If you have decided to be there to watch the birth of your child, get ready for the most awesome and wondrous event of your life which you will never regret. The only thing is that you have to do some homework and preparation if you really want to be supportive. That means hard work and also being courageous when things get tough and the whole process of giving birth takes longer than you and your wife ever thought. Here are 6 tips to help you through all this.
“The best part about having kids is not actually having to have kids. Thank you, women.” – Jarod Kintz, The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They’re Over.
1. Preparation is key
You cannot just turn up when things are happening. It takes a lot of preparation. If you have not attended childbirth and labor education classes, do so immediately. With classes, you know what is going to happen and the various phases of labor and childbirth. You know about C-section and why it may be necessary. Knowing the details helps you keep fears at bay so you can be strong for the woman you are supporting.
It also means that you have to have your bag ready when the moment comes. This means having a change of clothes, your laptop,(as the hospital will have wi-fi), and plenty of reading material. There may be long waits if your wife has to have an epidural and you can get on with your own work, while she rests. Throw in some snacks in your bag because you too will need sustenance when things start to happen. Don’t be one of those who get dizzy and faint. Adequate food and nutrition are essential.
2. You know you are the supporter-in-chief
You have already been through the birth plan with your wife so you know exactly what she expects you to do and what she will need help with when giving birth. You know about the Braxton Hicks contractions and how these might be a false alarm. You also know that painful contractions which are lasting 30 seconds or more could be a sign that she is in early labor and you might have to get to the hospital pretty quickly, unless you are already there. You now know that throughout this phase, you have to be the solid supporter who is reassuring and confident that all will be well. Help her by keeping her company and distracting her through the use of games and TV. Help her by assisting her finding a comfortable position by using pillows, brushing her hair and applying gentle foot massages. Assist her with showering and getting dried. Basically, whatever the woman in your life needs is something you need to provide.
3. You have both decided what specific roles you will have
You will have discussed with your wife what other people should be present. Giving birth can be a bit frightening and wearing so there should be very few other people present and no videos should be taken although it will be perfectly okay to take normal photos when the baby is born. You will know whether you want to be the one to cut the umbilical cord and also if you want to be the one to hand the baby to his or her new mom.
4. You know that contractions when giving birth can be painful
The best way to approach the whole pain question is to know that your presence is a key element in the birthing process. Each contraction is one step nearer to the happy event. You are there to encourage, hold her hand and to be the main cheerleader, but again you will have discussed that with your partner beforehand.
You can tell her that she is doing just great and give her practical assistance by feeding her with ice chips and helping to mop up the sweat. You cannot ease her pain but at least you are giving all the practical help you can. You have also discussed whether she will give you a sign that being touched while in pain may actually be uncomfortable. Some women cannot bear being touched during this delicate stage.
“Childbirth changed my perception of my wife. She was now the bloodied special forces soldier who had fought and risked everything for our family.” – Mohsin Hamid
5. You can discuss where exactly you want to be
If you feel a bit sick at having to witness all the yucky bits, ask the doctor or doula if you can be near your wife’s head so that you do not feel faint or keel over. You do not have to see everything! If there is to be a C-section, you may not want to see that either so being near your wife’s head where you whisper and encourage her is very important and will help shield you from some of the more gory aspects of childbirth.
You will have discussed what role you can play when the pushing has to start. Some women are quite happy if their partner helps by holding a leg up and out. You do not need to take part in any of the coaching as to when is the best time to push. The staff will look after all that!
6. Continue being supportive after the baby is born
You have brought the flowers and told the whole world! But you will still need to be supportive, strong and loving as you both face new challenges in welcoming the little one into your lives. You can get into the new rhythm by helping with bathing and nappy changing. You can leave the breastfeeding to your partner!
Did you know that up to 10% of new Dads suffer from a little postpartum depression too? You will have to cope with disturbed sleep patterns, you will need to be even-tempered and patient and also have a sense of humor as you both work out the new routine and help each other. Parenting will always be a shared task and start as you mean to go on. Take inspiration from President Obama who has said that fatherhood is the most important job he has.
Featured photo credit: birth72/Lindsey Turner via flickr.com