parent opinion

According to The Midwife Mumma, there are two types of partners in the birthing suite.

Last week, at the end of an eight hour shift, I got to care for and witness the most glorious bub full of thick black hair entering our world for the very first time.

Mum was an absolute champion, breathing baby out like a birthing goddess with a few little squeaks in between, and dad was a blubbering mess with his head in one hand, clasping her hand with the other.

When bub rose to mum’s chest, they all embraced and flooded the room with their happy tears and bundles of oxytocin. It was a brilliant shift and beautiful birth with the most in-love, soppy-go-lucky couple and I left on a high.

Then naturally, as I do whenever I am a part of another baby entering the world, I relived my own births on the drive home. Some days I am that motivated by women that I plan on conquering the whole calm birth thing ‘next time’ – and then other times I feel like an epidural is the most suitable option given my partner kind of opted out during my labours.

Questions about childbirth (answered by mums and non-mums). Post continues after video. 

Video by MMC

You see, what I have learnt in my nine years of midwifery is that without a doubt, there are two – only two – types of partners. There are the partners like the above. The Osher Gunsbergs of the birthing world. Those partners that see, hear and feel everything their partner does and almost birth the baby with them.

These partners are tactile. Loving. Nurturing. Intuitive. They breathe with their partners; they reposition them, massage them, caress them. They kiss their foreheads and proceed to wet them with a cold face washer. They run their fingers through their labouring partner’s hair and run them a shower, getting their clothes drenched just to ensure their partners are comfortable and warm enough.

They jump at any alarm that goes off and monitor things closely. They are actively involved in every aspect of the process and you can bet they are more knowledgeable than many other partners. These are the partners that never skipped a birthing class; that had a birth plan from day one that counted down the moments until they could share this special moment with their loved one. These birthing partners are admirable. They have dreamt of this moment forever.

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Please meet Georgia’s youngest brother, Wolfgang. ⁠ We call him Wolfie for short. ⁠ ⁠ He and @Audreygriffen did so well on Friday when he was born perfectly formed with ten fingers and toes, healthy and happy at 3.97kg.⁠ (Though between the delivery bed and the scale he did do a massive poop – and the doc agreed that if he hadn’t he would have topped 4kg easily.) ⁠ ⁠ I am in complete awe of my wife. ⁠ ⁠ What I witnessed her do, the power I saw her summon from within her to bring this boy into the world was utterly astonishing. ⁠ ⁠ As he came closer and closer, her body began to unleash an incredible energy that was absolutely not going to be held back. ⁠ ⁠ Yet Audrey was able to harness it, guide it, and use it to transcend the extraordinary pain she was feeling and channel it all towards an energy that brought this boy alive and well into the world. ⁠ ⁠ That I’ve known Audrey for over five years, and yet had no idea that within her this whole time was an almighty divine force capable of bringing life into the world like this blows my mind and was astonishing to witness. ⁠ ⁠ I can’t think of any single thing a man does in his life that physically equates to what I saw Audrey do. ⁠ ⁠ For me – any marathon or endurance event I’ve ever raced is essentially a wander to the kitchen compared to what I saw Audrey do on Friday. ⁠ ⁠ Wolfie’s big sister Georgia was in the room with us via the most perfect playlist that she made especially for the occasion – and this boy came into the world to the sounds of Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce and Khalid. ⁠ ⁠ Less than an hour after he was born, Wolfie met G for real – and she’s the best big sister he could have ever hoped for. ⁠ ⁠ We are in love and drowning in gratitude, oxytocin and new baby smell. ⁠ ⁠ ⁠ ⁠ ⁠ ⁠

A post shared by Osher Günsberg (@osher_gunsberg) on

Then there are the other partners. The partners like mine that are more the observers; the less involved but still-present partners.

They are the jokers, the typical ‘I’m here if you need me babe, but I’ll just stand back until you do’ kind of partners. They ask what happens next, they ask if we need help with anything and they always offer us a coffee when they duck out for a quick ‘two minute’ (20 minute) break.

They are the partners that we ask to please wet the face washer and they jump up launching to the sink for us then fumbling it back super quickly so we don’t think they are hopeless, which they are absolutely not.

They are the partners that eat their food whilst watching their iPhone and laughing out loud forgetting they’re in a birthing suite.

They’re just far more relaxed about everything… aren’t they?

Midwife
"Then there are the other partners. The partners like mine that are more the observers; the less involved but still present partners." Image: Supplied.
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Four years ago, I was induced with our first child. It was going to be a long day, but my husband didn’t really anticipate just how long. My waters were broken at 7.30am and by 9.45am, one hour and 11 minutes after contractions started, he asked, “how much longer?”

You read that correctly. He wasn’t being rude or abrupt, more excitable with ants in his pants. Fast-forward a few wretched contractions later and an epidural that saved me, I found myself dozing in and out of sleep at midday. I had my mum and my sister with me and baby-daddy, bouncing on the fit ball watching Netflix while giving me the occasional arm rub and lolly in the mouth. Cute.

Before I knew it, I was sound asleep, out cold, dozing through the million contractions whilst mum read a book and my sister scrolled through Instagram.

I awoke at 2:30pm, looking around the room, flipping the TV channels until I realised my partner was MIA. M. I. A!!! I knew he had ants in his pants and joked several times about returning to work for a few hours to kill some time, but where on earth was he?

Oh... he was at work. He knew I was in good hands, so why not duck across the road to work for an hour or two?

Initially I laughed and thought how typical this was of him, because he doesn’t miss a beat. But post-birth it hit me that my partner left me, in my most vulnerable state, to attend work.

Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo speak to midwife, Fiona MacArthur, about what it's like catching babies for 30 years. Post continues after podcast. 

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Almost 20 months later I found myself in the same predicament – in the birthing suite in labour with our second child at 2.30am, with a reminder that he had to go and open up work at 5.15am.

I was gobsmacked and frustrated but I wouldn’t let it ruin my birth. It was what it was. I will be honest and say it devastated me that he chose to be apart from me during those times, but it wasn’t until I experienced a similar situation with a patient of mine that it all made sense.

They were a corporate couple, fairly relaxed until things heated up a few hours into labour. The husband took me aside and said he was going to sneak out for a run while his partner was sleeping in labour.

My first thought was, ‘Oh my goodness, you are just like my partner,’ but then it dawned on me: the guy was frantic. He was stressed. He was anxious and he needed some air. He needed a moment without saying he needed a moment. He was a nervous wreck and this was his coping mechanism.

Off he went and the tension in the room immediately halved. His wife awoke shortly after asking after his whereabouts and I reluctantly stated that he had stepped out for a run. I was waiting for her to blow up and pick up the phone.

Her reply? “Thank goodness, just what he needed.”

Now, while my partner and her partner definitely aren’t considered the norm in the birthing world, it was their way of coping. I harboured so much angst over the last few years when as it turns out, he was more stressed than me and had to go to work to cope.

Midwife
Amelia with her two sons. Image: Supplied.
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I do crave a birth where my partner is stroking my back and icing my face, but I know my birth experiences don’t define the type of father he is. He may not have been in complete awe of me like Osher was of his wife and like many other partners are, though he certainly praises my mothering and the dedication I give towards our children on a daily basis.

What I have learnt from observing thousands of couples during the most important time of their life is that birth is beautiful. Partners are beautiful. Now, as I swipe on for another shift in the busy world of birthing, I have no idea what to expect of the day. Will I get a hands-on partner or one that copes best outside of the chaos?

Either or, whichever you are, you are all bloody amazing.

Amelia is a mother of two, a Registered Midwife and sleep consultant.  She resides in Melbourne with her partner and family and is known for her instagram @themidwifemumma where she talks all things pregnancy, birth, babies, sleep & beyond.


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Tags: childbirth , features , midwifery , parenting-2
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