If you are in a committed relationship with the parent of your child, hire a doula so your partner can be scared!
I mean it. Your partner deserves to feel all the emotions that come with labor and that includes the very normal fear that usually arises when we see loved ones in pain. You know the faces of the families of Olympic athletes? While the athlete looks cool as a cucumber, her husband’s face looks drained of color, her father’s eyes are darting nervously here and there, and her mother can only watch through tiny holes she makes between the hands covering her eyes. The family is full of emotion. Does the athlete look to her family members for reassurance that she can really, truly do this? No! She looks at her coach for that reassurance. She looks to her family members for something else: for their love and support. It just wouldn’t be fair to require her family to be calm and collected.
And it’s not fair to ask your partner to be calm and collected during your labor. This is the person who loves you most of all in the world. They deserve to feel all their feelings, including their fear and anxiety and worry, during your labor. It doesn’t mean that those feelings will eclipse all the other feelings they will have in labor. They will also feel excited, elated, proud, inspired. But asking these people to be superhuman, to be able to reassure US while we are in labor even when they may be feeling worried themselves, is asking them to suppress their own experience so that we can have a better one. I think it is more loving to acknowledge that you are in this together and the TWO OF YOU need support.
Of course there is a role for partners, a very important role. These wonderful people can say, “I love you” during labor and it is like magic. When my husband said those little words I swear the contractions melted away. I felt buoyed for a few seconds in the ocean of LaborLand.
But my husband was scared when I was in labor. What he offered me in labor and what my doula offered me in labor were completely different. When I got scared in labor and asked questions like, “How much longer will this go on?” or “Is this normal?” I did not turn to my husband. He has never seen another birth, so if he answered those questions, frankly, I wouldn’t believe him. But my doula I believed. When she said, “You’re safe. Everything is going perfectly,” I could let go of my fear and hold tight to my husband’s hand.
My husband and I rode our roller coaster of emotions through labor and birth. For him, as well as me, there were moments of sheer terror. As a doula, I often say things like, “You’re safe” at a birth and I know that I am speaking to a couple, not just a laboring woman.