Part of it was the luck of having a husband who knew mom really well and was a caring and attentive guy. Part of it was the preparation of reading and childbirth classes. And the rest? The rest was that the woman in labor reviewed with the dad-to-be ahead of time her exact and specific wishes. She repeated herself. She may have even quizzed him a bit, by asking him to explain her birth plan and desires for the labor, birth, and immediately afterward.
Who was the momma? Me, of course, and the dude was my lovin’ husband.
Although I don’t think either of us can truly believe it, in the last four years, we’ve had two babies, and I remember clearly (and frequently write about) when it all began: with the labor and birth of our first.
Although we took the suggested classes, read up on all the baby books, and prepared together, nothing could really prepare us better than having actually gone through it. As we planned for the birth of our second a few short years later, I could build on that experience and do a few things differently, and he could, too.
I know it’s a big, wild, unpredictable experience, but it’s also an awesome one, so don’t worry, dads, you got this.
Talk to your own partner to understand her specific wishes, and for starters and inspiration, here’s a guide for dads-to-be: 20 things NOT to do in the delivery room.
20 Freak Out
Let me first say that no, I do not at all feel like my own hubs freaked out in the least during my own labors and births; but I do know that — and we’ve noticed this BIGTIME now that we have two little kids — his mood really, really affects mine.
If he’s nervous or frustrated, it’s like I soak it right up, and I have a way of not getting over things quite as fast as he does, too… Can anyone else out there relate?
Needless to say, when your wife is trying to cope with contractions and give birth to a baby, she likely needs all the calm she can get, so try not overreact or react extremely, even if something unexpected happens. That’s what I’d want, anyway.
Be her rock.
19 Sit On The Sidelines
As with pretty much all of this stuff, the best way to know what you should and shouldn’t do is to discuss the topics at hand with the expectant mom in your own life.
But I’d like to at least bring up the very important idea that dads needn’t sit on the sidelines, and can rather be active helpers and support people.
They can help with coping positions, breathing, verbal support, offering sips of water, and more. You can take childbirth classes, read books, and prepare together ahead of time in order to have a good understanding of what your role might be, and I’m willing to bet it will feel good to be actively involved rather than feeling helpless to aid her.
18 Forget To Offer Water
What did the midwives and doctors recommend, especially when I expressed that I was going for a natural birth? Stay hydrated.
What did the books all say? The same.
While staying hydrated can help a gal to feel well and labor well, in my experience, it can be sort of annoying or even impossible to actually get a drink of water yourself, and it might also not sound great. (Nausea is a possibility here.)
If you can offers sips from something, and she can simply choose to accept or not each time, it might go a long way in helping her during labor.
17 Post Without Permission
Do I love that we have a picture that includes both me and our first baby from right after the birth? Heck yes!
Do I enjoy that it was shared with a handful of people right after that? Um, no.
Now, as I’ve said before and will probably say again, I don’t like to think of myself as terribly vain or anything, but man, I didn’t want that to be what everyone’s impression of me and my brand-new little beautiful babe was!
I’d say just talk to your gal. If she really doesn’t care at all, maybe she’ll give you the green light to text, chat, post, and share away, anything and everything.
But something tells me that perhaps other females out there might prefer being given the chance to screen and approve or deny pics for posting first.
16 Hold Back The Tears
Despite the name of the really good song by The Cure, boys do indeed cry, and hey, what a great place to practice/encourage the release of emotion (all the better to become an awesome parent if you ask this mom of two!).
Although I know that in hospitals, things can feel sterile, and you can feel sort of watched and almost under pressure, I’d personally like to point out the potential benefits of letting yourself just feel what you feel on this very momentous occasion.
I’d say that, although as I mentioned, it probably won’t help her out if you freak out over anything, don’t feel like you can’t show emotion. Be in the moment, cry if the tears want to come, and hey, maybe even encourage her to do the same!
In my reading about natural childbirth, and in my own experience, letting out feelings made labor feel more positive in the end.
15 Be Shy
I believe it was in a (totally awesome) book about natural childbirth by Cynthia Gabriel that I read, in a section for birth partners, that there was the great tip of making sure that the dad knows the mom’s medical history, birth plan, and so on and so forth.
That way, she isn’t forced to be the only one who can answer questions from nurses and doctors, both as she’s in triage and admitted and as the shifts change. When you’re in your labor groove, you don’t want to be interrupted to answer silly questions, or any questions, in my experience.
I didn’t really love interacting with anyone at all except for my husband, actually.
If you review with her ahead of time whether this sounds like something that might help her out, then learn whatever you’ll need to know, it might really go a long way.
14 Bail Without Notice
Alright, allow me to get perhaps a little obscure here, but I happen to know many dudes of daddy-to-be age in my own life who have seen the Brit TV program Peep Show, following the awkwardness of a professional chap who, yep, happens to get a girl pregnant.
He finds himself just sort of leaving, not only the room but also the hospital, right when she’s in labor, going to grab a sandwich or something.
While it’s hilarious in the moment of the comedy onscreen, I would not recommend doing this in real life, if you want at all for the mom to feel like you give a hoot.
I wouldn’t recommend leaving at all, actually, without making sure that she understood where you were going, why you were leaving, and when you would be back — that’s how I felt about it, anyway.
13 Faint Right There And Then
Okay, I’m not sure where I read this, but it was probably in one of the many books I have about natural childbirth. (My favorite and the likely source was Cynthia Gabriel’s Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds.) It was either that or the fairly simple childbirth class we took at the hospital while I was pregnant with my first.
The pro tip: Don’t faint in the delivery room.
Especially if you know you are or have been prone to this type of thing, be sure to have a seat if you do feel lightheaded. Neither of you needs you to pass out and hurt yourself or something like that.
It's worth being careful and aware, as the delivery room can sometimes be a place of sleeplessness and taking in some pretty intense stuff happening.
12 Eat In There, Unless…
I can’t really imagine my hubs, like, snacking or chowing down on a meal while I was coping with contractions or pushing in the delivery room. I honestly can’t really imagine anyone doing that. Well, maybe the snacks, simply because sometimes labors can last quite a while, and dads-to-be, humans that they are, may need to keep their energy up.
I would caution, though, that you might want to be as sensitive about this matter as you are with all the rest of the stuff going on. The smells and sights of foods may repulse or annoy her, and you don’t want that, do you?
Why do I say so? I distinctly remember barely being able to handle the scent of the leftovers my hubs was eating for dinner the evening that I was in early labor (and still at home in this case), even though I had prepared and enjoyed them myself the night before.
11 Forget To Be Impressed (And Say So)
Here’s something that I’ll remember forever. I had just given birth to our second baby, I had done it all naturally, without the use of any meds or interventions. I had managed to get myself to the car from the house and walk up into the hospital room myself, through the most intense of the contractions, just in time to push a short while and meet our little one.
My husband told me I did a great job.
It might sound like a little thing, but in my experience, this is a great time for congratulations, praise, and plenty of reassurance, so don’t forget to offer it as appropriate.
What was my response to the compliment? “I know, right???”
10 Fail To Be There For Nursing Support
Well, although it might be easy to focus on getting through the labor and actual birth, right after that, it’s on to new adventures and potential challenges.
Immediately after a baby is born, for example, or within the next very short while, will in many cases be the start of the mom and baby’s breastfeeding journey.
And the thing is, it’s the dad’s journey, too.
He can be an important support person in this arena, as well, so don’t hesitate to feel out how you might be able to help, such as by getting the baby positioned well, offering to move or add a pillow, providing a sip of water, and so on and so forth.
9 Stay Silent
Yeah, the thing is, I’m sure different things work well for different women. And I was personally quite surprised by what ended up working well for me in the delivery room, specifically during the pushing stage, when I felt like I was sort of getting nowhere after hours and hours of hard work already passed.
For most of the labor, I liked solitude or the privacy of just me and my husband, and a nurse as necessary. But then, when it got tough, and I needed a boost of some sort, it really helped when the one nurse by my side offered vocal encouragement, almost like cheering me on. I said as much, and so the doctor and my husband joined in, urging and cheering for me at the crucial moments of pushing during contractions, and my baby was quickly born.
Rather than staying silent, you might consider busting out this tactic at certain crucial times.
8 Overlook Being Her Advocate
Women in labor (I know after having been through it twice so far myself in the last few years here) can require a great deal of focus. It can be frustrating to be distracted or thrown off of your successful coping course. He can help her pursue her wishes for the labor and birth by tactfully and carefully interacting with the medical staff on hand.
For example, it may fall on him to notice that his baby mama is laboring well and it’s not a good time for an unnecessary interruption such as a blood pressure check or something.
Cynthia Gabriel, a writer on natural childbirth, brought up the nice idea of simply explaining your wishes and reasoning and asking if whatever the thing is can wait for 20 minutes or so.
7 Leave The Bags In The Car
It might be easy to assume that the hospital bags will mainly be important for after the baby is born, during the mother and baby’s postpartum stay.
It might also be easy to be so focused on getting the laboring mother into the hospital and supporting her through the birth process that you don’t think to bring in your bags during the excitement of it all.
That’s pretty much what happened the second time I was in labor, as I recall.
I didn’t love that my husband had to then leave for a little while to go retrieve them later. As it turned out, I didn’t really miss having any of the items I had packed for potential use during the labor itself, but surely some women will want to have the things they’ve carefully packed there and at the ready.
Things like lip balm and toiletries might be good to have right afterward, too.
6 Spread The Word To The Masses
Now, it would just be pretty unfortunate if there was any confusion — regarding who was desired to be there, as in actually in the delivery room and also waiting outside at the hospital expecting to see the mother and meet the newborn immediately after the birth.
That’s why, in my opinion, it might, first of all, be good to be clear with those close to you about your plans for this ahead of time. Also, you might consider being careful by not spreading the news that she’s in labor far and wide.
The two of you may discuss ahead of time who she (and you) want to know when it’s go time, and when the baby has actually been born.
5 Neglect To Take Care Of Self
Labor can be hard work for dads, too — no joke!
I’ve read of dads ending up spending hours providing “hip squeezing” to relieve the pain of back labor and finding themselves exhausted, even when taking turns with a doula or midwife.
Also, dads are humans, and humans need to do things like drink water, eat food, use the bathroom, and rest.
I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that the way I see it, and after having had my husband as my support person during two labors and births so far, if a papa takes care of himself on a basic level, he’ll probably be better able to continue helping his partner during this important time.
Maybe it’s a handful of trail mix, a sip of water, or a minute of quiet meditation.
4 Keep It A Total Secret, Depending…
As I mentioned above, my style wasn’t to tell everybody out there that I was in labor, or even that the babies had been born, right away.
But I’d also like to include that a momma and poppa will possibly have certain people who they do want to know what’s going on, or who will need to know (such as so that they can go over and water the plants or feed the dog).
Therefore, an important task NOT to forget in the excitement of the moment may be to notify those necessary/desired certain someones, according to the pre-established plan/her wishes.
3 Forget To Take In The Details
I liked that afterward, I could ask my husband about certain things that had happened, whether those were things I didn’t precisely recall or things I hadn’t seen or understood all the way in the moment.
An important role of dads in the delivery room, therefore, can be to act as another set of eyes and ears. They can be the historian, take in all the details, and be able to tell the mom about them later and to answer questions that she may have.
Also, I bet it’s pretty awesome to take in all that amazingness yourself and to have those memories.
2 Re-Enter Without Washing
In my experience, some people are really careful about things like face touching and handwashing, and some just aren’t quite as much.
I got more aware of being careful about not spreading germs when I was pregnant for the first time, and continuing on into those baby years. Being sick is the worst! Add in being pregnant, or a newborn, or a parent to a newborn, and oh, boy…
I noticed that doctors and nurses cleaned their hands, both in the hospital and at the pediatrician’s office, either by washing them or using sanitizer from the dispenser by the door, whenever they re-entered the room.
Seems like a good idea to me! Never forget to clean your hands after coming back in is making an effort to keep mama and brand-new baby healthy.
1 Forget To Photograph
I already mentioned how I was NOT a fan of a certain postpartum shot of me being shared around to some friends and family.
But at the same time, I’m so glad we have a picture from there in the delivery room, and in fact, I wish we had many more!
We have plenty pics of the babies when they were brand-new, in the recovery room and at home in those early days, but how wild to be able to see the scene where your little son or daughter was actually born, be it weeks or years later!
Ask your baby mama her wishes, but this might be an important time to NOT forget to take some pictures.
References: This one mom-of-two’s experiences and Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds (Cynthia Gabriel).