding times, change your baby… and let mom take mini breaks through the day. Even if you are with your baby for an hour of uninterrupted dad/baby time so mom can take a shower (this will go a million miles in the eyes of your wife)!
9. PSS: Don’t forget the massage techniques we learned in our birth class!
(Being a strong birth partner means helping after birth too. Massages after labor are pretty awesome for the momma too!)
Haris (first time father)
Thank you to Haris for sharing your wisdom and insights for future dads-to-be on how to be a better birth partner! Your birth story is full of love, team work, perseverance, and presence to the miracle of the birth of your baby.
Know a daddy-to-be that needs to read this, so he can prepare and support his partner with more confidence too. Share with them!
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