Dad’s delivery-day duties
Mum’s job during labour is pretty obvious, but what’s a dad to do?
While mums are undoubtedly the stars of the show when a baby is on the way, dads-to-be are integral to labour and birth. Not only do they provide support to labouring mums, they also serve as advocates – the person who knows you best and can speak on your behalf, because they have your (and your baby’s) best interests at heart. But many dads feel lost and superfluous in the delivery room, and aren’t really sure what to do. The best defence is a good offence – here are some ways dads can prepare for the big day, and ensure they’re confidently contributing to the birth of their bundle of joy.
Time the contractions
Either write it down on a piece of paper or download an app for your phone, but one of the things you can do in early labour particularly is to keep track of the contractions. This way your partner doesn’t have to do anything but focus on what’s happening with her body. This is also a great way to know when things are getting more intense, and to help your partner decide if it’s time to go to hospital.
Be prepared for the long haul
Labour is a marathon, not a race – and a first labour can take 10 to 20 hours, or more. While it’s exciting when things finally get started, it’s important that you conserve your energy as much as possible, and, more importantly, encourage your partner to conserve her energy and rest up. Break out some games or a movie, play trivia, do crosswords together, take her for walks, give massages… Whatever it takes. While it may feel like labour is dragging on for ages, you need to be ready to stick it out no matter how long things go on for.
Protect her privacy
If she wants to stay covered while she’s being examined by the midwife, help hold blankets or sheets in place. If she doesn’t want any of the grandparents-to-be in the room while she’s giving birth, that is her call, not yours. Or if she decides midway through labour that she wants everyone else out of the room except you and the midwife, act to make it happen without apologising or delay. And following the birth, wait until she is ready before ushering visitors in to view the new arrival – she might not want to see anyone for several hours or even days after your baby is born. If someone barges in without her permission, it’s your job to be the polite but firm bouncer.
Keep your cool
Labour and delivery can get pretty intense – after all, a whole person is going to come out of your partner, one way or another. And while she’s in the throes of labour, emotions will be running high. Stay calm, cool, and collected as much as possible. If big decisions have to be made and your partner isn’t able to advocate for yourself, this job will fall to you, so it’s important you keep your wits about you. Also, you are the best person to know how to help your partner focus on the task at hand and to support and comfort her if she feels like she isn’t handling things, so you need to be in a good head space to do this.
Be her chief advocate and encourager
As mentioned, if big decisions need making and your partner is in the middle of contractions and unable to speak up for herself, this will be your job. Talk to her ahead of time to ensure you understand her wishes pertaining to pain relief and interventions, and have her birth plan handy during labour so you can refer to it if need be. While she’s labouring, give her your undivided attention, and fulfil her wishes as best you can – even if they seem confusing (she may want to be touched, but then change her mind once you are actually touching her, then want to be touched again… Just go with it).
Capture the moment
We’re not talking about spending the entire time with your phone in your hand snapping photos and videos. Instead, really pay attention to the details of what’s going on, so you can commit it to memory and tell your partner about it later if she asks (because when women are in labour, it’s hard to keep track of time or focus on anything other than what’s going on in her body). Keep track of all those unforgettable moments, like when your partner feels like she’s ready to push, when the baby’s head crowns, the look on her face when she first sees her new baby… And all the potentially funny ones to talk over with her later, when she says, “Did I say anything embarrassing when I was in labour?” Get your baby’s first photos – with Mummy, with the midwife, with both parents, on the scale for his or her first weight (make sure to get the weight reading in the photo), etc. But choose your moments carefully. If she doesn’t want a photo of the baby being born, then for goodness’ sake, don’t take it.
Be the communicator
Once your baby has arrived, you’re in charge of sending the announcement texts or making the phone calls to family and friends, and also answering the phone when she’s sleeping or being examined or feeding or simply doesn’t want to be disturbed. Make sure you’ve got all the details right – time, weight, length, the works – and if you’re going to send a picture of the new arrival, let her help you choose which one to send.