The Role of the Birth Partner

Bring in Mr (or Ms) Love

Anyone who has come to my classes or workshops will know I am often assigning the birth partner the role of being Mr Love (or Ms Love), as I see that one of the most helpful services they could offer to the labouring woman is to invite the flow of oxytocin, which will so help mother and baby in their journey to greet each other. Oxytocin, often called both the “shy” hormone and also the “contagious” hormone, is definitely a necessary part of the birth experience. How do we take on this role without projecting our own ideas about what brings oxytocin forward onto the birthing woman? Birthing mama will be the source of all knowledge when it comes to discovering what helps her to dive into the oxytocic flow. Knowing yourself can only make this easier, and yet how many antenatal classes put forward the idea that the most important aspect of antenatal care is getting to know yourself in this experience? Then with this deeper knowledge, sharing it with your birth partner so they can attune to what ever it is that you need in order to relax enough to let the hormones flow.

Often partners ask me what do I think might be a useful role? Sometimes I think the role of the partner gets confused to being that of an obstetric expert, a defender of the woman’s space and so on. I think that in the current system where most women haven’t met their professional caregivers until they are in labour, the partner takes on a more significant role as being possibly the only person in the room who really knows the birthing woman, her fears, her hopes, her struggles and her strengths. And loves her with all of what she brings, unconditionally. I think the real experiencing of the unconditional love is what brings balm to any labouring woman. For her to receive the love and support in this way allows her to go more deeply into herself and trust that she is the woman for the job.

Trusting her helps her to trust herself. And we could go further back and say that if the birth partner trusts himself or herself then they model that trust-in-self that is needed in birth. They offer a place where trust is the foundation and the offering in the room, and that the woman can rest in that. She can sense the enormous breadth and depth that is offered as a ground from which to birth from.

So I guess my question to any birth partner might be do you feel able to trust yourself as being the presence of love in this experience, and do you trust that this will be enough? Can you choose love over fear again and again through the labour? Sometimes people might wonder if this is a little flaky, but I offer this role in a way that is as pragmatic as it needs to be. I think it just calls for a clear intention as to what the role is (supporter of oxytocin and endorphins) as opposed to someone who has a role to “make it ok”, “take away the pain,” “protect her” and all the other ideas we might have about the birth partner role. When you offer the presence of love and the decision to trust (both yourself and the labouring woman) then it offers her a space to find her way of working and she is offered the opportunity to know something amazing about herself, however the journey goes, love will always be a great teacher.

It asks for the birth partner to put their own agenda to one side and inhabit the Self that knows what is needed in the moment and to come from that place. If we come from a place of fear or rescue we might want to try and control the situation even in the most subtle of ways to make it more comfortable for ourselves.