The first time I heard that a woman’s grip during a contraction can be hazardous I thought it was kind of funny. But when I heard of an actual husband whose actual finger was broken by his actual wife, I was pretty impressed.
When a woman is having a really serious contraction she might like to squeeze down on something. The thing is, if that contraction is really strong she might squeeze really hard. She might try to match the force of her uterus which is, itself, squeezing really hard. She might not have any idea how hard she’s squeezing or she may be fully aware of it. But either way, if you’re the one being squeezed make sure you’ve given her a part of your body that won’t crack under pressure.
Here’s what I say to students: Put out two fingers.
This is what the experienced midwives and doulas do. Moms in transition and reaches for a hand: Two fingers shoot out from the side. Mom grabs hold and squeezes. No bones are broken. Maybe the tips of the fingers get a little purple for a second, but then mom lets go and all is fine.
If you put a full hand out? Well the pressure of those fingers getting crumpled up together can be too much. At the least it hurts like hell. But at the worst, a bone can actually break. Then last week when I was babbling about this in class, a hand shot up and one of the pregnant women shared a story of her own sister who broke her husband’s finger during a particularly vigorous squeeze.
Hold hands people! Hold on tight. But moms, you only get two fingers in active labor.