Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
Should Dads be in the Delivery Room?
I was saddened by reports from a recent study conducted by nappy company Pampers that said 30% of fathers wish they had not been in the delivery room when their first child was born and 47% said they were not prepared for what happens in the delivery suite. Being around from day 1 for my children has been of major importance to me and my relationship with my kids. As we approach the birth of number 3 I thought I might share some of my thoughts around being present while your children are born.
To get credentials established, I think I’ve experienced most of what delivery suites have to offer, our first child, my son Logan, started as a fully natural, gas and air driven birth and concluded on the exact opposite end of the scale in an emergency caesarian section. Our daughter Aria was a planned C-section and so will our next. So I’ve seen a lot of stuff and I think I can make a case for Dads being present, where possible.
A lot of Dads say they feel useless during the birthing process and to an extent this is true. The hard work is being done by Mum and you’re surrounded by exceptionally well trained medical staff. It can feel like you’re a bit of a third wheel and men don’t tend to take feeling useless very well. Point one, no, you’re not in there doing stuff at the sharp end, yes, the midwives don’t really need you to get the baby out and so in a practical sense you’re not really required. Deal with it. A big role for Dads in birth is to be of emotional support for your partner, this means being present for them, talking to them and encouraging them. Don’t go overboard, your partner is in the middle of something difficult and often stressful, if you’re coming over like a Californian life coach, it’s just going to irritate them. Don’t give tips on how to do the whole birth thing unless this has been explicitly agreed with your partner beforehand, she knows she has to breathe, she’s been doing it all her life and the midwife will tell her when to push. Do be prepared to communicate your partner’s wishes if she’s not able to do so, make sure you know what she wants before the baby comes and if she can’t make her wishes known, you need to be able to do that. That being said, there’s really no such thing as a birth plan, even the best plans can’t cater for everything, so have preferences by all means but don’t think this is a process that can be controlled, it can’t. Just be reassuring, calm and supportive and accept the fact that you may be told to shut up anyway.
Remember that the process is largely about your partner, childbirth is as safe as it has ever been but it’s still a major event in physical terms. The main objective is the safety of your partner and child. You might get bored, it can take ages to bring a child into the world, but you don’t get to express that boredom by moaning, playing with your phone or mucking about in any other way. If you’re adult enough to father a child then you’re adult enough to deal with a modicum of boredom. Post the pictures to Facebook once the tough bit is over, not before and definitely, on no account should you post pics of your wife in labour, it’s gauche.
It might not always end with the birth. When Logan came he needed some treatment after birth, because I was there I was able to take him for that treatment while they put my wife back together. It may be that your partner is fit as a fiddle after giving birth but they may be in a pretty messy state, if it’s the latter, your entry into the world of shouting children and nappy changes begins straight away, she can’t do that if she’s still in theatre.
This may all sound a bit harsh but the truth is, it was time to put your big boy trousers on from the moment you found out you were going to be a Dad. By the time baby arrives you need to be used to the idea that it’s not all about you anymore. You’re not in the delivery room because it’s a ton of fun or because they might need use of the medical skills you accrued from your workplace first aid course 5 years ago, you’re there to support your partner and, if need be, look after your child. It doesn’t matter if you feel overwhelmed (you will), useless (again almost certainly) or scared (dumb if you don’t) there will be a time to express that later, for now you are the advocate, emotional support and target of insults for your partner. The upside is that you’ve entered into the single best experience a man can have in his life. A rough birth will be nothing more than a war story by the time you’re planning a first birthday but the fun of being a Dad will last a lot longer than that.