The role of fathers in the delivery room has changed a great deal over the past few decades, from waiting outside during the birth to playing an active part, and it can be hard to know what to do. The good news is that it’s not complicated – in fact, offering your partner the best support possible starts with these simple tips.
Practice self-care before and after
Pregnancy and labour can be a very stressful time for new mothers, especially with their first-born, and new fathers are typically expected to be a sturdy support throughout the process. The trouble is that in keeping up this image of strength and security for your partner, you may feel the need to keep your own stress and difficult emotions under wraps. With approximately one in every twenty expectant dads reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression before and after childbirth, it’s important for new fathers to tune in to their own emotions and seek help if necessary. After all, offering someone else the support they need is far more challenging when you haven’t dealt with your own issues.
Be there through every stage
New dads might feel a sense of helplessness in the birthing room as they watch their partner in pain, but there are simple ways to show support and make the process easier. During the pregnancy, going to birthing classes together will help you feel more prepared for what’s to come, and what you’ll be able to do for your partner during labour. During the early stages, make it your job to be a pleasant distraction. Ask her what she needs, and use things like music to distract from the dread of impending contractions. As the contractions grow more intense, simple things like placing a hand on her back for support or giving her your hand to squeeze can be helpful. Whatever you do, make sure your partner knows she has your full support.
Know the birth plan
Every couple should have a birth plan organised well before the baby’s arrival, and in the delivery room, it’s your job to safeguard the wishes of your partner. Unless an intervention is medically necessary, the mother should be allowed to birth her baby in the conditions she chooses. This is even more important if you’re planning for the baby to be born at home, in which case you’ll need to make sure all the preparations are complete well before the contractions start, and have the doula or midwife on speed-dial.
It’s natural to feel a whole range of emotions you may not ever have felt before when you’re witnessing the birth of a child, but this is no time to panic. Getting overly stressed or panicked will not help your partner or any of the people involved in helping with the birth. If you’re finding it overly difficult to master your emotions, ask the nurses for instruction and do your best to follow it – any kind of action should eliminate some of the anxiety.
Bring the camera
The moment your newborn is first laid on his mother’s chest will be one of triumph, relief, joy, and disbelief all at once, and you’re going to want to capture it when you have the opportunity. Don’t leave it up to the hospital to take the picture on your behalf – have the camera charged and waiting in the car in the days leading up to the due date. When the pain and exhaustion is forgotten, your partner will be thrilled to have a photo capturing such a special memory.
Deliver the big news
After giving birth, contacting everyone in the family to let them know is probably the last thing on your partner’s mind, so make it your job to call (or text, depending on the time of day) the people you love and share your joy. You might like to keep these messages only for the closest people in your life, and even then, there’s no need for an immediate broadcast while you’re still getting used to the idea of your new family unit. It can wait until the next day – just don’t let your partner be the one to contact everyone first.
For all of the turmoil and confusion, becoming a father is one of the most exciting, life-changing steps you can take as a man. These are moments you will never forget, so take a moment to capture the memories in your mind before your life changes forever.