Mr. Dad: Father-to-be must prep for his role
Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is pregnant and wants me to be her labor coach for the delivery. This is my first baby and I’m really nervous. What can I do to prepare?
A: Congratulations on your impending fatherhood! The very first thing to do is banish the word “coach” from your childbirth vocabulary. Thinking of yourself as a coach puts way too much pressure on you. Next, learn about labor and delivery by attending childbirth classes with your wife, reading childbirth books, and taking a tour of your hospital or birthing center. Then talk with your wife about what the ideal delivery scenario would look like. But resist the urge to create a written birth plan. Labor and delivery rarely go as planned, so lots of flexibility is essential.
Here are a few discussion starters.
• Many hospitals require constant monitoring (via a big belt and an IV), which could limit your wife’s mobility. Sometimes hospitals don’t let laboring women eat anything but ice. How does she feel about these policies?
• In what circumstances would your wife want a C-Section, an episiotomy (an incision in the vagina to enlarge the opening), or assisted birth (forceps or vacuum extraction)?
• Does your wife want an epidural immediately or does she want an unmedicated delivery? If she wants to avoid medication, what other pain management techniques will she consider? How will you help her deal with the pain?
• Who’s in the delivery room? Unless your wife specifically requests someone else, you should be the only nonmedical professional there.
• Atmosphere. Does she have a favorite song? Does she want loud, thumping music or a quiet setting with soft lighting?
• Does she want to capture every minute of labor and delivery on video?
• Does she want to see the baby crown using a mirror? Do you want to cut the cord?
• After the birth, who gets to hold the baby first? Does your wife want to try breastfeeding right away? Do you want to bank your baby’s cord blood (check out cordblood.org)?
• Pack a hospital bag for yourself, including a change of clothes, basic toiletries, a snack and a swimsuit. She may end up laboring in a shower or tub and there’s no reason why you can’t be in there with her.
• Unless there’s a clear medical emergency, don’t hesitate to ask what the nurse or doctor is doing and why. If something isn’t going the way you and your wife planned, speak up.
• Tell her how amazing she is. Labor and delivery are tough, and your support and encouragement will make a huge difference.
• Trust your team. Unless you’re a medical doctor or a labor and delivery nurse, you’re probably not qualified to make medical decisions. If you can’t trust your doctor to do what’s best for your wife, you really need to find someone else.
Find resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com.