But as well there is anxiety and indeed even fear.
Your wife/partner is aware of the pains of labour contractions. She will be experiencing these pains if she has already started in labour before she has arrived at the hospital. She is wondering will she cope with the pain or if she will she need an epidural. She may have already decided she wants an epidural.
She is hoping for quick labour and easy delivery. But she will be aware from her previous labour, if she had one, from what family members or friends have told her or what she has read that this is not always the case. She will be aware of the unpredictability of her labour and childbirth journey. She will have some idea of labour and childbirth complications, which sometimes are very serious and life threatening.
Some women take comfort in ‘being in control’ in their day-to-day lives and although they may have labour and childbirth plans they are frightened by the knowledge they are not in control in labour, but her body is the conduit for the birth of baby.
She is hoping she has a ‘good’ midwife who she relates to and who is supportive and caring. But she is aware that midwives work in shifts and so it maybe that more than one midwife who is caring for her especially if her labour lasts longer than she hopes.
I have hopefully formed a good bond with her antenatally, and we have discussed and worked through her fears, her requests and plans for labour and childbirth. She also can take great comfort in knowing I will be there and in my expertise and vast experience as an obstetrician through delivering many thousands of babies over many years.
While the midwife will keep me informed of labour progress and developments and while as well I can at any time check her labour progress and her and baby’s wellbeing on my desk top computer in my office or at home, it is not possible for me to be in the delivery room throughout labour. The midwife may be supervising more than one patient and so will not be the delivery room during all her labour. But you, the person she knows, loves and trusts, will be with her during all her labour. And so, you have a very important supportive role for her while she on this exciting journey. She will take great comfort in that knowledge.
What you will need to do to support your wife/partner varies. You need to be responsive to what your wife/partner requests. She may want water to drink, a back or foot massage, to have her hand held, to help her focus and breath with contractions and more.
Remember to ask her what you can do and do not assume for her. What you think she needs may not be what she wants.
Words of encouragement will help. Suggested phrases are…
- I love you.
- I am so proud of you.
- I’m here for you.
- You are amazing.
- You are awesome.
- You are doing such a great job.
- Focus on baby.
- It is going to be so wonderful to cuddle our new baby.
- You are going to be such a wonderful mum.
- You are almost there.
- Just a bit more.
- You can do it.
- Keep going
She may not believe what you tell her, even if it is true. Her experience of what is going on in labour can feel much different than what you are seeing. This means she may feel out of control and be frustrated even though she looks calm and collected. Try reminding her of what she is doing and why this is so beneficial.
Often it helps to have an ultrasound photo of your baby that she can look at and focus on.
If you have other children have a group family photo for her to focus on when she has contractions.
Soft background music can help. Put a compilation of her favourite music together that she can listen to it while in labour.
Sometimes scented candles and personalised lighting can be help. Chat about this before the day.
While every woman wants an easy labour and an uncomplicated childbirth experience, adverse labour and childbirth developments do happen. If things do not go to plan be very supportive and understanding not confrontational.
I am aware of a couple argued in labour over an epidural. They had agreed prelabour no epidural, but when the contractions were more than she could bear she requested an epidural. Her husband had a confrontation saying to her, but we agreed no epidural. I have been aware of husbands trying to talk their wives out of an epidural because they did not want to pay for the epidural. If your wife / partner wants an epidural agree with her.
Usually, labour and childbirth complications that happen cannot be anticipated. Sometimes they are very serious. At these times, your wife /partner especially needs your love, your support and your encouragement. You both need flexibility and if developments do not go according to plan focus on the bigger picture. Most important are a healthy mother and healthy baby.
The reward of childbirth is huge. After what can seem like an eternity in time you will both be rewarded with a beautiful baby and your lives will be changed for ever.
It is so wonderful to support a couple on this exciting journey and to share in their joy of a successful pregnancy outcome.