One of the best things about being a writer is seeing your work in print. A few weekends ago I sat down for toast and tea on Sunday morning and opened up The Sunday Telegraph's Body + Soul liftout to see my words in a half-page feature. To me the article represented a blend of two careers - freelance writing and pre-natal yoga teaching.
Over the years I've taught hundreds of pregnant women and have thoroughly enjoyed meeting their birth support partners - dads-to-be, mums-to-be, grandmas, sisters, aunties, best-friends. The role of the support person in labour is so very important, perhaps even essential to a positive birth experience. Put simply, a labouring woman is at her most vulnerable; she needs to be supported by someone she loves and trusts - a confident, prepared partner.
Over countless classes I have seen dads-to-be transform within a few hours - from the fearful man to the "I'm going to catch my baby!" father. I teach birth workshops from a real and very honest perspective; I share simple and practical techniques. And it works.
It was such an honour to share my knowledge (and the wisdom of others) in a newspaper that reaches such a broad demographic. A few of you requested I publish it here....so below you will find the original version. Enjoy!
Labour Tips For Dads
Supporting a pregnant woman as she labours is a privilege but it can also be a confronting and emotional experience. Pre-natal yoga teacher Jodi Wilson offers a step-by-step guide to labour and suggests practical techniques to assist in the journey towards birth.........
1. The Estimated Due Date
Due dates are an estimate at best. Being 'overdue' can be a highly emotional experience. Most women will start to internalise in preparation for labour; stay home in their 'nest' and seek comfort and quiet.
Be mindful that anxiety and stress will not induce labour but gentle encouragement, humour, sex, acupuncture, a brisk walk and a good cry may.
2. Early labour
Adequate and continual support during labour can significantly reduce the need for medical intervention and that support begins with the very first contraction. Early labour can last for hours or sometimes days.
"Resting is essential in early labour to ensure she conserves the energy required for active labour. Be gentle with her, keep her calm and offer her water between contractions." - Lauren Horton, Doula at Singingbird Birth Support.
3. Fear of the Unknown
First time mums fear the unknown and second-time mums fear the known. As labour progresses it's easy to become overwhelmed by the hours and challenges that lay ahead.
"The best way for her to stay present is to focus on her breath. Encourage her to mentally repeat 'let' as she inhales and 'go' as she exhales," - Mardi Bell, Director of Yogaways.
4. Active Labour
During active labour, when contractions come regularly every two to three minutes and last for 60-90 seconds, movement is encouraged - swaying, squatting or walking. Some women like firm massage on the arms, back and thighs.
When it comes to massage don't be concerned with fancy technique - but keep in mind that you may be doing it for hours at a time. If she doesn't want to be touched, stay close and offer encouragement.
5. The Mental Challenge
Remaining positive is incredibly difficult, especially if labour is long. If she begins to doubt herself and her ability, acknowledge that the job of labour id hard and suggest a different position, a shower or a bath - water can bring welcome relief.
When you notice that she is losing confidence look her in the eye and say: "You CAN and you ARE doing it."
We control so much in our lives and yet no-one can control the birth journey. The essence of birth is surrender - letting go of expectations, relinquishing control and literally going with the flow.
"My partner Terry wholeheartedly believed in me and my body's ability to birth. His support encouraged me to surrender and let my body labour - because it was going to do it anyway." - Lena Tarasenko, mum to Harper and Sonny.
7. The Sound of Birth
Forget the Hollywood scream, labour sounds deep and primal and can be described as a roar or a moan. Sound is one of the most powerful techniques a labouring woman can use - it lengthens the exhalations and soothes the nervous system.
If she is feeling self-conscious about making sound go ahead and join her. There is a neuro-muscular connection between the mouth and the cervix, the throat and the birth canal - if she keeps her mouth open and soft her cervix and birth canal will do the same.
Regardless of preparation there are some circumstances where intervention is necessary and accepting it can be challenging. However, intervention can sometimes assist towards achieving a natural birth.
"We hoped for a drug-free labour but when we realised that Kesh was regressing we accepted our midwife's recommendations for an epidural. We very quickly learnt the importance of surrendering to the birth journey. Roo was born eight hours later and I exploded with joy, relief, ecstasy and love," - Tim Coulson, proud new dad.
Transition is when the cervix is nearing full dilation and the contractions are very close together. Often women experiencing transition will display a range of emotions - despair, sadness, confusion, fear and anger - often directed towards you. Never take it personally.
"Stay with her even if she tells you to leave. Use loving words, remind her that she will be holding her baby soon. Breathe with her, embrace her." - Lisa Richards, Independent Midwife at Bella Birthing.
When she feels the urge to push she has reached second stage. Baby is ready to descend into the birth canal and pushing commences with the next contraction. If all is going well you may, depending on er position, have the opportunity to catch your baby.
"If you are interested in catching your baby it should eb discussed with your partner and her caregiver during pregnancy. At the time of birth listen to her needs and acknowledge her requests as they can change at any time." - Lisa Richards.