When baby #1 came along over 7 years ago, I was completely scared during the entire pregnancy. When my wife gave birth, I was jumping around like a rabbit trying to figure out where to stand, what to hold, and how not to contort my face at what I was watching. During the birth of baby #2, I was more knowledgeable about what to expect and what my role would be. For baby #3, I felt like the doctor could probably step aside and let me do the work. I had it covered. In fact, it was hard not to look and act cocky as my wife and I walked up and down the labor and delivery ward during my son’s recent birth. There were other expectant couples walking as well, and the looks on the other guys’ faces looked familiar – it was the same one that I had many years earlier. They looked frightened and tense. In contrast, my wife and I were smiling and having conversations about a variety of things, including sports, politics, professional wrestling, work, movies, and, of course, baby related things. As we walked past the other couples, I would smile and nod to the other dads, but man, they looked terrible. Not the moms-to-be, but the dads. I’d also liked to add that my wife was way tougher than their partners. She looked like she was warming up for the New York Marathon while the other women were complaining about this and that and doubling over in pain and what have you.
It would be completely wrong of me to not drop golden nuggets of wisdom on all you expecting partners out there. So I’ve put together a list on how to survive the labor.
- Don’t say anything stupid. You know what I’m talking about here. Guys, we say dumb stuff all the time. Experts say that men think about sex every 7 minutes. We probably say something idiotic every 5 minutes. There will come a time during the labor that you’ll feel the need to rip a funny comment. Don’t do it! It is a great idea to keep things light now and then, but keep it within reason. For my first baby’s birth, I thought I would go in with a ton of jokes to keep things happy and help my wife take her mind off the pain. It wasn’t a good thought. I’m surprised that I made it through alive.
- It’s all about comparisons. Forget everything you’ve ever been told about raising kids and remember this: It isn’t about how hard kids work at things and how pleased they are with their finished product; it’s all about how they match up to other kids. You parents know what I’m talking about. Sure, we try not to do it, but rightly or wrongly, we make comparisons as a form of motivation. Those moments just before your child takes its first breath is no different. So go ahead and point out to your partner some pregnant woman who is not looking her best… Okay, enough of being nice – point out a pregnant woman that looks terrible (you know, with her hair all a mess, bright red face, cussing and staggering) and assure your partner that she doesn’t look, act, smell, or sound anything like that. Even if she looks worse than the other women, tell her how great she looks. She won’t believe you, but in the end, she’ll appreciate it. Also feel free to make fun of the other women. It helps as well.
- Give your non-throwing arm to her for help. I’m a righty and so anytime my wife needed anything, I offered my left arm. This doesn’t just apply to giving her something to grab onto, it also goes for picking things up. Your arms will get a workout, so be careful. Also stretch when nobody is looking. You’ll look stupid if caught.
- Do not rub her back in circles. This drives women crazy! For some reason, we men feel like in order to help someone calm down, we should rub their backs in a big oval. Who likes a back rub like that? You’ve got to switch it up a bit. Try the oval and then take Miagi’s advice and go “up down,” (but not “wax on wax off.”). Go ahead and give a little light massage as well. She’ll have a few knots back there. Don’t get in there and rub too hard though. She might swear at you. Which brings us to number 5…?
- If you get yelled at, don’t worry. All yellings make for great stories later on. It won’t feel good at the time, but don’t take it personally. Get some tough skin because she’s about to pass your kid through a tiny opening.
- You need to know the hospital. I’m not talking about how to get there, because common sense should tell you that you should have that planned. I’m talking about knowing the hospital like the back of your hand. At some point, you are going to need to use the bathroom, get a snack, or get a drink. Most rooms have bathrooms in them so that shouldn’t be a problem. But if there isn’t one or if you’re not allowed to use the in-room bathrooms, then you need to know where the closest one is. Sometimes the labor can last a while and you’ll have a rare moment to step out. Hit up that vending machine while you’re at it. But remember, even if labor is slow, everything has to be done quickly. You might miss something, or worse, you might cause your partner unnecessary irritation (see Number 5).
- Pack some snacks. Who can work on an empty stomach? This does not take place of the vending machine comment above, because you’ll want that variety. Pack some power bars and some drinks. It could be a long bumpy ride. Oh, and your wife might want something too.
- You’ll also want to pack deodorant and a clean shirt. Many people will come into contact with you throughout the day. Go easy on them by not smelling like a gym.
- Your partner might want the following items, so have them ready for her right away. A hair holder, juice box, piece of chocolate, slippers, a nurse, or make-up.
- It is an out of body experience and the greatest moment of your life. So even though it is a tense situation, try to find the joy in it. Notice I said “joy” and not “enjoy.” If you’re enjoying it, you’ll be in trouble and it would also seem weird. Keep your phone and camera charged because you’ll want to share the amazing moment with everyone.
In the end, as long as mother and baby are healthy, that’s what really matters. Don’t belittle your role though. Face it, without you, the day probably wouldn’t have been possible. Your main job throughout the process is one of encourager and coach, but it’s also your day. A day you share with a woman you love and a new child that you’ll shower with affection and care.