Dad, if you are going into the labor and delivery experience with those Hollywood type expectations – drop them. Chances are your partner won’t sneeze and the baby will gracefully slide out, she might need more from you then just a cold compress on her forehead, and things may not go as you planned. I will, however, give you a heads up on a few things, to help you prepare…
Take a Childbirth Class
I know you think you might not need it, but trust me when I say – soaking up some extra knowledge won’t hurt. Chances are, you might even learn something. Pay close attention to what those early labor signs are and learn what to expect once labor really kicks in. Listen to any tips or suggestions from the teacher, as he/she may talk directly to the dads at some point. Check your local hospital to see if they offer in-person or remote classes and find one that works for you and your partner.
Remember What You Learned in That Childbirth Class
Taking the initiative to attend a childbirth class is great, but really only half the battle. Pay close attention and revisit some of that important information during labor and delivery. Know when and how to keep track of her contractions. Help coach your partner through some of the breathing techniques, rub their lower back or offer a shoulder to rest on. Those classes cover A LOT of information, and it is easy to be overwhelmed with all of the information. Remember a few key points and your partner will thank you!
Birth Can (Will) Be Messy & Loud
There will be blood and amniotic fluid. There will be crying and screaming, from both mom and baby. There will be an umbilical cord that needs to be cut. There will be a room full of people and chaos may break out. If you are sensitive to blood, if you even think you may be sensitive to blood, it is best to stay “above the curtain” as they say. You will still be a great dad, even if you don’t watch the actual birth itself. You don’t want to risk passing out, when your partner is delivering a whole human being from her body. Hold your partner’s hand or leg, offer some words of encouragement and be present in the moment.
If your baby is being delivered via C-section, you won’t see quite as much of the mess because it will be blocked off by the curtain and your partner won’t need as much physical support from you because she isn’t pushing. However, she may still appreciate you rubbing her shoulder or talking with her about how excited you are to finally meet your little one.
Don’t Be Easily Offended
Grow some tough skin between now and the time your baby is born. When mom has been laboring for hours, and not dilating as quickly as she would like and is also waiting on the epidural to kick in, she cannot be blamed for anything that comes out of her mouth. She loves you and is so excited to be on this journey with you…you are her person, and you make her truly happy…but don’t expect any compliments during the thick of it. Put a smile on, rub her back and remember these moments to laugh about in the future.
Advocate For & Support Mom
This is important. Mom needs you and is expecting you to show up for her. Of course help her breathe through each contraction and put some added pressure on her lower back, but also be her voice. If she asks for ice chips, be sure she gets some ice chips. If she wants or doesn’t want an epidural, advocate for her so she is heard. Cheer her on and encourage her every step of the way.
Prepare For The Unpredictable
Just as mom has spent the last 9 months thinking about this exact moment, when she finally gives birth to her tiny baby, you may have been doing the same. What will those first moments as a DAD feel like?! Will I be able to watch my partner PUSH a baby out of her? Whatever you think your birth story will look like, prepare yourself in case things move in a different direction.
You may be preparing to assist and be there for a vaginal delivery, but may end up needing to move into the OR for an emergency C-section. You might picture holding your baby in your arms once delivered, but the nurses might swiftly remove the baby to double check their breathing and body temperature. Even if things become more chaotic and unexpected, stay calm. You are your partner’s rock, and she may be looking to you to comfort her, as her entire world is being turned upside down. Be strong, stay calm and support your partner.
Keep Family & Friends Updated
This communication might fall completely in your lap on that day. You might be in charge of updating the group texts or sending a picture – be sure to discuss this topic prior to birth, so you and your partner are on the same page about who finds out the good news and when. Depending on what works for the two of you, you may want to update family all along the way (when water breaks, updates on dilation, when epidural is administered, etc.) or you may choose to tell family you are going to have a baby and will talk with them when the little one arrives! Whatever the communication plan is, take initiative as needed.
Birth can be scary. It can be long and draining. It definitely is exhausting. You can read the books, watch the videos, take the classes and talk to doctors, but the emotions you feel in that moment are unlike anything you can be prepared for. Welcoming a baby into this world is a true miracle, and consider yourself so lucky to be able to do so. Congratulations to you, Dad! Hopefully you are now one step closer to being prepared for this life changing moment!