Witnessing the woman he loves in
the middle of intense and painful contractions may be a very new
experience for your partner. It is a natural response to want
to take the pain away, to make it better for those we love and
cherish. Sometimes a partner will feel afraid or guilty that he
cannot share the pain. You must address these feelings before
labor, so that they do not inhibit your coping abilities or distract
Reading this chapter together can
help you develop a pattern for relating during labor that does
not inhibit your ability to cope with pain. It helps to establish
realistic expectations of each other and to open channels for
communicating your needs. You need to be supported and encouraged
to deal with contractions during active labor and not protected
from normal pain.
You will find your energy diverted
if your partner is so uncomfortable with your expressions of pain
that instead of encouraging you, he only wants to stop your pain.
This often happens when a partner takes on too much responsibility
for his part in the process. First-time fathers often feel helpless
when they expect more of themselves than is possible. A husband's
job is to comfort and encourage, not to make the pain go away.
It is a mistake for either of you to expect that your partner
knows any more about labor than you do, or that he can lessen
your pain or protect you from all intrusions -- medical or otherwise.
Neither of you should expect this to be his role.
If you have concerns about medical
interventions, consider involving a trained labor or childbirth
assistant. It is always a good idea to have available a knowledgeable
person who can support you and your partner. Too often women express
regret that their husbands did not know enough to comfort them
during labor; some even end up angry at their partners. A husband
may feel he failed when his wife's expectations for his role were
not realistic. This common pitfall can be avoided by having a
support person present who can tell you that what you are experiencing
is normal and healthy. Taking time to read this chapter and to
participate in the exercises in this book will give you a more
It is also important to stop taking
care of anyone else while you are in labor, including your partner.
This is not a time when you can afford to inhibit your expression
or the release of pain. Do not play the role of hostess. Labor
is a time when you owe all your attention and loving concern to
You and your partner are learning
about the process of labor together. By sharing your fears and
expectations, you can eliminate any false beliefs about comfort
or protection that either of you may have. This can clear the
way for loving support that is possible and realistic. True intimacy
can make a difference in the quality of your journey into the
unknown. The foundations for intimacy are honesty and sharing.
Whatever your labor brings, it can be a shared experience that
deepens your relationship rather than an isolating experience
that alienates you from each other. How you travel through labor
together can make all the difference as you begin your new family.
Copyright 1993 by Shadow and Light Publications.
Reprinted with permission from the author and publisher. This
excerpt may not be reproduced in any manner, including electronic,
without prior written consent from the publisher.