How Your Partner Can Catch Your Baby

Dad helps catch his baby after a water birth
How Your Partner Can Catch Your Baby. Photo © ArtisticCaptures/Getty Images

In a time not so long ago, having someone cut the cord was considered to be a bit out there. Now it is nearly universal that every mother at least considers, even if only for a moment, who she wants to cut the cord.

The version of who wants to cut the cord at today’s births is who will help catch the baby. Catching babies has been done at home births for a very long time. It can be called a lot of things:

  • three handed catch
  • assisting with the birth
  • daddy catch

What you call it doesn’t matter, it's about the act of having someone help the baby being born.

Many dads and partners really enjoy this special moment. They talk about being the first one to touch the baby from the outside world and of being a true part of the experience. I love to watch dads and others beam from ear to ear when they talk about it.

One dad told me that it really meant a lot to him to be able to help lift the baby up and on to mom, “I knew she was going to hold the baby skin to skin right after birth. I wanted her to have that, but at the same time, I knew I’d be aching to hold my little boy soon. It was different when she was pregnant – there wasn’t an option, but now he was out.”

How the catch happens depends on many factors, most importantly safety. The practitioner you’ve hired never leaves your side, constantly monitoring what’s going on, ready to tell you to step aside at any moment. You’re told step by step what to do and how to do it.

It will also largely depend on the comfort level of the practitioner. I have attended births where the three handed catch merely meant mom’s boyfriend had a gloved hand sort of near the baby as she was lifted up to mom, and I’ve been to births where a washed but bare handed partner did almost everything except check for a nuchal cord. Communication is the key.

Once the baby is safely on mom, you can move out of the way and let the doctor or midwife finish up, including the placenta. This is a chance for you to sneak up next to mom and baby, snuggling with them as a family. You can also take photos or do whatever you would like to do at this point.

If this is something that you even remotely want to talk about with your practitioner, start now. Do not wait until labor starts. Once you figure out what your plans are, ask how you need to remind them or what to look for at the birth. They may ask you to write it in your birth plan or to remind them at some point that this is what you are planning to do.

As a doula, I used to see this only at home births. Gradually I saw it in the hospital, but only with midwives at that location. Now I see it in a fair number of births with a wide variety of practitioners.

As a mom, it sounded great to me when I first heard about it. I was thrilled at the thought of my husband getting to help out. I talked to my midwife about it and she was all on board. I was shocked to find my husband wasn’t really that interested. I didn’t talk about it for awhile. My midwife asked me as the birth grew closer what we had decided about it. I told her I wasn’t sure about it, that my husband wasn’t too thrilled. She said okay and that was that. When I started pushing, I heard her say, “Okay Kevin, come over here.” He didn’t bat an eye and stepped right over.

I was too busy to be surprised. I’ll admit watching the birth through his eyes was neat. I’d push and his eyes would get wider. He started smiling even bigger. The midwife would lean over and whisper to him, he’d nod and do something. She’d occasionally lean over and do something. When all was said and done, he’d helped until baby was halfway out and the midwife needed to finish up, Kevin then swooped in and laid the baby on me. It was such a great experience that he chose to catch our other babies as well. (Well, one flew out into his hands, so does he really get credit there?)

There are also many moms who choose to catch their own baby, though that’s not the topic for this article. If this is something that interests you, be sure to  talk to your midwife or doctor about how this works.