To be or not to be in the delivery room – this is the one question many soon-to-be dads struggle with as delivery day fast approaches.
Nowadays, it’s almost always expected, and even taken for granted, that dads or partners will be alongside Mom in the delivery room. Truth be told, for some dads, tackling this tall order can be daunting. They aren’t sure they are capable of coping in the delivery room, but at the same time, don’t want to disappoint their partner.
Some of the most common delivery room fears for dads include passing out, feeling sick or nauseous, complications (for either mom or baby), not making it to the hospital on time, seeing their partner in pain or an overall feeling of helplessness.
So what’s a dad to do in order to prepare himself for this once-in-a-lifetime event? Here are a few tips for all the expectant dads out there.
The ‘unknown’ tends to evoke that feeling of fear (especially if you envision the birth playing out like a scene from a horror movie). Attending a local childbirth class can help ease some of these common fears.
During classes, you’ll gain a better understanding of the labour and birthing process, what to expect and when, and some common hospital procedures and practices. You’ll also acquire ideas and techniques (effective positioning, breathing patterns, comfort measures and relaxation techniques) to better enable you to support your partner througout labour. If one of your fears happens to be passing out, talk to your prenatal instructor, who can provide some alternate labour support positions so you don’t have to witness the birth at ground zero!
There are many great books out there, some written by dads themselves, that can help you prepare for the birth (and for fatherhood).
Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner’s doctor/midwife or your prenatal instructor. Go ahead; get all those burning questions finally answered. Remember that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. The more you know, the more confident you become.
Define Your Role
Some dads tend to have some uncertainty about their role. Are you supposed to be the cheerleader, the coach, or an unofficial nurse? Chances are your partner will need you at every stage of labour. Be open and talk to your partner about how you feel and why. Clarify your role; what does she expect of you during labour and birth? Let her know what you’re comfortable with. Together, come up with a plan that will work for you both.
If you’re still unsure, you might want to think of arranging for additional support. You might hire a doula – a professional support person – or enlist the support of a family member or friend. Whoever is in the delivery room with you both throughout the labour is there to share in an intimate experience. Make it clear to this third person that they are there to support you and your partner and not impose their ideas and/or beliefs on you.
Get to Know Your Surroundings
Become familiar with the hospital where you plan to deliver. Schedule a tour together. You might also want to plan your route to the hospital in anticipation of labour day (or night). Think about all the obstacles you might face, including the time of day (is there going to be traffic volume?), the weather or construction. Have alternate routes planned and make sure you have a full tank of gas!
Talk to the Experts
Other dads who’ve recently been through the labour and delivery process are a great resource. They might be able to give you a better feel for the various experiences you’ll face. It’s also reassuring to know that you’re not alone.
Expect the Unexpected
Mom’s needs and moods may change throughout labour at any time. She may curse at you one minute and in the same breath ask you to hold her gently. Don’t take it personally. Know that she is going through a range of emotions. Try to be there for her and simply follow her lead.
The labour partner plays a definite role in assisting the birthing woman and enabling her to cope more effectively throughout labour. Simply having Dad’s quiet presence in the room right alongside Mom speaks volumes.
Ultimately, Dad’s role in the delivery room goes well beyond the role of support person; he is his partner’s advocate, protector, liaison and sometimes, her punching bag. And afterwards comes the role of a lifetime – being a father!
If you do feel faint in the delivery room
- Let someone know right away!
- Sit down and place your head between your knees. (This helps the blood circulate to the brain; not as good as lying down, but you might not have a bed available in the delivery room.)
- Try a cool cloth on the forehead.
- Stay calm and remember to breathe.
- Stay hydrated (your body is losing more water due to sweating).
- Move away from the situation that is making you feel this way. Perhaps position yourself near the labouring mom’s head and focus on her face.
Dale Alleyne-Ho is the proud mom of four kids and founder of learning4lyf.ca. She also instructs Childbirth and Lactation Education.