What can I do to support my wife through delivering our baby?
February 11, 2008 7:57 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to help my wife during the delivery of our first child? She is due in the next few weeks, and I would like to have some ideas of how I can help her through delivery so that I don't feel like I am standing around doing nothing.

We are having our first baby. Yay! He is due in the next few weeks. We have had birthing classes and I have witnessed childbirth before as part of EMT training, so I know what to expect of the end stages of the process. But what I am looking for are things that I can do to help her and support her through the entire delivery.

So please, what did your partner do to help you that you appreciated? Or what did you do that seemed to be appreciated? What did you bring with you that helped or was useful?

Thanks to all. I am really looking forward to meeting my son.
posted by procrastination to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Brush your teeth - srsly it was my partner's only complaint.
posted by jmgorman at 8:00 AM on February 11, 2008

Best answer: Just my opinion to follow: My wife's been through two of them. If yours is getting an epidural (not even a discussion for us) then you don't really have to do much. We sat around talking for a while, I went around and got her stuff to drink and ice chips, manned the video camera, pictures, got the DVDs into the laptop.

When the baby came, my position was right leg. I helped hold it up while my wife pushed. And I took some tasteful pictures. My main role was moral support. I really don't know what else you can prepare for. Listen to the doctors and nurses.

Quite honestly, the birthing classes and all the 'magic of childbirth' stuff is IMO designed to make dad feel like part of a process where he's largely extraneous. All they made me do was panic thinking I wasn't part of it. Once I finally realized that there wasn't much to do and I relaxed, it was a really easy and non-stressful position.

Keep this in mind: in most cases the childbirth is the absolute easiest you or your wife will have it, compared to adjusting to life with a new baby. Good luck.
posted by uaudio at 8:13 AM on February 11, 2008

Best answer: We had a home birth, so I played a larger role than if my wife had had a cesarean. Just be prepared to do whatever the hell she tells you to do. For me, that was pushing has hard as I possibly could against her lower back, bringing her water and sandwiches, and keeping smells out of the bedroom (during labor she was revolted by the smell of a pizza I had cooked).

I don't think there's any best answer to this. Just be prepared to accommodate her however she asks.

The thing I felt that I did that she didn't ask me to do, but that she appreciated retrospectively, was to help maintain a mellow atmosphere. Candles, dim lights, music, cool washcloth, etc. It had all the highs and lows of a 52-hour acid trip.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:22 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

We just had our first child 3 months ago. According to my wife, the actual birth was the easiest part of the whole pregnancy experience. The worst? The contractions, especially those during the several hours before our trip to the hospital.
The absolute best thing I did to help her (according to my wife) was help her breathing during the contractions. I guess it's really easy to totally lose track of your proper breathing when those contractions hit, so actually being there and taking her through all the proper breathing was a huge relief for her.
Congrats and good luck! It's been the best experience in my life having a little boy!
posted by Detuned Radio at 8:40 AM on February 11, 2008

I have 4 kids, so I've been in the position before. My most important duty, according to my wife's orders, was to ensure the epidural was ready and administered at the appropriate time. They don't like to give the epidural until she is dilated to a certain degree (3 cm?), and if she dilates too much, they won't give her one at all. I only failed once, but that kid came 45 minutes after labor started, so I don't feel too bad about it. Secondary duties included general emotional support, ensuring the baby was not switched with another in the nursery (paranoia often manifested in my wife as birth approached), and getting her checked out of the hospital as soon as possible.

However, be aware that physiological changes may affect you as well as your mate. When kid #4 was being born, my wife was in tremendous pain from contractions. They gave her the epidural, and as I watched the doctor punch and miss 3 times, I almost passed out. I am not the passing out kind - I have pinched a friend's brachial artery to keep him bleeding to death, pulled a 6 inch splinter out of my own thigh, and generally been around lots of blood, pain, and stress. I think it was watching her be in pain and not being able to do anything about it that almost put me on the floor. So, if you start feeling lightheaded, make sure to sit down before you fall down.

Congratulations and good luck with the new baby.
posted by CRS at 8:54 AM on February 11, 2008

I recommend a gift, small or otherwise, the morning (or evening, if she has the baby in the morning) after the delivery, along with whatever flowers you can afford. It doesn't have to be expensive. Jewelry is nice if you can afford it. Even though it's a small gesture, your wife will probably like it -- especially flowers.

Being there and asking what would help (or not asking and just being there) is weirdly very helpful! Getting ice chips when they're allowed is nice. Hold her hand (unless she pushes you away!) during contractions.

Oh, and if your wife is like me, this one thing will make you a major hero: See if the nurses station has cranberry juice and ginger ale, and get some if not. Mix half of each, add ice, and give it to your wife when she is allowed to drink. I was so parched that I fell in love with the nurse who brought this to me.

And I would have killed for a nap afterwards, so offer to help bottle-feed once she can express milk, if the baby will let you. Clean the house as much as you can before and after the delivery. My husband couldn't afford a gift, really, or maybe didn't think of it in the craziness, but he did clean the house and do a load of laundry, which was about the best gift possible.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 8:57 AM on February 11, 2008

Ask your wife beforehand what she may or may not want. She may not want you talking too much, or maybe she'll want you to stroke her hair. She may want lots of pictures, she may not - you get the point.

Also, problems in the delivery room are not uncommon - be the eyes and ears of what's going on in case she isn't fully taking it all in (for some reason!)

Not too shortly after the birth, I thanked and complimented her.
posted by mrmarley at 9:07 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Take some change, several dollars worth, for the vending machines in the hospital. If you're there overnight, and she has an epidural, she may fall asleep. I couldn't sleep and forgot to take some change and the vending machines didn't take bills. I got _hungry_ as the night wore on. Your fully alert presence may be all your wife needs, but it is hard to be fully alert if you're starving and your blood sugar has bottomed out.
posted by tayknight at 9:33 AM on February 11, 2008

I don't remember my husband doing much, but his presence was what was important. He held my hand (and later complained jokingly about the squashed fingers, I remember that much!) and did whatever the midwife asked, whether feeding me ice chips, supporting me in whatever position, or walking with me in early labour. He carried my stuff to the hospital, and in that I include CD player and music, yoga ball, and bags.

During labour, so much of my attention was focused inward, on me and on the baby and the labour, that there wasn't much he could have done aside from being there in the times I needed him. Hand-holding, back rubs, a reminder that I wasn't doing it alone was the most important thing.

On the other hand, the stuff you can do after the birth is endless.
posted by tracicle at 9:37 AM on February 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

For me, the best thing my husband has done is constant masssage in just the right way during the labour. I was lucky to have home births so as soon as the baby was born and I showered and ate (giving all the family a chance to hold the baby) the three of us went to bed and slept. If you are having a hopital birth be sure to run interferance for her if one of the medical professionals is trying to ignore her wishes.
posted by saucysault at 9:52 AM on February 11, 2008

You just need to be there, ready to do whatever it takes to help her out or make her comfortable. Talking beforehand what these things might be is very helpful, even if she doesn't know 100% yet what she'll need. Also, be careful not to be overly helpful, if she feels that she wants her space in the delivery room.

My duty was getting crushed ice, and making sure that I could get the nurse if she needed something and the nurse was out of the room. I had to grab the nurse for the epidural in a speedy way, when the time arrived.

Also, be aware of how your wife is feeling after the labor is done. For the husband, there's a sense of "whew, we got through it!" Your wife is likely going to feel so wasted she might not even be able to hold the baby. Also, be aware of how sore your wife is going to be, and how tiring it might be to try and get the baby to nurse initially. After a hard labor, the demands of a newborn can be really, really hard on new mothers. She'll love anything you can do to help her get rest and sleep, even while still in the hospital.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2008

She'll love anything you can do to help her get rest and sleep, even while still in the hospital.

For example, I changes a ton of diapers.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:03 AM on February 11, 2008

I'm seconding the "push gift" - yes flowers (kind of a given), but also tasteful (and if you can afford it, 'classic') jewelery. Becomes an instant heirloom, will be handed down to your son's wife when she gives birth, that sort of thing. I got pearls. I would never have worn pearls before, but now I look at them and I'm like, "I'm a mom!" and I love them. I was floored when Mr. Hilksom pulled those out. But anything nice'll do, it doesn't have to be expensive. Even if your wife is the "picky" type, don't cop out and get a gift certificate so she can choose later. Just choose something, even if it's rainbow spirit catcher earrings made out of macrame yarn. It's the follow-through that counts.

Also seconding just staying calm. It's not happening to you, period. Rub feet, get drinks. Maybe make a mix cd of good music for the birthing room (bring a player). From the moment the contractions start, the word "no" should leave your vocabulary. If she asks you to stand in the corner and spit nickels across the room, I suggest you get spitting.

Good luck!
posted by Mrs Hilksom at 10:04 AM on February 11, 2008

have some easily portable food in your hospital bag because y'all will get hungry.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:11 AM on February 11, 2008

Think of the "rattiest"she ever gets, does she get ratty when sleep deprived? or stressed with work? Multiply by 10 and do the things you would do then. Does her favorite music help at those times, low lighting (not poss in hospital deliveries mostly but worth asking), would she rather you stayed out of view?

As Mrs Hicskson says, take nothing personally, be prepared for the strangest and sometimes most hurtful suggestions, "YOU try stretching your lip over your skull and then tell me to relax!"

Initially in the first stage massages, foot rubs, help, but be sensitive to the signs that physical touch may become uncomfortable. Especially during the transition to second stage. Also many women become slightly nauseous during transition, so keeping a discrete bowl to hand and shielding her during any such event will be eternally remembered. (Yes, I know you shouldn't be shy about vomiting when the midwife has her hand wrist-deep in your vagina but go figure!)

Do NOT hover, cold compresses for forehead, ice-chips and definitely food for afterwards, it's hungry work and if she is delivering in an hospital the food generally sucks. What is her favorite take-out of all time? Have them on speed-dial.
posted by Wilder at 10:44 AM on February 11, 2008

Agree a sign in advance that is not verbal. If the pain becomes too much, she may need you to be her advocate for all the well meaning staff.
(I learned this in my first labour when I was in pain, handling it and could not speak during contractions. The midwife assumed because it was a first labour that this meant I absolutely had to have some drugs and tried to press a number of options in me. It was exhausting to keep fighting that off in between contractions)

BUT, do NOT allow your ideological preferences to dominate here. If she really, really wants you to go get the anaesthetist, ask once or twice if she is really sure (let's say in the event you guys have discussed in advance that you don't want that type of delivery). Then GO get them!

Keep reassuring her that this will end and she'll survive this. Tell her how much you admire how she's dealing with it, even over the threats to have you neutered.
posted by Wilder at 10:55 AM on February 11, 2008

Anything not actively selfish or disruptive is probably going to be fine. Let her yell at you. Let her hit you if she needs to. Do what the birth tech (doctor, midwife, whoever) tells you. Prepare yourself by watching the "Y has a baby" episodes of sitcoms-- its one of the few things that a lot of sitcoms get really right.

Admittedly it was a long time ago, but honestly I have no memory of my husband's contribution in the delivery room. I'm sure it was great, and supportive, because he's a great and supportive guy, but really? I was busy.
posted by nax at 10:57 AM on February 11, 2008

If anything unexpected should happen, like it did in my case each time, it is really awesome to have a partner right there telling you you're doing a great job and that everything will be okay. Even though I was doing a lousy job and knew full well things weren't going to be awesome I still found enormous comfort in hearing that they were true. Bringing her flowers after the birth and telling her she is absolutely gorgeous every chance you get for the next thirteen months (or more) helps too....but I suspect you are tuned in enough to already have thought of that stuff. Good luck! Congratulations!!
posted by mamaraks at 11:55 AM on February 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. I definitely plan to do whatever she asks and to be her advocate or run interference with the hospital staff as necessary. I will bring food and change and a toothbrush with me, as well as some music and massage gear. And I am totally ready to step up afterwards. I have a flexible job, so plan to be home lots in the weeks afterwards, plus her mom is coming to stay with us around the delivery time to help out as well.
posted by procrastination at 12:17 PM on February 11, 2008

We brought a game with us, Boggle or something. That was worthwhile, it took a long time. It's funny looking back because we were both so young, but the things my husband did that really helped were
to forgive me for all the horrible things I said
be proud of me for nearly breaking his hand
admire me for what I was going through
not leave even during the boring bits (when I was sleeping - well, he might have, but he did it quickly enough I didn't notice).

He just made me his whole focus and world for those two 24 hour events. I felt like he would have slewn dragons for me and that in his eyes, I was the toughest, bravest, most incredible woman to ever give birth. (I wasn't, but I felt that way and that was really nice).

Oh, and I came back to a clean house. I'd heard horror stories from friends, about men who couldn't cook or clean, but it was cleaner than I'd left it. That really counted.
posted by b33j at 12:21 PM on February 11, 2008

I agree with everything that was said previously, especially discuss beforehand what she 'thinks' she wants, but be prepared to change up halfway through. Whatever she thought may have soothed her previously might really annoy her when the reality of the contractions set in...she may just want you to shut up already.

Also, many respondents went au natural and/or home births, but I had an epidural both times and you should know this...no food is allowed after she is admitted to the hospital and she may be insanely HUNGRY so no eating in front of her or she may kill you. If you are starving, and it seems like it may be a while, go grab a quick bite (emphasis on "quick"...don't make her have to page you.) Offer to get her something to drink/eat as soon as it is allowed.

Hang up and turn off the freakin' cell phone when the baby is actively coming. My husband was amazing both times but i was ready to kill him the first time when he answered his phone while I was pushing...as soon as he realized what he had done, he turned it off and put it away. I had a loooong labor and had just started pushing so I think it hadn't sunk in yet that it was really happening, but still...he almost lost his life over that one.

I had bleeding/extremely low blood pressure complications both times which left me about to faint - the first time after the baby came and the 2nd while in active labor. It was a little scary and I wasn't able to speak and I felt like everyone in the room was so focused on the baby, but my husband knows me so well, he immediately picked up that something was wrong and got the doctor to check me. So watch your wife and make sure she's ok...if you think for a second she's in distress - get somebody (without being paranoid and asking if she's ok every 10 seconds!)

Don't drop the leg! Everyone does it, so you'll be in good company. Under an epidural, you cannot feel or move your legs so the nurse gets one leg and the husband gets the other. But when the baby slides out the husbands get so excited they often drop their wife's leg.

Last, tell her you are in awe of her - you should be! Good luck and congrats!
posted by ellebe at 1:03 PM on February 11, 2008

If, at 3 in the morning after a 2.5-day labour where the epidural wasn't working, your wife asks you to go get something for her to eat because she hasn't eaten in four days and she is now nursing round the clock, please, go get her something to eat. Anything. Do not say that you are too tired.

On that note, be sure to pack a bag with food and drink for both of you. Get some sleep when you have the opportunity, because she'll need your help when you both go home.
posted by acoutu at 2:58 PM on February 11, 2008

During the early, easy stages of labor, she'll just like it if you're there and attentive. Take care of annoying hospital paperwork, run out for food, keep her from getting too bored, and, if necessary, run interference between her and relatives who are starting to annoy her.

During heavier labor, assuming she's not in happy epidural land, she'll want to walk the halls, and your job will be to walk with her so she doesn't hit the deck during contractions. But above and beyond that, you should have her get the epidural. Nobody ever regrets getting them, but many women regret NOT getting them.

Once the actual delivery comes (which is a tiny percentage of the whole thing time-wise) your job will be as Bill Cosby described it. Bend your wife in half and yell "push". You might be responsible (as I was) for holding one leg, and the delivery team might ask you to count down her pushes and keep her going.

I'm sure there's more, but that's plenty to score you some good brownie points.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 3:18 PM on February 11, 2008

Initially in the first stage massages, foot rubs, help, but be sensitive to the signs that physical touch may become uncomfortable.

Boy, do I remember that. Don't touch her unless she asks you to.
posted by wafaa at 3:37 PM on February 11, 2008

Recently attended with my sister's delivery. Bring something in your bag in case there is a long "waiting with nothing to do" period before it becomes too painful to think. Eg, crossword magazine, or inane fashion magazine to make fun of, or Boggle etc - whatever is diverting for you guys. And yes, bring food in your bag.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:05 PM on February 11, 2008

And organize whatever you need to be sure that you can effectively run interference with family members, if anyone's going to be waiting at the hospital with you, or waiting on tenterhooks by the phone. If there are intrusive relatives, be the boss and tell them (politely but firmly) when it's time to leave the room, when she needs a rest, whatever.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:06 PM on February 11, 2008

Response by poster: Follow up: Baby procrastination apparently is not living up to the family name. He was born this week, about 1 week early, and was well over the 95th percentile in weight and length. I mostly did hand holding, phone answering, and general sitting around. According to my wife, it was greatly appreciated but nothing (in my mind) like the incredible and amazing job that she did.
posted by procrastination at 4:21 PM on February 29, 2008

posted by nax at 4:34 PM on February 29, 2008

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