How to Help a Laboring Mom Who is Feeling DONE
As parents prepare their minds and bodies for the upcoming birth of their child, many partners have the same thought cross their mind: What if she freaks out?
While moms may create plans for their birth before labor begins, partners often feel concerned about what their support should look like if mom suddenly feels like she can’t go on. First of all, I want you to know as a birth partner that labor gets really intense. Coping through that intensity usually demands everything a mom has to give. Women are often pushed to their limits and beyond during birth. That means that a mother will almost certainly have to behave in a way that she normally doesn’t in order to get through it.
Laboring moms may use a variety of movements and sounds to work through contractions. Some may sound beautiful and powerful, some may sound alarming. Rest assured, going to new places and having to try on new behaviors is a normal part of the process.
But what if she’s screaming in pain? What if she says she can’t do it anymore?
Ok, if you’re sensing that your partner is suffering rather than coping (learn about the difference in a Birthing from Within class) there are a few things you can do to help mom refocus and get through the most intense part of labor.
1) Move in close. As a mom becomes more animated it may feel tempting to back away and give her some space. Laboring moms actually tend to do better when someone moves in closer if she starts getting flustered. Get in her space, put your hands on her with confident touch, and make eye contact. (Just in case it doesn’t go without saying, stop doing these things if she says she doesn’t like it or pushes you away.)
2) Get on her level. It’s always ideal to speak to a laboring woman at eye level, but it’s even more important if she’s struggling. Standing over her can feel overwhelming and intimidating. Get down on her level so that she knows you’re there to ride it out alongside her.
3) Help her come back to the present. When a mom is suffering in the throes of labor, her mind is often somewhere down the road. She may be thinking that she can’t do this for four more hours. Perhaps she’s wondering how much more painful it’s going to get. She may be thinking about whether or not pushing will be even more intense than active labor. Your task is to bring her back to right now. She doesn’t have to do all those other contractions right now, she only needs to get through one. at. a. time. Try asking her to take a breath with you (instead of just “BREATHE!”). Help her focus on your loving touch. Ask her to look in your eyes.
4) Make a change. If a mom is getting really uncomfortable and frustrated with what’s happening in labor, try making a change. Turn off the lights, kick everybody out, get in the shower together, try a new pain coping practice. Make a change to help mom have a mental shift.
5) Validate her. This can be a tricky one for men who have never been in labor and never will. Dads and partners often wonder what they could say that would be meaningful in the moment having never experienced labor. Here are a few canned validations to keep in your pocket:
You’re working so hard to bring our baby into the world.
I’m proud of you.
I love you.
That’s the way. You’re doing great.
A few phrases to avoid:
Breathe! (Try “breathe with me” or “find your breath” instead.)
Relax! (Try “release tension” or “soften around your shoulders” instead, because when has telling a woman to relax ever proven effective? ;-))
You can do it! (Try “you ARE doing it” instead. What’s she’s doing right now during contractions is the work. Help her acknowledge that she’s already doing it.)
Moms, what did your partner say or do that really helped you in labor? Partners, what do you think was one small thing you did that really helped mom through a tough moment?