1.) Prepare for waiting
Waiting is often quite annoying and irritating. Waiting with somebody else, like your partner, is not necessarily easier. Although one can have a conversation, the increased irritation that waiting causes will easily lead to conflict and argument.
Imagine you would wait with your partner in a GP’s waiting room for ten hours or so. A horrible prospect, isn’t it? Now imagine you are in increasing pain, and your partner is not, but is still undergoing the same kind of ten hours wait that I asked you to imagine to begin with. Is it likely that you will start arguing? Probably.[i]
Is there any solution to the problem of waiting? Yes, there is. What would you do if for some reason you know that you are likely to have to wait in a room for ten hours or so? You would perhaps bring your ipod, smartphone, tablet, etc. Or you might bring a book, a magazine, a newspaper. Perhaps a game to play with your partner.[ii] Items of food and drink are certainly also desirable – and permitted, nowadays.
True, if you are in labour, you might not want to do any of those things. But you also might. In the initial stages of labour, it is quite possible that you would enjoy listening to music, watching a film, reading a book.[iii] What do you do at home when you are in some kind of pain, especially cramps or menstruation pain? Is there anything you do to entertain yourself? Try to have available whatever that is. And your partner should be encouraged as well to bring suitable items.
2.) Massage is more than just massage
Massage is an opportunity for your partner to become a part of the experience in such a way as to truly help you. Massage during labour makes a tremendous difference.
Nature has designated the right points for this massage through the dimples of Venus on the back. Don’t start the massage too early as the points will start hurting at some point. But in strong labour, it is a crucial remedy.
The birthgiver should bend forwards and lean on something, a couch, their arms, etc. The massager should really put themselves into it and give a strong, balanced massage. Rhythm is key, as in other intercorporeal (this means, between bodies) activities — sexuality is another crucial examples. Being in rhythm means for the woman in labour to give signs through hand, sound, or breathing for the massage to start and to stop. If the partner listens closely, they will be able to tell, of course. Massage makes use of the kind of communication that is most appropriate in birth: non-verbal, or body language.
Make sure to pause the massage between contractions as the area will start getting sore anyway. Staying in the rhythm together makes it a much more joint experience, and the partner will not feel — and will not be! — helpless or useless.
—- 8 further points, still to be spelled out —-
3.) Positions really do matter
4.) Communication before birth matters
5.) Communication during birth matters
6.) Beware you will most likely need to speak to strangers: healthcare professionals (and that’s why a birth plan matters).
7.) Beware that there will most likely be some divergences from whatever the original plan.
8.) Make sure to get the most basic relevant information and commit it to memory.
9.) Beware that it is scary in any case — already because it is so strange and primordial, and social at the same time.
10.) Beware that whatever happens, seeing and holding the baby for the first time will almost inevitably be a moment of wonder.
That’s the point you are working towards. Keeping it in mind, somewhere at the back of your mind to take it now and then to the front, is extremely helpful. Remind yourself. The creature is not going to be aesthetically pleasing or beautiful, but it is going to be a person. A character, a creature with a personality. You don’t yet see which; but you see that it will be. It is likely going to be one of the most important and intense relationships in your life. The baby will look back at you, and you will have made it — for all practical purposes. And carried it out into the world. Wondrous. Amazing.
[i] If you want to see how annoying and conflictual this can become, watch the first episode of ‘One Born Every Minute’.
[ii] One episode of ‘One Born Every Minute’ shows a couple playing chess.
[iii] When I was preparing for my first birth, I took this task very seriously and chose a particular book, Bernhard Schlink & Walter Popp, Selbs Justiz (Self’s Justice). Detective story, short chapters, succinct sentences, good sense of humour and a cat; what more do you want? I had also purchased a season of Seinfeld that I hadn’t previously seen. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch Seinfeld because the other couple in the room was watching a horrible Saturday evening show on the regular TV, and I stupidly did not bring earphones for my laptop. But I read the book, though mostly outside in the corridor on a bench because the Saturday evening show was just unbearably annoying. – As a society, we owe it to ourselves to give each other a bit more privacy in these situations. Furthermore, clearly more midwives are needed. Jacque Gerrard from the Royal College of Midwives says, 3,500 are missing. One of my interviewees had three homebirths to which the midwives arrived late. If it means raising some special tax for the NHS, who could seriously argue against that?