The best support person may not be the most obvious. Sometimes husbands or partners can distract from your labour, rather than help. Only in the last 30 or so years have men been expected to be in the delivery room.
The most unlikely…
The best support person I have encountered was the most unlikely. An eighteen-year-old man the lady in labour had never met.
A young woman, about eighteen years old herself, was in labour, and quite distressed that her partner was not coping.
He sat in the corner with his hoodie pulled so far over his face he looked like a caterpillar.
He sat in the corner with his hoodie pulled so far over his face he looked like a caterpillar. This was before mobile phones had games and internet – he couldn’t hide behind a screen. So our young lady called her friend, who bounded into the delivery room ready to help.
She had good intentions and tried her best, but was completely out of her depth and did not know what to do. She just stood at the foot of the bed. After about fifteen minutes, she called her boyfriend for her own support, and upon his arrival, flapped her hands then took herself off to the corner.
This new boyfriend was the most helpful person I’ve ever encountered in thirty- five years in this job. It appeared that he and the lady in labour had never met before, but this young man helped her into the bath, held the shower head while she washed, massaged her back (more do’s and don’ts for partners here), and helped hold her legs while she pushed. He seemed very engrossed in the process and not in the least concerned that he was up close and personal with the intimate parts of his girlfriend’s friend.
I don’t know what was going through any of their heads, and I’m sure a group dinner a few nights later would have been an interesting affair to attend.
So what makes a good support person?
1.Someone who can cope with you being in pain. Some partners simply cannot handle seeing someone they love in pain.
2.Someone with a stomach for blood, sweat, and tears. Last year a labouring lady arrived with a girlfriend. Her partner was not coming. The couple had decided that labour and birth were not for him, and he was more likely to be a hindrance than a help. I silently applauded them – it was a tough decision to make and goes against modern expectations.
3.Someone you can trust to support you if you change your mind about your birth plan. Some partners get upset when the plan changes. Labour doesn’t go to plan, so when the time comes, do what you need to do, not what you wrote down four months ago.
Have a think about it when you visit the bathroom for the 743rd time tomorrow.
The best support person may not be the most obvious.