One of the strange quirks of parent blogging is the way your focus changes as your children grow and develop. Where I initially started blogging with a newborn, I’m now the father to 4 and 7 year olds, so the stuff I’m going through (and which I naturally focus on while blogging) is very different to what it used to be.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had experiences which aren’t still valid for a new father today – indeed, looking back on some of my earlier experiences as a dad is something I should do more of. After all, I was mostly too tired to write about most of them while I was living through it all!
So when the guys at Mamas & Papas asked if I could think back and share some of my ‘Labour Room’ advice, I thought it might be a nice chance to look back at my two experiences with the benefit of hindsight. So, almost 5 years since the last time I experienced it, I present some of my top tips for expectant fathers when it comes to preparing for childbirth.
Nothing with go according to plan
This is probably my most pertinent piece of advice, and the one you need to realise the moment you start planning for childbirth. No matter how meticulously you plan the big day, Mother Nature has a way of making sure nothing goes according to that plan – so you need to be prepared for that.
That advice goes for parenting as a whole, but given that childbirth is probably your first real, hands-on experience of parenting, it’s worth bearing it in mind early on. So whether it’s your pain-relief plans, the location of the birth, the people you want there or even the rough date, get ready to have your plans thrown into chaos.
As the father, your role in childbirth is mainly supportive – and being able to adapt your plans to the curve-balls that come at you is something you can add real value on.
Let the professionals do their job
Whilst I’ve written previously about the confusion that can come from midwives with differing advice, that only really came into play after the birth. During the birth itself, my advice is to listen to the advice of the experts and bow to their superior knowledge. Most of these people have overseen hundreds or maybe even thousands of births, and they will have seen and heard everything – so they’re pretty much the experts.
So if a midwife asks to you go and stand on the other side of the bed, or to mop your wife’s brow, or any number of other things – just do it. The whole thing will be a lot simpler if you take yourself off the “Things everyone has to worry about” list, which is already very long.
Get to know the lay of the land
Assuming you’re doing the birth in a hospital, make sure you have visited the chosen ward a few times before the big day. Hospitals can be large and confusing places, and this is 10 times worse when you’re in a state of panic – as you invariably will be when the klaxon sounds. So getting to know the layout will serve you well further down the line.
If you’re making a list of places/things you need to know, I’d include the following:
- What is the car parking situation like? Do you need change for ticket machines? Can you drop-off in a special place?
- Where is the cafe and do they serve things that work with your diet/preferences etc? Do they take cash or cards?
- When visitors arrive to see the baby, do you know where they’d come in?
- Are there any useful shortcuts?
- What are the visiting hours, or policies on you staying with your partner?
- Where are the nearest toilets to the maternity ward?
And don’t forget to take that car seat and stroller too, ready for taking baby home again – some hospitals won’t discharge you if they aren’t happy that you’ve got the right equipment for the journey home.
Keep Calm and Carry On
I know it might seem a bit cliche to say, but staying calm and collected is probably the most valuable thing you can bring to the maternity suite / delivery room. Unless she’s a seasoned pro, the mum to be is likely to be going through a LOT of emotions, so keeping calm and providing some much-needed stability for her is an excellent thing to bring to the table.
Now that might not be easy – your mind will be racing, your emotions high and there might even be some panic, all of which are entirely natural. But if it comes down to a situation where you are making your partner MORE stressed or worried, you’re no longer adding value to the situation. So keep calm.
If, like me, you want to document the event with some photos or videos, make sure that everybody involved is okay with that. Especially the mother-to-be! I was quite lucky in that the doctors and midwives were happy for me to take photos – they even offered to take some for me during my wife’s caesarian for baby number 1. But it’s worth checking this before you start snapping!
If I’ve missed anything out, feel free to add your own tips in the comments below!