The big day is just around the corner: You’re about to become a father! Chances are you’re a wild mix of emotions: excited, nervous, and maybe even a little scared. But never fear, dad-to-be: We’ve collected tips and advice to help you make it through delivery day with flying colors.
When your baby’s birthday arrives, you’ll undoubtedly be swept up in a flurry of events and emotions. From helping time contractions to ensuring your partner’s overnight bag is in the car and ready for the hospital, to holding your partner’s hand as she gives birth — delivery day is full of excitement.
“Your wife is going through a tremendous physical and emotional change while pregnant. She needs your support and care,” says Dr. Steven J. Hanley, a clinical psychologist and father of a 5-year-old and 3-year old. On the big day, your partner will be keenly aware of her body. But things can still be confusing for her. “Listen to her and respect her opinion,” Hanley adds.
- Know that it’s OK to be scared.
You may find yourself worrying about how sexual intimacy will change after baby’s birth, thinking about the challenges your own father faced, or feeling nervous about how your new family dynamics will work. This is all normal; and it is completely OK to talk about these feelings with your partner, a family member, or a close friend.
- Act on her behalf.
“It is natural to be anxious, but your wife will need you to ‘step up,’” says Hanley. For example, be sure you have discussed the birth plan so you can confidently remind the birthing team of her wishes.
- Plan ahead.
Help your partner pack her overnight bag and chat with her about any additional things you can bring when it is time to head to the hospital. And don’t forget to pack a bag for yourself, too. Bring a change of clothes and toiletries, in case labor stretches into the wee hours of tomorrow morning.
TIP: Pack a button-up shirt, or wear one on delivery day, so you can have some skin-to-skin bonding with your newborn. This practice is suggested as a beneficial way for both mom and dad to bond with their newborn, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
- Be prepared for the unexpected.
Childbirth can be an overwhelming, frightening experience. Be ready to see your partner respond to birth in ways neither one of you might expect.
- Study up.
Review what you’ve learned from your childbirth classes and research or query your partner’s doctor if you have questions about labor and delivery. Understand what will be happening to your partner’s body, and know what the process will be if she needs birth assistance or a C-section.
- Help provide distractions.
Bring movies, a book to read to her, or anything else your partner might like to have on hand as you both work through the sometimes long hours leading up to baby’s arrival.
- Keep an eye on contractions.
Consider downloading a contraction app to help track your partner’s contractions. While at the hospital, ask a nurse to show you how to follow along with the contractions monitor. You’ll then be able to talk your partner through an impending peak, or let her know that a break may be on the way.
- Consider working with a doula prior to and during delivery.
Hiring a doula (a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth) might be helpful to assist with the more technical side of childbirth, so you can focus on the emotional side, says Hanley.
- Be attentive.
“Don't overwhelm your partner or suffocate them,” says Samantha Van Vleet, a birth doula, childbirth educator, and an instructor for a birth professional distance education program (intuitivechildbirth.org). “Pay attention to her cues and respond accordingly. If you're having trouble reading cues, be direct. Ask her, ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ and then act on it.”
- Be a record keeper.
If your partner wishes to have video or photos of the birth, be sure to have all equipment and backup batteries ready. Also, it can be a sweet gesture for you to keep written notes of the day’s events to share with her and baby later.
TIP: If you’d like to be totally present in the delivery room, make sure someone you and your partner both trust is on camera duty.
- Build and bring a contact list.
Often, dad is in charge of sharing the good news with family and friends once baby is born. Make sure you and your partner assemble a list of important phone numbers and email addresses and enter them in your phone.
- Pay attention to what your partner does and doesn't want.
“Women in labor go into a very primal state,” says Van Vleet. “Don't overwhelm her with conversation or a barrage of questions when deep in labor. You may get stressed. You may be tired. But remember, your partner is enduring this fatigue and stress too, while laboring.”
- Be there.
Just your presence and willingness to help can make all the difference. Ask your partner if she’d like to squeeze your hand. Offer a foot or back rub between contractions. And let her know you’re there for her.
- Trust your partner.
“(Your partner) intuitively knows what she needs during this process. Be present. Be willing. Be open. You can do this,” says Van Vleet.
- Most important: Enjoy the moment!
“It will be surreal, exciting, and maybe even a little scary. But it is an also a miracle that you'll remember forever,” says Hanley.