The Birth Dance: Mama & Partner in Beautiful Rhythm

We're sharing more wisdom today from a Colorado Birth Professional. Lauren Hasz is a birth doula based in Denver...and we were thrilled when she offered to write about this important subject. 

Photo by Monet Nicole

Photo by Monet Nicole

“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” murmured a soon-to-be-dad, as he watched his fatigued wife briefly resting hours after her water broke. His wife had fought hard and long for her natural birth, laboring through transition-like contractions induced by Pitocin before finally needing something to take the edge off. 

Through those intense hours, I supported the head and shoulders of this brave mama while her husband tirelessly applied counter-pressure and low-back massage. His anguished face reflected the intensity of his wife’s emotions, as they together faced the pain that came rolling in like waves. He never left her side for more than brief bathroom and snack breaks that I insisted upon. He held her through countless position changes, as we tried to allow gravity to work for her tiring muscles.  

He was her rock.

Theirs was the birth dance of a beautiful relationship. Mama in labor. Husband working no less hard right along side her.

Image by Monet Nicole

Image by Monet Nicole

And…their story is just one of many. Partners play a pivotal role in birth. No ifs, ands, or buts. As mama A.B. recounted to me, “Not only did {my husband} say he would support any decision I made about my body and my birth, but he embraced it. During the birth, he was quietly and stoically just THERE. I wasn’t able to articulate what would help me, but it’s like he just knew exactly what I needed from him and did it.”

It’s there in that mama’s words…her husband standing in the gap as an indescribable cord of strength.   

Sometimes though, for one reason or another, the husband is not, should not or cannot be the primary support person. As another mama told me, her husband does not handle the challenges of labor well even though he was her “complete rock” during a miscarriage.  When it came time to actually give birth to her children, her mother was the one who stood by her side during the hard grind of contractions while her husband waited nearby. They had a rhythm that was unique for them – and no less powerful.  

From my experience as a mama and a doula, partners’ efforts are monumentally taxing in their own way, as partners struggle with feelings of inadequacy and potential helplessness. True birth partners are not just along for the ride. In a sense, they “labor” too. During birth, they support physically and emotionally, holding the shaking hands and quaking bodies of birthing mamas. 

Photo by Monet Nicole

Photo by Monet Nicole

 Physical Support

One of my sweetest memories as a doula is of a husband half-sitting in a birth tub, while his wife hung over his legs and grasped his hand with each contraction. I had to do little more than hold the space for them through most of active labor, as the husband physically held his wife up and continually reminded her of their baby’s impending arrival. She was frantic the one or two contractions when his hand was not immediately available, but calm when their fingers were interlocked. His touch imparted the strength and peace she needed to ride out the pain and listen to her body.

In my experience, theirs is not an unusual sweet story. Very little seems to beat a partner’s strength when it comes to performing the double hip squeeze for hours on end. Or a mother’s or sister’s tireless patience when light back massage or hair brushing is needed. If asked, most mamas could easily share how their husbands did “this” or a friend did “that” to help ease the intensity of birth.

A laboring mama needs to know that she is not alone. That her body is not the only one working to bring this baby into the world. That her partner is literally laboring with her.

For many mamas, physical touch holds that power. The power to comfort. The power to strengthen. The power to refocus. A partner’s touch provides the link between the intensity currently being experienced during labor and the joyful expectation of snuggling a wide-eyed infant when labor is finished. A hand on the shoulder or the hip-swaying of a slow dance simply says, “You’re not alone, and we’re going to make it through this together.”  

As mama E.P. shared, “My husband was my advocate, cheerleader, and my support. We bonded more intimately than we have over the last 16 years. He knew my exact desires and helped me through the hard parts.”

Whether that helps comes in the form of massage or an oft-repeated birth mantra, partners ground their mamas in a way no healthcare provider is capable of doing.

Photo by Monet Nicole

Photo by Monet Nicole

Emotional Support

 When I was in labor, it was my husband who kept me focused when I had ultimately decided that giving birth was a bad idea, more painful than I expected, and “I would like to go home now.” That, mind you, while in the midst of pushing.

I will never forget looking up and catching sight of his face, as he watched our baby girl struggle to be born. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he simply whispered to me: “ We are about to hold our daughter.” That was what I needed. Those precious words. His love and emotional support. And, I pushed. And pushed. And, then Abby was on my chest.  

Those precious memories are ones that I hold dear. I am one of the many mamas who would describe their partners’ roles as strengthening, calming, steadying, and refocusing. Partners may not actually experience the “ring of fire,” but they are no less tried by the furnace of birth.   

Aletha Stone, a labor and delivery RN, noted that she was surprised by her need for her husband. “I expected to need my midwife and doula to support me, but Tim was the only person I really needed in each contraction. He kept me strong and grounded and believing in myself.” Elaborating, she explained that she believed her doula and midwife empowered her husband to be her “unwavering rock.”

Photo by Monet Nicole

Photo by Monet Nicole

Unwavering. Even in the midst of the unknowns of childbirth.

It is no surprise that studies mentioned in an article online by USA Today note that at least 14% of dads experience postpartum depression due to hormone levels that actually reflect those of a mom’s after birth. Or that Oxytocin – the hormone of love, birth, and bonding – is released when partners snuggles their newborn babies skin-to-skin. Matter of fact, researchers are now beginning to realize that involved dads’ testosterone levels fall before birth and do not return to their normal levels until about the time that a baby is walking.

I believe it is time to completely discard the stereotype that has lingered for the past several decades of the detached dad smoking a cigar in the waiting room. Supportive partners are birth warriors in their own rights. They physically and emotionally wrap their strength around laboring mamas.  

Photo by Monet Nicole

Photo by Monet Nicole

Lauren Hasz, a doula with Doulas of Denver, lives with her husband and baby girl in Arvada where she pursues her interests as a writer, runner, and coffee drinker. Nearly four years of infertility and a miraculous natural birth experience have given her a passion for providing families with comprehensive emotional support throughout pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postpartum time. Follow her practice at http://www.facebook.com/AnointedBeginnings, read her birth story HERE, or email her at anointedbeginningsdoula@gmail.com to meet Lauren and discuss your ideal birth wishes.