Like many women, my first experience with childbirth was a complete blur. All I remember is that at some point, I had incredibly painful contractions, later got an epidural, and 25 hours after labor began, we were joined by a sweet baby girl. All the details of what happened during those 25 hours though? Unclear. About 10 minutes after my daughter was born, I remember yelling to my husband, “take a picture!”
The photo evidence I have from my first birth experience consists of a selfie I took of my belly upon admittance to the hospital, and then 25 hours later, a photo of my daughter laying on my chest. Nothing in between.
As I prepared to go through labor for a second time, I knew I wanted to remember the details. But I also knew I wouldn’t have the energy to be the one remembering them. Thankfully, my husband would be there through it all and could be the one to document the event.
Before you head into labor and delivery, make sure to set aside some time to have a discussion with your partner or support person so they know exactly how to best support you during the big day.
Unsure where to begin? Here are some things your partner should know before labor.
1. What Pictures to Take
Like I mentioned, it wasn’t until after my baby was in the world for a few minutes that we realized we hadn’t taken any pictures. Talk to your partner early and often to remind them to take pictures. If there are specific things you’d like pictures of, let them know. Better yet, write out a list so they can reference it. While in the moment you may not want your picture taken (childbirth isn’t necessarily your most photogenic moment), years down the line, you’ll probably be happy you have these real and raw snapshots. So take the picture, even if you feel like a sweaty mess.
Some snapshots to consider: getting to the hospital, final images before pushing or going in for a C-section, the moment the baby comes out, first moments of skin-to-skin (for both you and your partner), baby being weighed and measured, first time breastfeeding, and leaving the hospital.
2. What Details to Document
If you want a record of your birth story for your baby book or to share with friends and family, ask your partner to take notes in their phone of what happens when. I know this isn’t something everyone cares about, but I think it’s super interesting to look back at the details.
With my second birth (which was a scheduled induction), I had my husband write notes that included when we got to the hospital, when I started Pitocin, when my water broke, when I requested and received the epidural, when I started pushing, and when the baby arrived. Looking back, I wish I had the same details from my first birth, but I’m glad I have them with my second.
3. Where They Should Stand
Some women are adamant that they don’t want their partner seeing what actually happens as that baby comes out and requests that their partner stay above the waist. I was one of those women until I was actually going through labor. When the time came, I didn’t care who stood where or what they saw, I just wanted that baby out (nearly three hours of pushing will do that to you!).
If you do have a major preference, talk about this with your partner and make a plan you are both happy with.
4. How They Can Help During Contractions
While it’s impossible to know what a contraction feels like before you have them, you can still discuss in advance ways your partner can help ease the pain. Review different positions and massage techniques. You can also discuss what you think will be helpful and what will not be helpful while being mindful this is likely to change when you’re actually in labor.
5. Who Should Get Updates
Since you’re likely to be busy during labor, discuss with your partner who should know the status. Perhaps you want your parents notified throughout the process or you’d prefer to keep things between you and your partner until baby arrives. Devise a plan so your partner can be the main point of communication to the outside world.
6. How to Advocate for You
There can be a lot going on during labor and delivery, and it can be really helpful to have another person to help you communicate your needs. Discuss your birth preferences with your partner so they can help you speak up or speak up for you when things get intense. For example, if you’re sure you want an epidural, your partner can help to ensure you get it when you’re ready. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, some women know they don’t want an epidural and don’t want to be asked about it. Again, your partner can help with this communication.
7. What Not to Do
Generally speaking, if there are things you know will drive you crazy during labor, tell your partner in advance. Again, this is hard to know before you’re in the situation, so you should also be sure to vocalize what isn’t helping you as it’s happening.
8. What You Want to Eat After Delivery
And finally, labor can be exhausting, and you may find yourself incredibly hungry once it’s over. If you already know what you’re going to want to have for your first post-labor meal (my selection was sushi), let your partner know so they can figure out the details. You don’t want to be scrolling DoorDash while trying to feed and soothe your baby. Let your partner handle those details while ensuring you get exactly what you want—and deserve!