How to support your wife through childbirth

A primer on the dos and dont’s for first-time fathers with babies incoming.

Childbirth is the most feminine of feminine things. This is foreign territory for men, and in most cultures men are not present during childbirth. I think it is creationally appropriate for a man to be present at the birth of his children (who do you think helped Eve during childbirth?) but you must understand your place there.

You are there because you and your wife are one flesh—so when she is at her weakest, you must make up the lack with your own strength.

It is important to understand what this does and does not mean…

You don’t have to control everything

You are not required to be both the managing director and battlefield general of Operation Childbirth, Inc. Micro-management is not necessary nor desirable.

You do have to control your guys’ “inner world”

You must be the rock against which the storm can beat, able to absorb whatever your wife is going through without being shaken, while shielding her from anything unsafe.

Knowing the lay of the land

If you haven’t done this before, labor seems mysterious and daunting. It helps to understand the main stages:

Stage 1 is early and then active labor. Nothing happens here that you haven’t dealt with before. Your wife will cramping, uncomfortable and in pain, mildly nauseated, and often tired. None of this is new, so think about it in advance. What have you done in these situations in the past that has worked well? What does she need? Figure out your standard operating procedure here, and follow it during stage 1, unless she tells you she wants something else.

Be proactive about readiness. E.g., take time to try out different massage techniques and backrubs in advance, so you are prepared with a gameplan; make sure you have charged all the devices you might need; make sure you have any music she wants to listen to; pack a birthing bag that you can pick up and go without having to run around finding anything; etc.

Stage 2 is when your wife actually starts having to push. You will know this is happening because the midwife will talk a lot about being in transition (between stage 1 and 2), and your wife will probably start screaming. Labor really starts to suck hard here, and it can be rather volatile.

This is new territory, and there isn’t much you can do to prepare because you don’t know how your wife will be. Don’t overthink it. Be ready to do whatever you need to, without becoming so hyper-attentively fussy that you freak her out. Stay calm and relaxed, and listen much more than you speak. Don’t say nothing; silence implies that you have shut down. Just limit your talking to periodic encouragement, without constant questioning. She will let you know if she needs something.

Stage 3 is once the baby is born. The placenta still needs to come out, but this is generally not a big deal and you can all calm down a bit. However, at this stage your wife will be exhausted, and there will be a lot more that you can do to help her, because there will be a baby to take care of. She is unlikely to be able to clean, change, or dress the baby. That will fall to you. She is probably going to need you to help with many things. The first night is generally very challenging. It is important that you are there, both to help and support her, and also to learn about the new baby together in a place with support from midwives.

Day 3 after the birth is when postpartum hormones kick in. This can make your wife weepy and emotional. Be ready to support her, and keep an eye on it. If it persists for many days, it could be postpartum depression, and you should talk to your midwife about it.

Getting ready together

You are going to have much more confidence, and your wife will feel much safer, if you prepare together beforehand. By covering logistics and expectations now, you will both have a better foundation for action and communication later. Talk about everything with her.

Two final things:

Firstly, men are often traumatized when they see their wives brutalized by the curse on Eve. Stay stable. You should watch some childbirth videos beforehand so you have a basic idea of what to expect. Newborns also look quite alarming sometimes—covered in gunk, purplish-blue, sometimes with a “conehead.” Forewarned is forearmed.

Secondly, don’t circumcise your baby if you have a boy. Modern circumcision is not like circumcision as given by God to the Jews. It removes far more—including highly sensitive nerves that can never regrow—and not uncommonly causes sexual dysfunction. It is a tragic irony that Christians today are performing an extreme mutilation which was invented by Rabbis in the early days of Christianity, literally for the purpose of making it impossible for Christian converts to reverse circumcisions.

Credit to my wife, Smokey the Magnificent, for laying out many of the ideas that ultimately became this article.