One of the biggest concerns that women have about their birth partner before the birth is that he won’t know what to do or that he’ll do the wrong thing.
One of the biggest fears that men have is a fear of failure. If we’re pretty sure that we’re not going to succeed, we have a tendency to check out. Have you ever seen a football team, down by 28 in the fourth quarter? They’re on the field, running plays, but you can tell when their hearts aren’t in it. They’re just letting time expire so they can get to the locker room.
A checked-out birth partner can be worse than no birth partner at all. Birth partners, think of it from the perspective of the mother in labor. She’s uncomfortable or in pain, and the person she trusts to help her through everything suddenly stops being helpful. Sure, he’s still there, but he’s not doing anything. If she’d known she wouldn’t have help, she could have planned on it, but the pain of dashed expectations while she’s already going through labor can really add up.
If you have a tendency to check out because you’re afraid you’ll fail, recognize that tendency in yourself. Knowing you have that tendency will help you catch yourself feeling like it’s time to check out and do something safe, like turn on the TV. As a birth partner, one of your primary goals is to be emotionally supportive. You can’t do that if you check out.
If you check out because you’re afraid you’ll fail at being emotionally supportive, guess what? You’ve failed.
If you keep yourself engaged in the process and try to be emotionally supportive, at least making an effort even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will succeed.
Checking out guarantees you fail.
Now, if you’re checked in, engaged in the process, and trying to be supportive, you still might have troubles. The more you know, the better you’ve prepared, the more ready you are, the better you’ll do. But even if you’re totally unprepared, being checked in puts you miles ahead of where you’d be if you were checked out.
Have you ever seen a football team down by six with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and 90 yards to go? They’re totally engaged. Totally checked in. Ready to do what it takes to win—because if they sit around and do nothing, they lose.