Dads - Preparing for the Delivery RoomKatlyn Joy | 2, July 2010
Being a good labor partner starts before you get to the hospital. Dads should go to the childbirth classes, read at least some books or articles in preparation for the big event and go to the important doctor's visits.
It's key for the father to know what to expect during the labor process. Dad should know the overall birth plan and what the mother's big concerns are such as is she dead-set against episiotomies or trying to avoid an epidural. The couple should discuss possible complications and what her feelings are about different types of interventions. During active labor it will be difficult for her to express her opinions adequately so it's crucial to communicate about these issues beforehand.
Another part of preparation is packing the labor and hospital bags. The father should have his own little hospital bag packed weeks in advance. Have some diversions like cards or magazines, snacks, coins for the vending machines and a list of people to call after the birth.
Prior to the birth, the couple should take a hospital tour to familiarize themselves with the facility, what to expect and where to go when the big moment arrives. Dads should also have the route to the hospital planned as well as an alternate route in case of traffic jams or such delays.
Early LaborDads should know how to time contractions and have a good understanding of when it's too early, too late, and the right time to go to the hospital. Most couples err on the side of going too early. During early labor the father's main responsibility is to distract or entertain mom. Go for walks, watch a movie, play games and if it's early enough, eat light meals.
Make sure she's comfortable and keep the mood light and upbeat. You might want to make a few key phone calls to give important folks a heads-up.
Know the signs of when it's definitely time to get into the car and to the hospital. The last few doctor's visits will give ample opportunity to understand the clear cut signs that birth is indeed close.
During active labor, dads main job is to keep mom focused. Her energy may dwindle and with it her ability to stay on task may waver. She might get angry, frightened or even confused sometimes. Dad must be there to keep her from panicking or giving up. Help her maintain her composure, do her breathing exercises and keep her spirits up.
Comfort measures are important now too. Back rubs, foot rubs, brushing her hair, feeding her ice chips and communicating to hospital staff are all Dad duties in active labor. Should complications arise now, it's important for the father to be a liaison between the mother and medical staff. However, nothing is more important than staying calm for mom.
Many fathers worry about becoming queasy during labor. Most do fine. Being prepared for the activity and the sensory details of birth will help. If the nurses and doctor know that the dad has issues with nausea or getting faint in such situations, they can help him deal. They can also shield him from some of the ickier aspects of birthing in many instances. For example, keeping him at mom's head during a Cesarean delivery may help.
When the big moment finally arrives, dad will be multitasking. He has to keep mom comfortable, help her focus and make sure she has a good view of the birth. He also needs to see the big moment himself, and possibly soon after become family photographer.
Different deliveries go differently. Dad might get to cut the cord, or bring baby to mother's arms, or not depending on the physician, how the birth goes and mom's needs.
Immediately after birth, Dad will want to distract Mom while she is being attended to, getting any necessary stitches or just cleaned up. He will also be taking photos, and starting the bonding time with baby and mother. Once everyone's settled in, Dad will need to call all the important friends and family members with all the vital information.
Sometimes a hospital will arrange for Dad to stay in Mom's suite and possibly prepare a nice dinner for the now-enlarged family. Baby may be rooming in with mom, so Dad will have a chance to help out with diaper changes and bringing baby to mother for feedings. He might even get the opportunity to shower and nap!Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer, and just graduated with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado.
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