Really, there’s very little that family/support do that make it hard for me to do my job. Most of the time, I understand that it’s a super scary time for a lot of people, and male partners often feel out of control, helpless to protect their partners, and that can cause them to be aggressive towards me or other people around. It doesn’t bother me that much, since I know that almost all the time if you treat these people with respect, understanding, and patience, they’ll realize you’re not trying to hurt them or their loved ones. Most people just need to be heard.
There have been a few people that made me very frustrated, but one takes the cake: The husband who was too self absorbed to understand what his wife was going through. He walked in while his wife was moaning in pain, sat on the recliner and popped out the footrest and then asked me, the midwife, to go get him some ice for his ankle. I told him I was too busy trying to help his wife cope with contractions. He spoke incredibly loudly on the telephone, yelling at his wife’s mother who wasn’t getting there in time. He worked writing copy for a medical supply company so he kept acting trying to use medical technical terms to take over the conversation and point it back towards himself. He told his wife that she was hurting their baby when she asked for an epidural. He told her she was risking both her life and the baby’s life, and started listing off studies about increased risk of c-section after an epidural. Honestly, the list goes on.
For others, here’s the basic list of ways to be supportive (i.e. not an ass):
- Unless the person you’re supporting is asleep or watching TV cause they have an epidural and can’t feel a damn thing, focus on them. Stay off your phone. Stay in the room.
- Try not to draw attention away from the laboring person - whether that’s by being loud, talking over them in conversation, answering questions for them, etc.
- If/when they veer from your agreed-upon birth plan, say, “Remember that we thought it would be a good idea if you tried to get in the tub before asking for an epidural?” Do not tell them that the decision they are making is wrong or bad or dangerous. The time for that conversation was about 2 months ago, not now while they’re in labor.
- Do your research before you get to the labor. Try to know basics about labor and delivery and support techniques so that you don’t say something incorrect and give the patient the wrong idea. Of course you’re not a medical professional, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. I suggest The Birth Partner.
- Recognize that the midwife/nurse/doctor is most likely looking out for you and your pregnant partner/friend/family member’s best interest. Instead of immediately getting defensive if they suggest something new/different/not what you had planned, ask them basic clarifying questions. For example: What is the benefit to that intervention? What is the risk? Are there alternative methods? What are the benefits and risks to those methods? Have you done this before? etc. (This is a first step - I’m not saying that you should just accept what the provider gives you, I’m saying that there can be an intermediary step that comes before outrage.)
But most of all I get along really really well with the family and friends. I love being able to bring a group of people together to help support someone in labor, and It’s super refreshing to see involved, caring partners. If I think that the laboring person is in good hands, I will even just duck out, only coming in when I have to assess the labor progress. So don’t feel nervous about being the support person when it’s your turn - know that you’ll do best by the person you’re supporting, and the midwives will do there best to take care of both of you.