Childbirth: What dad needs to know
The big day is fast approaching: in only a few weeks, you will be a dad! You may not be physically giving birth, but you are also going to be bringing a child into the world and receiving a new identity – you're going to be a father.
This can be just as emotionally overwhelming for you as for your partner. Get our tips for best supporting the mother-to-be and experiencing these few hours that are going to change your lives for ever with as much peace of mind as possible.
Getting organized before the birth
- As the end of the pregnancy draws near, remember to have a plan in place at work if necessary so that you can go to your partner as soon as she calls.
- Think about how you are going to get to the maternity hospital beforehand. If you don't live too far away, you can walk there: walking can often help labor get under way. Otherwise, car is the easiest solution. But make sure you have worked out where to park beforehand. If you don't have a car, you can also take a taxi.
- When the day comes, stay at home with her during the early stages of labor. And trust her to decide when you should both go to the maternity hospital. But as a general idea, women are usually advised to wait until the contractions have been coming regularly every 10 minutes before leaving for the hospital.
- When you go to the maternity hospital, remember to take your partner's luggage – as well as future baby’s luggage.
Being there… or not being there.
- Nowadays, most fathers are there when their children are born. However, that does not mean that you have to be there: if you don't feel able to be there, talk about it with your partner and be open with her about what your fears are. Then together, you will be able to come to the right decision for both of you.
And sometimes, mothers don't want to give birth with the father present. They are afraid of upsetting them, or they think they will be able to focus better without them. If your partner falls into this category, respect her request, while at the same time let her know what you would prefer: if you really want to be there, she may feel touched or reassured. And perhaps she will end up letting you go with her.
- For deliveries by C-section, some maternity hospitals may ask the father to leave the delivery room. But stay close by: as soon as your baby is born, that's when you'll be able to warm him up and give him reassurance as he experiences his first contact with the outside world. You may want to take your shirt off so that he can feel the warmth of your skin – there's nothing quite like it.
What you need to know before the big day
- Labor is extremely variable and can last 2 hours... or more than 24 hours. Regardless of the birth plan, the actual delivery may not happen within your expected timeframes. Be flexible and understanding if things do not go according to plan.
- Allow your partner to freely decide whether or not to have an epidural: even though you won't want to watch her suffering, she may want to experience childbirth in all its intensity.
- The birthing pains keep pace with the contractions: the pain level gradually begins with each contraction. It increases, reaches its peak and then decreases. Between contractions, the pain disappears: your partner can use these intervals to get her breath and her energy back. As labor progresses, the contractions become more intense and are closer together. If your partner feels the need to groan or cry out, encourage her. Doing this can help her bear the pain.
You may be surprised by your partner's attitude during labor: the way she is and the way she expresses herself may be completely different from the way she normally is. Do your best to reassure her – but without trivializing what she feels: acknowledge that what she is doing is hard and encourage her to maintain a mental bond with your baby throughout labor. Your baby is also accomplishing an extraordinary feat at the same time!
Also allow yourself to leave the delivery room from time to time if you need to: have something to eat and talk to family or friends.
Supporting your partner during labor
You will most certainly wonder about the role that you can play during childbirth. Remember that just being there is a huge support. Don't try and do more than you are able: you are not your partner's midwife or therapist. But, if she wants, and if you feel able, there are a number of roles that you can play:
- You can help her get into the right position during the contractions. Strongly pressing your hands against the small of her back or applying towels soaked in very hot water to the same area can also often help women to bear the pain.
- You can also familiarize yourself with the rhythm of the contractions (using the monitor if it is connected) and warn her when another one is about to come. Or, at the peak of a contraction, you can tell her that the pain is about to diminish.
- You can also help your partner get her energy back between contractions with a little tenderness, or by stroking or massaging her. This will help eliminate any residual tension.
- Also make sure that you create an atmosphere of trust, and avoid passing on any anxiety you may have to her: she will find it easier to listen to herself if she feels surrounded by your serene warmth.
- If your partner has decided to have an epidural and is not in pain, you will still have an important role to play: sometimes, when the pain dies down, women may start to feel anxious during birth. Your partner will then need you to listen to and support her.
- If she doesn't ask you for anything during labor, leave her alone and don't disturb her with too many suggestions, even if you mean well: women need to enter into their own world during labor and should not be distracted.
- When the baby comes out, support your partner as she pushes and encourage her. And when your baby is born, you can reach out your arms and catch him so you can place him on his mother. If you want, you can even cut the umbilical chord. Remember to ask the midwives during labor. And don't hold back your emotions: they help form the first bonds between you and your child.
- After the birth, go with your partner for your baby's first pediatric examinations. And if possible, carry him yourself: After his mother's arms, your arms are the most secure for him – even if you feel clumsy.