As dads-to-be, most of us will do a hefty amount of research to prepare ourselves for the big day: from childbirth classes to financial planning.
Kudos if you’ve already calculated the fastest way to the hospital and learned how to time contractions!
But being there in the delivery room—and what comes next—can be both traumatizing and the most wonderful thing you’ll ever experience at the same time.
It can be anything from a sprint to a marathon and there is no way to magically forecast how D-Day will go (Elon Musk you have work to do).
Even though you can’t plan for the surprises, it always helps if you have done a bit of homework.
Here’s what you can expect in the delivery room:
Collect Birthing Stories
As parents and parents-to-be, some of the best advice we can get is from those who have been through this experience.
New dads love nothing more than sharing their own birthing story, and they will help to make you feel that you’re not alone in this new journey.
You may need a filter for some of the birthing stories you'll hear.
The delivery room can be like parenting itself: chaotic and messy. To hear some dads describe it, it was as if they were on the set of Saving Private Ryan!
Don’t let the horror stories stress you out—you’ll be surrounded by medical professionals who’ve overseen hundreds of deliveries and will be surprised by nothing.
To get the most out of their advice, think to ask how they felt, what may have surprised them, and what’s the one thing they wished they had packed.
TIP: Dads always hear it and then ignore it, but don’t be tempted to rush to the hospital the second contractions start or you’ll just be sent home. Keep your midwife’s number handy in case you need advice.
Prep For The Delivery Room
While it would have been brought up in the birthing plan, double check what your hospital’s rules are for dads in the delivery room.
Each hospital is different: some will require you to have done antenatal classes and some won’t allow you in if it turns into an emergency C-Section. Being forewarned is forearmed.
Labor can be a lot of waiting around, but once you’re in the delivery room time may seem like it’s on fast forward.
The delivery room can be like parenting itself: chaotic and messy.
When everyone is rushing around, remember to rely on your instincts.
You know your partner better than anyone, so use that to your advantage in the moment and be her voice (she may be a little preoccupied).
While it may be difficult to read your partners body language, this is probably exactly what she will need you to do.
Be realistic about bodily fluids—there will be a lot of them and there is simply no way around this.
If you’re the queasy type, just focus on the sight of your loved one and not on the messy details. Although remember the gory horror stories you were hearing? This is where you get to tell your own!
Your partner will have an essential hospital bag but don’t forget your own survival kit: Snacks, a change of clothes, toiletries, entertainment (the “you’re doing fine” chat does get tiring) and, last but not least, a pillow—because who knows how long you’ll be there?
Learn the Lingo
Bone up on some of this (pretty honest) D-Room speak so you can translate for your partner:
- Breech: The baby is bottom down in the uterus. This can greatly complicate matters and the doctor may recommend a C-section.
- A “Show”: No, not the latest Netflix series but when the laboring mother loses her mucus plug—an indication that the cervix is starting to open.
- Membrane Sweep: A midwife or doctor may perform a ‘sweep’ to speed along labor that involves separating the membranes of the amniotic sac from the cervix with a finger.
- Induction: If labor isn’t moving along quickly enough, staff may decide to speed the process up with a cocktail of drugs, an IV or a sweep (see above).
- Ring of Fire: The burning sensation a mom may feel as the baby’s head is crowning—pushing through the vagina.
- Shoulder Dystocia: If the baby’s shoulders fail to immediately follow the head through the birth canal, the doctors may need to intervene and manipulate the infant.
- Epidural: Anesthesia that’s injected into the woman’s spinal cord. Check with your doctors when the cut-off limit is for this in labor, so you know when the final decision has to be made.
- Episiotomy: A manual cut in the perineum (muscle between the vagina and bottom) that will widen the canal for delivery. Your partner may get asked if she wants one.
The list of medical jargon is endless but don’t be afraid to ask—if you know what’s going on, you are more prepared. This can also help you to remain calm.
This is obviously easier said than done, but if you can keep those nerves in check, you’ll be in a better position for your partner.
Finally, take your cues from the hospital staff—if they are not worried, you shouldn’t be either. Now breathe…