Let’s face it, there is a TON of information out there to help expectant parents – books, websites, videos, etc. And quite frankly, it can be overwhelming.
As the father, you don’t experience pregnancy like the mom (but you do get to experience it in your own way). You don’t feel the internal dancing, the tremendous fatigue (usually during the first and third trimesters), or the satisfaction of actually delivering your child. But you are nonetheless needed for physical and emotional support during the entire process. And reading anything will help keep you engaged.
My wife was always glad when I started rambling off “facts” that I had learned – many of which she already knew. And I honestly felt more involved. Learning about the process helped me understand a little more about what was happening and what was about to happen. In preparing for my baby, I read two books – Dad’s Pregnant Too and The Birth Partner.
Dad’s Pregnant Too is written by a dad for dads and was far more enjoyable. It was quick, funny, and included real-life anecdotes from dads. It is organized into tips which walk you through the stages of pregnancy and highlights things to look for, ways to support your partner, and pitfalls to avoid (like being an “accidental asshole”). I would recommend this book to any expectant dad.
The Birth Partner on the other hand was overwhelming. It had so much information in it about the actual birth process that it actually stressed me out. How the hell was I going to remember the various labor positions and how to properly help my wife execute them? This book did a good job of explaining the labor and delivery process from a medical and procedural standpoint which was helpful, but I honestly could have done without 75% of it. I don’t need you to give me a script on how to verbally encourage my wife. We figured it out just fine.
In short, read what you can to educate yourself on the process and what your partner is going through. It will only help you feel more connected to the process and make her feel that you have an inkling of understanding.
Think back to the last time you went to Las Vegas. Was it a Hangover-esque bachelor party or a romantic getaway with your partner? Regardless of the occasion, most Vegas trips usually involve lots of eating and drinking, little sleep, loud noise, and you usually end up feeling worse when you leave then when you arrived. But none of this mattered when you were watching Cirque du Soleil or winning at the craps table.
The second your baby enters the real world they have just left the fantasy of Vegas. But this is not just any normal weekend Vegas trip. It is 5 am and they have just been thrown out of Pure nightclub with its all-you-can-eat buffet, free bottle service, comfy booths, busy dance floor, and diligent security guards.
When we view the womb as a smaller and even warmer Vegas, it’s no wonder newborns scream bloody murder when they are hungry, don’t sleep at night when we put them on their backs, actually calm down when you sway/bounce/jiggle them, feel more secure wrapped tight in a swaddle, and prefer noise directly in their ear drum. It also makes sense why I can vacuum directly next to my sleeping baby with no reaction from her whatsoever.
It will take them time to adjust to our world – where we eat, sleep, and play at certain times of the day, not 24/7. It will be painful when they are screaming at 1 am and all you want to do is sleep. Just remember that 1 am used to be their dance party. So dance with them and trust that you are doing the best you can to help them adjust. It won’t happen overnight, but they will soon realize that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
The labor process for the dad is wild, stressful, frustrating, and rewarding. At one point I even broke down because there was nothing I could do to comfort her and make the pain go away. I was sleep deprived, hungry, and drained from trying to do everything I could to work through the process. Every dad will have a different experience, but here are some of the things I learned:
- Flexibility – We had a birth plan. It went to hell when we had to induce labor. The safety of our baby took precedence to any previous plans.
- Advocate for her – She will be more tired, in more pain, and even more frustrated than you. She might forget to request pain killers (or more than the given dose). She might forget to eat. She might not ask the nurses or doctors certain questions. If she is uncomfortable, there actually may be a problem with the bed (which we had). Be her second voice because she might not have one.
- Ask questions – Similar to advocacy, ask questions that she may forget. You will both be talking about what she is feeling, wondering, etc. and when the nurse comes, you can both get most things answered if you are both asking the questions.
- Helplessness – You might feel helpless. I sure did and I think this is normal. You are trying to be as supportive as possible and have probably never seen your partner in so much pain – and there is nothing you can do. Just know that the professionals are doing the best they can, she WILL get through it, and you both will be a stronger unit because of it.
- Be a nag – The nurse call button will become your best friend – don’t be afraid to use it. Go to the nurse station and ask for water, ice, food, a hug, whatever you need. They are there to help you and will do whatever they can.
- Nurse “gift” – Given that you will be a nag, bring the nurses something. I brought them cookies from a local bakery when I went out to
escape get some fresh air and they definitely appreciated it. While you will have your dedicated nurse 95% of the time, a team will “join” you for the actual delivery. It might be good for them to like you already.
- Sleep – If she says it’s OK for you to sleep, do it. She will be fine and will need you when it really counts. You will be up for long stretches of time and it is OK to be tired. When that epidural kicks in, you will definitely be able to get some sleep.
- Eat – The problem wasn’t skipping meals – the problem was that I wasn’t sleeping (for obvious reasons). So my body was obviously trying to function. It needed food when I wouldn’t normally eat (like midnight or 2am). We had snacks, but plan to have more than just pretzels and Wheat Thins to fuel your body in the middle of the night.
- Encouragement – Encourage her to try different soothing techniques. She may default to one (my wife’s was gripping the side of the bed with all her might). But we also tried bouncing on a yoga ball (kind of worked) and walking around. Walking seemed to work the best to help ease the pain. She also showered. All helped to some degree or another, but she might not want to even move. Encourage her, but don’t force her.
- Admiration – You will have a new and profound admiration for your partner having seen what they had to endure. Imagine having the worst pains of your life, over and over again for hours, not knowing when they will end. And then try to do that without eating or drinking anything. Their bodies and minds are put through hell and back. Hence the invention of the “Push Present.”
We had a birth plan. And then that plan blew up in our face. This is our story. And it sure was nothing like the movies.
Until 48 hours before our daughter was born, the pregnancy had been relatively easy. No morning sickness, no complications, no scary moments. Aside from the normal fatigue, soreness, emotional changes, and typical side effects, we had been super lucky.
Then we went to our 38 week check-up and the OB saw that the baby still hadn’t dropped any further than the week before, so he did an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed that she was on the small side and measuring two weeks behind what she should have been. So…he sent us to go see “the ultrasound guru”.
Ok, I know I won’t be the one pushing a watermelon through a pinhole, but I am already nervous. I am more nervous about the labor process than I am about being a father.
The way I see it, labor is finite. There is a fixed amount of time to figure it out and keep my wife as sane as possible. But as a father, I will have plenty of time to make mistakes. If I decide to dress her in what my wife deems as a horrendous outfit, I won’t do it again (god forbid!).
I read a rather lengthy and overwhelming book recently telling me about about all the breathing, labor positions, and ways to support the mother during labor. While I remember the general concepts, I fear the devil is in the details. We also didn’t take any birthing classes. So I suppose we are both going into this with the same idea that “we’ll figure it out.” Which I suppose is what the entire next chapter in our life is going to be – figuring it out.
It’s pretty amazing and surreal to think that it won’t just be the two of us anymore, that there will be another member to our family. It has been the two of us for the last 12 years. We could do what we wanted, when we wanted, and didn’t have to tell anyone. We traveled the world and set our own schedule. We went to dinner, to the movies, and out with friends on our schedule. It will be different now.
Now, nothing can be done without thinking how it will affect our daughter. Who will stay home with her? Can we take her with us? How will our actions or our plans affect her?
Financially it’s a whole new story. We have already exercised tremendous self-control during this pregnancy (and it’s a damn good thing seeing as how she is going to cost us over $240k during her lifetime). I don’t think either of us have bought anything for ourselves outside of the necessitates – i.e. food, maternity clothes, and baby clothes, in that order. But I am OK with that.
I have been operating as a pair for almost half my life – but now there are three. And I can’t wait.
Let the fun begin!
(Thanks to Monica @ Shoots and Giggles for an awesome maternity photo shoot.)