by Kevin B. Doyle
When a woman is in labor, it's not really the time to crack jokes, create and implement hair-brained schemes or use witty sarcasm. If you do, you'll more than likely get an earful and possibly a punch to the arm (or worse).
You don't want to make your partner angry, upset or any more uncomfortable than she already is. Picture if you will a giant press that's squeezing your middle and that you have to *bleep* a watermelon -- not exactly a relaxing venture.
Don't know where to start? We're here to help. Follow these top ten tips and you won't end up in the doghouse.
Don't Say or Do These Things
1. Don't Express Boredom or Impatience
Examples: "This is taking forever!" "How much longer?" "The books all said the average labor went way faster than this!" You get the idea. Don't do it!
2. Don't Compare Your Partner to Anyone
Examples: "My sister didn't need pain meds!" "Your sister barely gained any weight, huh? She looked great like a couple of weeks later, right?" We'd like to add that extra points will be taken off if you compare them to your prior wife or baby mama.
3. Don't Sound or Be Judgmental
Examples: "Pain meds? I thought we agreed you were going to have a non-medicated labor?" Bear in mind that making a joke at this time, like calling her a wimp, won't be met with laughter. Sometimes all plans can be tossed aside for what works in the moment.
4. Don't Up and Leave Your Partner Alone
Your partner needs you during this critical time. So statements like, "You know, it looks like it will be some time still and you don't really need me, so I am going to go and come back later," will not only hurt her feelings, but potentially make your partner feel abandoned. Communicating that you're going to make a quick trip and be back as soon as possible is another story.
5. Don't Make Hurtful Remarks
Asking the nurse or doctor if "they've ever seen a mom so big" before in front of your partner will not score you points. Women, no matter how big or small are sensitive about their size. They're already feeling scared, vulnerable and hormonal. Avoid adding to the mix.
6. Don't Criticize Your Partner's Assets
This point's a bit tricky. It requires that you don't say anything negative but also be ready to say something positive to counter any negative statements she makes. Example: "You look beautiful, honey. No one even notices your roots. The only thing that shows is how shiny your hair is." While the "you look beautiful" part rocks, resist the impulse to joke about it being shiny. She hasn't had the chance to wash it. See #3 above.
7. Don't Look, Act or Appear Horrified at the Birth
Try not to show any noticeable expression of horror on your face during the birth. Avoid that "what the heck is that?!" look. We know it looks bizarre and you wonder if she'll ever look the same again (she will) but please keep that fear to yourself. She needs you to be strong.
8. Don't Joke Around About Procedures
The birth isn't the time to practice your comedy routine. Joking around with the staff to "just put an extra stitch down there" if they are stitching up an episiotomy will land you square in the doghouse. Believe us when we tell you these folks have heard that one before. Bottom-line, your partner will not appreciate hearing jokes of this nature. On the other hand, trying to get your partner to laugh, relax or smile will always earn you points.
9. Don't Flirt with the Hospital Staff
You'd think we wouldn't have to tell you this one, but sadly we feel we do. Many a birth story has been ruined by a partner who thought s/he was being charming by flirting with the nurses, midwives or doctors. It doesn't make you look charming. It makes you look creepy and the staff feel sorry for the new mom. Save the flirting for mom as she deserves you're undivided attention. See #6 for a reminder.
10. Don't Be a Know-it-All
Unless you sincerely believe you should speak up, let the birthing center or hospital staff do what they have been trained to do and do well. If at home, whomever is in charge, has the right of way. No one likes a know-it-all so stick to being a supportive and loving partner and keep your "you know, if it were me, I would..." statements to yourself.
You are now in the know. Have you or your partner been guilty of any of these ten tips? We want to know! Share your story!