In 1990, I was delivering the third baby of a lovely Japanese couple. The first two births had occurred in Japan, and, on this day, I was taken to a bygone era in our maternity history. The husband sat, studying his watch nervously, while his wife labored. It was around 5 P.M., and I couldn’t help but notice his discomfort.
Being a nosy guy, I asked what was troubling him. He told me the babysitter would have to leave by 8 P.M. We talked further, and it turned out that this father had not been present at the birth of either of his first two children. Each time, he had dropped his wife off in labor, gone to his job and returned that evening after work to find a perfectly swaddled newborn.
This time, like a dutiful wife, she delivered at 7:30 P.M. It was just long enough for him to take a quick look at the child before vanishing again.
His non-delivery experience with his first two kids explained his anxiety and eagerness to escape.
I can guarantee you guys a vastly different experience today! Being the dad beside your partner at the big moment is truly one of the moments of your entire life. You should embrace this opportunity, and be as prepared for it as possible.
I would like to “deliver” some tips here for during both the pregnancy and the birth that will help keep you in your partner’s good graces, and will help you enjoy the birth experience as well.
GO TO CHILDBIRTH CLASSES
Classes provide you with the basic information you will need about the events ahead. Being a good coach will make your partner’s experience so much better. Your support, coaching and calm influence will be critical in her delivery experience. Words of encouragement during and after each contraction, and helping her breathe, will earn you high praise from your partner as well as the delivery team.
MEET THE DOCTOR/MIDWIFE
Before the great day, be sure to go to your partner’s appointment(s). Not only is it comforting to meet the person who will be guiding you through the labor and delivery process, it shows your interest in your partner’s pregnancy. Ask questions. Be a quiet advocate for your partner at the visit and during labor and delivery. Most doctors are happy to get the chance to meet you in advance as well.
WATCH YOUR PARTNER FOR CUES
Labor can be an odd time. Ordinarily nice women can turn into demons, and mild-mannered piano teachers may curse with the best truck drivers. The kind partner — that’s you — providing a soothing back rub, is now the subject of a verbal tirade. The cold compress you just brought in is too cold or too hot. So pay attention to your partner. See how she is feeling, and listen closely. She isn’t mad at you — she is just uncomfortable, angry, happy, tired, nervous, and probably has a thousand other emotions.
Stay close, but not too close; listen, but don’t stay silent; offer a back rub or a cool compress, despite the reaction you might get. Continue to encourage your partner. Be optimistic, but definitely don’t dismiss her like one husband I know did. He is a very large, 6′ 6″ fellow married to a small, feisty five-footer. When he told her that her contractions couldn’t be that bad, he was in for a rude surprise. She sat up and smacked him across his chest. The blow barely made a physical impact, but for the remainder of her labor, he remained quiet and just out of range. And he stayed that way through three more pregnancies and deliveries.
BRING ALONG THE E-STUFF
Today’s couple comes fully stocked for labor, complete with an iPad and Droid. These essentials play a major role in the day to come. The majority of couples enjoy playing soothing music or watching movies during labor. These distractions can help your partner get through contractions and provide you with some entertainment during the process. It’s very common to keep family updated via the phone or text during labor. I have had couples updating their Facebook page throughout labor.
BRING ON THE MEMORIES
Once the baby arrives, the cameras are flashing, and the video is being shot. Lots of 20-megapixel cameras are noting the birth, and so are the video cameras. I can’t tell you how much all the super-phones have changed the baby-announcement process. Just about every couple now is capturing that moment on an iPhone, and blasting photos to friends and family seconds after the baby comes. Angling an appropriate picture among the IV, monitors and body parts is often my second job (photographer).
Labor/delivery is one of those special times in your life. It seems to last forever, then suddenly it’s all done. The baby arrives, and labor is in the past. You have a new addition to your family, and a whole new future.
Good luck, and enjoy the adventure. Dr. B.