You're facing the biggest event of your life (maybe for the first time or maybe you've done it before) and it's taking all your willpower to stay in a positive mind set, to ignore well-meaning relatives and friends as they regale you with their 'birth experiences' and to top it all...your partner goes grey every time you have a midwife's appointment. They won't engage with discussion of birth choices, and any comments about him cutting the cord or catching the baby are met with shudders if you're lucky and expressions of disgust if you're not...
What to do?
So how on earth do you get over this hurdle? You're only human and your fella's apparent insensitivity is making you feel really worried and down on yourself. You know you want him at the birth, but you don't want to spend more time worrying about him than concentrating on giving birth!
1: This is REALLY important. Ask him what he's worrying about. It might surprise you. Once you know what specifically he is afraid of happening you can then begin to address it. If he's worried about watching you being in pain, you can reassure him that you've done lots of birth prep (and hopefully hypnobirthing- which would be great for your partner to attend to change HIS birthing mindset) and you've got it covered. If needs be, get a supportive midwife to talk him through the birth.
2: Give him a really clear role. He may not want to be involved in the actual physiological part of your birth (and it really is best for all of you if you can respect his wishes) but he can hold your hand, make sure that people in the room speak calmly, manage any music, ensure you've got all you need to eat and drink, and send photos via messaging to relatives after the birth while you get some all important bonding time
3. Create your birth plan TOGETHER. Milli Hill has created some amazing icons to help you create a visual birth plan. Find them here at Pinter and Martin:
If he has a really clear idea of what you want and the reasons you're choosing it, he can then be involved in making sure your wishes are met by health professionals. Really recognising where he manages situations well in every day life will give him the confidence to apply his skills and knowledge to supporting your birth.
4. If all of the above doesn't calm him, have you considered having a friend there to support you and therefore give support to your partner? This could be a friend or relative who you feel really comfortable with and can take over the practical stuff, leaving your partner to do whatever it is you've decided will best support you. And if there is no one you particularly want to share your birth space with, you might consider using the services of a doula who is specially trained to support you and your partner through birth and will take the time to get to know your needs as a family.
5. And if your partner is still completely terrified of the birth, it's time to have a really honest discussion about whether his presence there may be less helpful than him supporting you in other ways once the baby is born. It might be helpful to think about alternatives that you can have in place, be that a sister /mother or doula and have your partner nearby. There are so many ways that your other half can add to the birth experience by really being there for you once the baby is born (making sure everything is in place at home: food, cushions, managing visitors- or keeping them at bay- making meals, running baths and changing nappies of course!), that it shouldn't be considered a failure by either of you if you decide that the best thing for a comfortable and positive birth is to have calm people at the birth. It makes sense, and it's really important, so make the right decision for you both and above all: LISTEN AND BE HONEST WITH EACH OTHER!
Jess Summers-Jackson is an award-winning hypnotherapist and hypnobirther