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It's a Guy Thing

It's a Guy Thing

WebMD Feature

As you might expect from a man who later wrote several books on fatherhood, Armin Brott did a lot of things right as he supported his then-wife through the births of their two children. Except for one blunder: He used the C-word.

When the going got tough during the second birth, Brott suggested -- apparently too indelicately -- a cesarean section.

"She had been in labor for 20 hours, plus 16 hours the week before," recalls Brott, who also has a syndicated radio show called "Positive Parenting" in San Francisco. "I thought, God, this is enough already -- who the hell wants to go through this?"

Well, she did, he quickly realized. Two words said it all. "She said 'f--- you,' frankly," says Brott, sheepishly.

That big day is sure to stretch limits -- and not just for the one pushing the baby out. The dad-to-be has lots of pressure, too. But even with the dubious distinction as "The Coach," how can he possibly have all the answers?

"Here's a person who's never had a menstrual cramp, and we're asking him to empathize with somebody who's in freakin' labor," says Susanrachel Condon, a certified nurse midwife, doula and massage therapist in New York City. "It puts a big burden on him."

Nor is it easy straddling the game and sidelines at the same time. "They're going through their own emotional process in the labor, too," says Erica Lyon, a childbirth educator and president of the Childbirth Education Association of Metro New York.

The best game plan? Drop the sports metaphor, for starters.

"It's not about coaching," Condon says. "Women don't need a coach. They know how to give birth. They need support. Labor should be like lovemaking. Hold her. Touch her. Acknowledge her. Let it be intimate. Light the candles. Put on the music. Give her something sensual to eat. Be her lover, not her coach."

Top 5 Ways To Be A Supportive Partner During Labor

No. 1: Be prepared. It's easy to feel scared and helpless, especially if you've never been through it before. But the more you understand about the birth process and what's normal, the more comfortable you'll be.

"Having a basic understanding of what's going to happen with her -- and a basic understanding of how they can help -- makes partners feel a little more in control in a very out-of-control situation," Lyon says.

That means getting a childbirth education class under your belt and reading some childbirth books. There's a slew of them written especially for dads, including "The Birth Partner," by Penny Simkin and "The Expectant Father," by Brott.

That goes for the mom-to-be, too.

"I would encourage women to educate themselves enough about the normal labor process and all their choices, and put the support they need in place, so that they're not venting on their partner during labor," Lyon says. "Women tend to go off on their partner when they're frightened, scared or don't trust the people around them."

Make sure you've shared your feelings and expectations about the birth with your wife ahead of time, not only so that you can anticipate her needs but can talk through any potential differences, like attitudes toward pain management.

Bone up on all the potential detours. Brott recalls his unsettled feelings when his first child had to be delivered by an emergency C-section. They sent him out of the room abruptly so they could prep his wife and give him a chance to get into some scrubs.

"It was disturbing because I wanted to be there to help and because I was completely out of the loop and had no idea what was going on," Brott says. "Ask the doctor: What's going to happen? Where will I be? What's my role going to be? Will you throw me out?"

No. 2: Offer a variety of comfort measures. Doing something concrete will help you feel more useful and connected to what's going on. You might offer her drinks (or snacks, depending on the facility), put on some music, give her a massage or suggest a different labor position or hot bath.

Before Condon gave birth, for example, she and her husband, Richard, had discussed certain poetry she might find relaxing. So as she soaked in a warm bath to relieve the pressure from contractions, Richard didn't need any cues and began reading Walt Whitman to her.

"I didn't need to wonder what to do, or even what to read," he says. "It'll make the partner feel a lot more apt if he has some concrete things to do."