1. Be Educated
Possibly the most important thing for you to do in the months leading up to delivery is educate yourself on what to expect. It would be wise for you to understand the terminology of labor and delivery and its typical timeline and course of events. An informed father can be the best advocate for the mother and his baby. Childbirth classes should be attended with an open mind and listening ears. If the mother plans breastfeeding, suggest that you take a breastfeeding class together. Use the other couples in the class as a support group.
2. Be PatientSecond, have patience. Child birthing, especially for first time moms, can be a very long process. Many women labor for hours at home before it is even time to go to the hospital. Be attentive to the mother’s needs, and patiently find ways to help her through labor. Encourage an atmosphere that focuses on peaceful rest.
3. Be Thick-Skinned
Third, you may need to develop some thick skin during this time. She is going to be going through an ordeal that is quite taxing, and as a result may seem irritated. Understand that her feelings are not directed at you, but as a result of the process. Be calm, patient, and relaxed (or as relaxed as possible), even if she seems the opposite.
4. Be the Mother's Advocate
Fourth, advocate for her. You should be well-versed on the birth plan and her preferences. Be sure that whenever possible, those wishes are followed. If interventions are required, ask specific questions about what they are, why they are needed, and if there are any drawbacks to them. Inquire if they are absolutely necessary, if you could wait a bit before using them, and if there are other less invasive alternatives.
5. Be Her Cheerleader
Fifth, be her cheerleader. Encourage her throughout the process with positive affirmations. Let her know how proud you are of her and how well she is doing. You may need to infuse her with confidence in her own abilities. However, this does not mean that you need to be cheering her on like a Red Sox fan at Yankee Stadium. Keep your encouragement calm and relaxed. Even though you might be referred to as "the birth coach," remember that birthing is not a sporting event.
6. Be Understanding
Watch her emotional state before and after birthing. One thing that you can do to help is simply listen to her frustrations and concerns. Be sure that your focus is on her needs and feelings as she talks. Recent studies have revealed it is not uncommon for a majority of women to report disappoint when they do not have the birth for which they hoped.
In the event of emotional trauma following birth, reinforce how well she did in labor and how you admire her for all that she accomplished. Reaffirm that the birth did not goes as expected, but that regardless of the outcome, you could not be more proud of all that she did. Recognize her feelings as valid, and do not dismiss her concerns.
The final piece of advice is to have a token to present to your wife after delivery. It may be a piece of jewelry, a special frame, or other memento. Show your appreciation for all that she has done and for how hard she worked. In the weeks following, your baby will be given so much attention. Find a quiet moment to shower the mother with acknowledgement and love.
You are the most important element the mother has during the most momentous time of her life. You have the power to infuse a positive birthing experience for both of you. Once again, claim your role as a supportive father and partner by seeking to become informed about birthing and postpartum care. If you do so, you will be an asset to your birthing team.