By Anna Trevelyan
Being in labour is tough. VERY tough. I fully understand that it’s hard for the husband/wife/partner/best friend/family member to watch their beloved go through a painful and difficult few hours/days. But your job is to do what she says AT ALL TIMES. It’s a stressful situation that can be fraught with faux pars from the person who is trying to help, so here’s a handy guide on how to get through it with the minimum of shouting – and with all limbs intact.
Complain. If you’ve got a bad leg, sore throat or feel a bit tired now is NOT the time to share. She will be feeling all this times about a million. Sorry, but unless you’re the one pushing a small human out of your nether regions nobody currently cares.
Get dramatic. Even when that baby is crowning, now is not the moment to gasp/panic/start flapping. It may be a fairly unnerving sight but if you are a bit wimpy with the sight of blood then for heaven’s sake stay up the head end and tell her everything is fine (even if it doesn’t look it).
Be a perv. I’ve heard horror stories from Midwife friends about dodgy dads checking out staff derrières when they bend over to write in the notes. If you want to stay on-side this is not the time for window shopping.
Get lost. For goodness sake learn the way to the hospital. When you’re AT the hospital don’t go wondering off aimlessly. It may be a long old business but make sure you remember (or photograph) the ward name/number. The last thing she wants when she is starting to push is an absent birthing partner who can’t find their way back from the café.
Faff. There is nothing worse than someone trying to parallel park whilst you’re in labour. Just get into that hospital and get help. The wrath of a parking attendant will be nothing compared to what you’ll experience if you have any unnecessary delays. (And, whilst we’re on the subject, for goodness sake don’t dare to complain about the parking charges. You may have to take out a second mortgage to afford those tariffs but that’s the last thing you need to be worrying about right now.)
Be a pain. She will have enough pain for now – don’t add to her woes. Loud eating, sniffing, farting, touching or inappropriate conversation will simply not be tolerated. When things really ramp up it’s best not to speak unless spoken to, and definitely don’t engage the midwife in conversations about her love life when things start getting interesting. Be like a helpful, silent worker ant and you can’t go wrong.
Bring stuff. Labour can be long and parts of it are dull (I wrote 3 freelance scripts, watched 2 films and had at least 1 takeaway – even after the contractions became pretty regular). Bring snacks, energy drinks, movies and magazines to pass the time. It might be the last time you get to watch a film for a while!
Swot up. Ignorance is not an excuse. Do some reading beforehand and learn what to expect. This prevents any melodramatic responses (see above), and it will help her to feel slightly better if it all goes wrong and you end up delivering the baby yourself on the bathroom floor. It happens!
Pick your moment. If you DO have to do something as annoying as go for a walk, have a wee or even a nap whilst it’s all kicking off then pick your moment to tell her. Just after a contraction but whilst she is still puffing on the gas & air is a good time – that stuff is so good that if someone had asked me to help hoover the hallway I’d have probably said yes.
Just say yes. If she wants jam on toast at 3am, an Easter egg in November or Taylor Swift on repeat then, for the love of Mike, give the girl what she wants. Agree to everything, tell her she’s amazing and let her do what she wants. If you are the baby’s father you, as the cause of this current predicament, may not be her favourite person right now – but agree to her every whim and she’ll soon forgive you.
You’ll soon know if you’ve over-stepped the mark as you’re likely to receive a barrage of abuse. A friend of mine even gave her partner a right royal rollicking for breathing too loudly. It’s hard to pitch it right but if you keep calm (but not too calm), be on-hand (but not too close) and offer helpful advice (when appropriate) you are sure to be a success. Just remember the four Ps: no panicking, no perving and no photos. And if she accidentally does a small poo (as many apparently do) – you’d be wise to not tell her about it – then you’ll definitely live long enough to meet the new little life being born. Good luck!