Moms have prenatal pilates and weekly emails that let you know whether your baby-to-be is a turnip this week or an eggplant - but how can partners prepare? Fathers and other partners can and should be involved in every step of the pregnancy, from ultrasounds to the hospital birth tour, but in addition to that, there are a few specific ways you can get ready for the difficult work of being a labor support person.
1. List your fears. Pregnant moms aren't the only ones who fear labor and delivery. But writing down all of your anxieties ("what if we don't make it to the hospital in time?" "what if I faint during labor?") can feel like a real relief, making them seem more concrete and manageable, and a lot less scary.
2. Communicate. It's tempting to want to be the strong, silent type, especially if your pregnant partner is already feeling stressed out. Laying your own burdens on top of hers may seem unkind, but open communication is the key to surviving labor - and parenting.
3. Make a plan together. You don't want to wait until the rush of delivery to realize you two had very different visions of things like pain management, initiating breastfeeding, or circumcision. Make sure you know exactly what your role is supposed to be - does your partner want you to massage her shoulders? to cut the cord? to catch the baby?
4. Know your partner. Some women want a very hands-on partner during labor, offering constant contact and encouragement, while others prefer to manage the pain quietly and be left mostly alone. Of course, sometimes women in labor surprise you - a born extrovert becomes quiet and inward, for example - so be flexible and responsive to her cues.
5. Pack your own bag. If you plan on sleeping overnight in your partner's room, you should come prepared with what you need to be feel at home: a pillow, blanket, pajamas, toiletries, and anything else that will keep you as comfortable as possible while sleeping in an uncomfortable fold-out bed or chair.
6. Get organized. If you're planning on taking time off work after your baby comes, make sure you've communicated with your boss and coworkers. As your due date nears, do your best to catch up on errands, check in with friends and family, get the house in order, and generally get as much done as possible in order to minimize stress in those first few weeks with an infant. Then you can spend your time with mom and baby, not running errands, answering emails, or catching up on tasks like cleaning and yard work.