Men, you probably don’t realize this, but the single most important type of support you can provide is…
Take a guess. Is it “emotional support” or “physical support”?
Emotional support means things like being loving, reassuring, holding her hand, helping to distract her when she needs it, and helping her to focus when she needs to.
Physical support means things like getting her water when she’s thirsty, helping with comfort techniques, holding her leg while she’s pushing, and we will even include things like helping make sure she gets pain medication or an epidural when needed.
On the one hand, touchy-feely stuff. On the other, tangible things-I-can-do.
You’re probably thinking it’s not even close. You’re right. Not even close.
While researching the Field Guide to Being an Awesome Birth Partner, I heard a story. A young lady headed to the hospital to give birth. For reasons that don’t affect the story, she ended up having to go alone. She didn’t have a support person that could come with her. Not the father of the baby, not one of her parents, not a sister, not a close friend. I felt bad hearing that.
It turned out to be a fairly long and painful birth. Because she didn’t have a support person with her, the nursing staff filled that role. From what I understand, they always had at least one nurse there just to be a support person, in addition to any nurses there for the usual medical tasks.
Finally, the baby was born, she got a chance to rest, and at some point, she was given some sort of “how’d we do” survey about the birth. One of the questions was something along the lines of “On a scale of 1-10, how enjoyable was your birth experience? 1=awful, 10=rainbows and unicorns”
She put down 10.
Someone on the hospital staff noticed the answer to that question, and went to talk to her, thinking she had, perhaps, misunderstood the rating scale. After all, it had been a long, painful birth–not just by the new mother’s experience, but according to the opinion of the medical professionals as well.
“Oh, no, I understood it. I meant to put ten,” she said. “Yes, it hurt a lot. But I’ve never felt more loved and supported in my life!”
So there you have it. Emotional support, at least to a woman in labor, is usually far more important than anything you’ll provide in terms of physical support.
So, men, while those physical support skills are important, being able to provide emotional support will be much more important to the woman you love.
It’s not even close.