Dads in the Delivery Room: Help or Hindrance?
Ease New Dad Concerns
- Educate yourself. Go to the childbirth preparation classes, read a childbirth book specifically geared for dads, maybe even talk with your wife’s obstetrician, midwife, or prenatal instructor. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be.
- Clarify your role. Maybe you really don’t mind being there for the birth, but you’re concerned about your partner’s insistence that you cut the umbilical cord. Or maybe you hate the idea of videotaping the event. Talk with your partner frankly; she’s sure to prefer that you participate in some way, even if it’s not entirely on her own terms.
- Relax. No matter how nervous or squeamish you feel anticipating the birth, the reality is that expectant dads rarely fall apart once they’re actually in the delivery room. There’s something about supporting their partners and being the first to greet their newborns that keeps them relatively calm and focused.
- Get additional support. If you’re really worried about losing it or just not being an effective enough labor coach, hire a doula or enlist one of your wife’s sisters or friends to be in the delivery room with you.
- Talk to other dads. Spend some time talking with other men who may have been through something similar. They’ll probably understand your misgivings and might have advice to offer about how they coped with their own squeamishness, for instance, or overcame feelings of helplessness in the face of their loved one’s pain. Even if they don’t have pearls of wisdom to offer, it can be reassuring just to talk things out and realize that you’re not alone.
- If at all possible, tough it out. No matter how eloquently you explain your reasons, missing the birth is probably going to hurt your partner. So if you’re not absolutely at the panic stage, consider being there for the birth for no other reason than that it will show a sign of support for your partner.
Delivery Room Dad 101
This is it! You’ve decided to be a central part of your baby’s birth and now you’re heading for the birth center or hospital, and your wife is relying on you to stay calm and offer encouragement. Here’s your checklist for what to do when you get there:
- Check in. If you’ve preregistered, everything should go smoothly.
- Provide distractions. Labor may be exciting, but it can also be tedious. You may spend hours doing nothing more than waiting. Take your wife’s mind off her discomfort by keeping her occupied with music, conversation, or card games. You can also try adjusting the lightning if that’s what she prefers.
- Pace yourself. You may be there for the next five or ten hours without a lot of time off. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Use your body, rather than your arms, to provide counter pressure. Sit down whenever you can. Have some of the snacks and beverages in your labor bag. Take a trip to the bathroom if you need one, but coordinate with the staff so your partner isn’t left alone. Let the medical staff know if your partner’s labor is starting to affect you physically. Some men get light-headed in the delivery room. If you feel queasy, sit down or step outside for some air.
- Show your support. As the contractions grow more intense, reassure your partner that she’s doing a great job and that you love her. You can also help her by feeding her ice chips or wiping the sweat off her brow. And though some women don’t like to be touched during labor, others appreciate a neck or back rub.
- Keep her informed. Don’t chatter, but let her know how long the contractions are lasting and how long she’s likely to have to relax before the next one.
- Don’t take things personally. Women in labor can be more sharp-tongued than usual, so try not to take it personally. If you do feel hurt, ask a nurse to watch your partner while you take a break.
- Communicate when questions come up. She may be asked whether she would like pain medication. The choices are hers to make, but that can be hard in the middle of a contraction. Planning based on what you learned in your childbirth classes, and discussing your wishes in advance with your healthcare provider, are your best defenses against the assumption that any drug is fine with the mother. If it looks as if a C-section will be needed, ask detailed questions to be sure there’s no other choice. You’ll rarely face an immediate crisis, so you’ll both have time to communicate.
- Help her through transition and pushing. When contractions are doubling up and she’s using every way you can think of to breathe through them, you can honestly tell her it will be soon. When your partner feels the urge to push, stay close. Look her in the eyes, speak calmly, breathe with her, and encourage her.
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