Birth partners are often life partners or family members in the birth space, who are invested in the outcomes and experiencing the process of birth emotionally.
If you’re invited to be birth partner it’s good to remember how important this role is, human birth is unique amongst mammals in that it’s evolved to be assisted. The safety, familiarity and care a birth partner provides during birth can help the process physically and emotionally.
For men and fathers in this role it can be one of unknowns. Birth as we know it has only allowed men in the space during birth for the last 30 or so years, so there isn’t yet a strong tradition or knowledge base of how to fulfil this important role being passed down through generations of men. Similarly as women we haven’t been educated about birth societally, so rely on previous experiences and stories as our reference point. Birth which used to happen in our homes and communities, is now quite detached from everyday life, so coming into this role can feel like stepping into a space of unknown, without any information or framework.
So if you are going into birth, here are some top tips to consider and prepare for:
Understand the role
The birth partner is really there as a protector of the birthing space. The environment of birth affects the process so keeping it safe, private, dark and warm are critical. This applies whether you’re birthing at home, in a birth centre, labour ward or caesarean. Get informed about different things you can do in each of these spaces to support the environment being optimum for birth to unfold. Know that you’ve been invited into this space because your presence created a visceral feeling of safety already, so being present and connected is so important too.
From understanding how to create a good environment for birth and knowing your options (attending a course can be a good way of getting the info you need), to knowing the route to hospital (even if you’re planning a home birth), plus having the relevant numbers to hand so you can make the calls. Keep some change for parking and machines, pack the bag so you know where everything is and make sure car seats are ready and fit. All these things may sound small but during birth they are vital as a birthing woman needs to reduce time spent in the thinking part of the brain and get into the instinctive part, all whilst keeping stress at bay and boy can logistics create mini and micro stresses! Taking responsibility for this logistical stuff is a massive help for any person before, during and after birth.
Remember, you’re there too
It’s amazing how often birth prep focusses on the person birthing and forgets the partner; from packing snacks to spare clothes, being ready to be there for the journey can really help your wellbeing and when your cup is full, you have more to offer the person you’re supporting. This is especially true should things change or feel challenging, having two tired and depleted people doesn’t help anyone, especially if those people then need to step straight into being parents of a new baby.
Be able to support yourself
Everyone in a birth space has an impact, so have tools to manage and navigate your emotions, ways to calm yourself and help you stay in the best emotional and physical state possible. Hypnobirthing offers great practical tools for everyone in the birth space; affirmations, breathing, relaxations – all of which can help your inner experience feel more empowered and tranquil, whatever the outer course of birth may be. We all know that being around stressed people makes us more stressed and being around relaxed people helps us feel more relaxed, so having ways to regulate your experience helps everyone.
As well as supporting yourself with tools, have a network for emotional and even physical support. Another person as back up should you need to step away or have a break, or someone to call for emotional support, even before and after birth too, maybe a friend or relative who can just be an ear on the phone or via text. The reality is emotional support tends to be lacking for mothers and even more so for fathers and partners, creating your own can really help you feel held in your experience.
If you’d like to explore further, here are some great resources to support birth partners:
The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill is gives lots of info and choices in an digestible way, so you can pick it up and pop it down as you like, a comprehensive easy read.
If you’d like to hear more about Birth Partners perspective of Hypnobirthing check out this video here
What was your experience of your birth partner or being a birth partner? Did you feel equipped and supported? Share your experience below…