Norwich birthing expert, Jackie Heffer-Cooke, offers some tips to budding birth partners on how to make that perfect day even more perfect.
So, in days of many moons ago, before hospitals and houses, women would have simply crept into a cave, a hut, or some water, and birthed safely – knowing their ‘silver back gorilla’ was protecting them from any big nasties that may want to eat them whilst in the birthing act.
This was, and still is, the only way women will birth comfortably and with ease – if they feel safe. These days it’s not about beating off approaching bears with a stick, but the idea remains the same. Birth partners need to make their birthing loved one feel safe and secure, that way birthing mum can forget about everything else and just simply birth.
Birth partners need to be confident!
We know that communication is made of 7% words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% physiology, so what is communicated through our physiology (our body language) counts for the greatest part of any communication.
So… birth partners, if you’re looking terrified and pale with fear, or worse, if anxiety makes you aggressive or flustered, it’s not going to help play out that beautiful calm birth you imagined.
10 steps to being a birthing hero!
As well as being a birthing mum, I’ve been a birth partner, and we all want to get it right. We want to walk away saying, “wow, we did good!” (and even if it goes a little pete tong as sometimes these things do, you can look back together saying, we did the very best we could!)
1. Be prepared for labour. Have the bag packed, know where everything is, have all the conversations about what you really do, and really don’t want – BEFORE the big day itself.
2. Communicate confidence with your eyes, look directly into birthing mums eyes, and hold that gaze securely.
3. Communicate calm through the body by being calm, that means breathing steadily and communicating confidence.
4. With words be empathetic, understanding and add something positive like “Yes, you are doing so well and working really hard, you will soon be holding our baby in your arms, you’re nearly there, and you’re amazing!”
5. During established birth and into transition – If you have practised breathing techniques together then it’s sometimes helpful for the birth partner to join in, even act them out, making the balloon breath into the surges for example, really big gestures with the hands. Or if birthing mum is using a count through the surges as a distraction mechanism, join in. Perhaps they are visualising something, ask what it is and see if you can help describe it and keep them there. It’s not hard, it’s super simple. A good HypnoBirthing class will tell you all you need to know.
6. Be the voice! Birthing mums need to keep themselves in birth, so birth partners be the communicator. Take on the role of talking to the midwife on the phone, or when you arrive at the hospital.
7. Think – how can I make her more comfortable? You may not think there is anything you can do to support your birthing loved one as she moos like a cow whilst on all fours, shaking her hips from side-to-side (come to YogaBumps to learn some great active birth moves), but the next day she won’t thank you for the sore knees. Pop a cushion under her knees, her arms, behind her back. Help her be as comfortable as possible.
8. Mmmm Massage… Yup massage ticks all the boxes for birth. Whether it’s oxytocin enhancing soft touch, or meaty massage for back ache, you can be Massage God! Get it right. Practise beforehand. Come to the OGC for a couple of hour’s tuition if you like…
9. Don’t forget to pack a bendy straw – Birth is very dehydrating. Make sure your partner drinks every 10 mins, or every other surge during the final stages of labour. Ice cold water through a bendy straw will means she won’t have to get out of her favourite labour position to do it! Easy birthing hack, instant hero.
10. Enjoy it. Birth does not have to be scary, it can be an amazing, exhilarating, experience you will both remember for the rest of your life!
Do a class together and feel super knowledgeable
A childbirth prep class, such as Hypnobirthing class or the Birthing Toolkit Workshop, will tell you all you need to know about birth, and what to expect. If we feel more knowledgeable, we feel more in control, therefore we feel calmer.
In classes like HypnoBirthing you will learn super good breathing and deep relaxation techniques too so your birth partner can help you, but also use them to help themselves too, therefore keeping you both in calm control. Put simply, if you look at someone and their face is full of fear and horror – we will react negatively, if we look at someone and their face is calm and reassuring – we will react positively.