Know your facts. If you know going in that this might be a really long day, you’ll be better able to manage your (and your partner’s) expectations. So keep in mind that spending ten to 20-plus hours in labor is not unusual for first-time moms (though a recent study found that six and a half hours is typical). Here’s where you come in: Break out the board games, feed her as many ice chips as she wants, and walk with her if she’s up for it. Gently massage her head, back, or feet if she’ll let you, and hold her hand during those really rough contractions.
Keep smiling. Prolonged intense pain can make even the sweetest woman swear like a sailor and the toughest woman come undone. Be prepared for either or both and try to ignore any negative comments your honey may hurl your way. She (probably) doesn't mean what she says.
Expect the unexpected. No one — not even the most experienced obstetrician — can predict how your wife’s labor and delivery will go, so keep an open mind in case you need to adjust your birth plan. For example, you two may have discussed a delivery without medication, but things can change as labor progresses. For many women, the transition phase of labor (when dilation is around 8 cm) is the most painful part and an epidural may suddenly seem like a good idea.
Be her advocate. During labor, your normally take-charge partner may not be able to speak up for herself, so be ready to be assertive on her behalf. Insist on speaking with the doctor if you or your wife is uneasy about what’s happening. Be a squeaky wheel if the anesthesiologist is AWOL. Be firm but respectful: Even in a critical medical situation (an emergency C-section, for example), you have the right to ask for at least a brief explanation of why an intervention is being made.
Capture the moment, but don’t miss it. When it comes to documenting your baby’s grand entrance, technology can be a blessing and a curse. If you get too caught up in filming or tweeting about the birth, you may not experience it for the incredible moment that it is. And one more word of caution about your delivery movie: Just because it’s possible to share it with everyone doesn't mean you have to.