You got her to the hospital. Now the real work starts. You are going to be a new dad soon, but before that, you need to get your shit together and focus.
So go take your 30 seconds of meditation or splash some cold water on your face because it’s time to be the hand-holding, mental toughness-coaching, confident, stomach of steel champion that you are meant to be.
So what the hell are you supposed to do when you get into the labor and delivery room? We’ve got you.
When is it time to go to the hospital/birthing center?
Braxton Hicks contractions sound scary because of their name, but they’re not. They can leave you questioning whether it’s time to press play on your fave Netflix show or if it’s really time head over to the ER and start active labor. Many moms will make at least one visit to the hospital or birthing center too early thinking it is time. So, how do you know when it’s actually time to take your partner to the hospital or birthing center? Here are a few tips to help you decide. Either way, don’t write them off as nothing so easily.
Download a contraction tracking app A quality contraction timing app will have you mark when the contraction starts, ends, and when the next one begins. You can read more about contraction timing from Bloom Life. If you don’t have access to a phone or device with an app, you will want to write down the information to help you track the contractions to better see when it is time to go. Having this info will help when you talk to your doctor.
How frequent and regular are the contractions? Ask your doctor what he/she considers active labor. Do this at one of your appointments and earn some brownie points! However, most doctors will say contractions lasting 1 minute and coming every 4-5 minutes are a signal that it is time to go into a hospital or birthing center. You can read more about this timing in this article from What to Expect. Once contractions have hit this regular rhythm and are consistent, you will want to get ready to go.
When her water breaks If your partner’s water breaks you need to go to the hospital or birthing center. Period. Hopefully, you have your hospital bag packed up and ready to go. Once the water is broken, it can trigger labor to accelerate.
What are all of the machines?
Your lady is finally in labor. You’ve made it to a room and there are machines everywhere. No...you’re not in an episode of Star Trek...it’s all good. Everything in the room serves a purpose and is there to help you and your partner welcome your new baby. Below are a few of the machines you can expect to see. Don’t be afraid to ask a nurse or midwife what things are if it will help you to support your partner and feel less anxious throughout the process.
The machine with the paper coming out of it There is a more technical name for this machine but that is the easiest way to explain it. This machine will be running for the entire labor process. It does a few things. The sheet of paper will show the medical professional how frequently contractions are coming, the baby’s heart rate, and how those two things relate. The numbers on the screen are also important. The 132 you see pictured is the baby’s heart rate. 142/94 would be mom’s blood pressure. 73 is mom’s pulse and 14 has to do with the position of the contraction.
The computer monitor This machine will be a big help for you as your partner is in labor. The top line will show you when a contraction is coming and how regularly they are coming. Many husbands will watch this monitor as a way to see when a contraction is coming so they can support their partner. You will learn during the process that as it starts to go up her pain level will go up as this is a contraction.
Stuff attached to your woman There will be lots of devices connected to your lady. You might see something that looks like a waistband wrapped around the prego belly of your lady. This will be monitoring contractions and heart rate for the baby. As labor progresses you may see these adjusted multiple times over. The medical professionals are simply trying to get the best reading possible. Your partner may also have an I.V., blood pressure cuff, and if she has an epidural, a special machine in charge of the epidural.
How can I help with pain relief?
Just be there. It’s a “no duh” that pregnancy is painful. It might be hard for you to watch, but it’s a thousand times harder for her to give birth, so shut up and be there for her. Hold her hand. If she wants to talk about things, talk about them. Remind her that things are going to be ok and that she is safe and you love her. You do those things and you are already winning. Whatever you do, don’t joke, even if it is something you do when you are nervous. Don’t freaking joke around in the labor and delivery room. Not the right time or place, bro.
Help her to breathe through contractions. If you went to a birthing class, this is where that breathing training comes into play. If you didn’t, we’re pretty sure you know how to breathe. You just have to take it up a notch when you are having a baby. An OBGYN nurse we spoke with shared the birthday candle method. Imagine a birthday cake with one hundred candles on it. Every time you blow one out, it re-lights. This will help you think to do short, quick breaths. Those short quick breaths, similar to blowing out candles, will help you and her to remember to breathe.
Listen to her doctor, midwife, or nurse. The medical professionals walking her through her labor will help you to help her. They may recommend pressing firmly on her back, helping her to change positions. This may be uncomfortable for you but it will give you the ability to bring some comfort to your partner.
Listen to your partner. She’s gonna scream and she might hate you from time to time during the labor. Wouldn’t you if you had something coming out of you? Just listen. Stay consistent with the tips above and you will be fine. You got this.
What is my role during labor?
As The Rock says, “know your role and shut your damn mouth!” Part of this definitely applies. In addition to no joking and staying focused on her, you need to know that you are the most hated and loved person in the room. Your job can be summed up in one simple word. Support. Just be there to support her. She needs you to help her feel heard and right...it’s that simple.
Help execute her birth plan - or throw it out the window. Chances are if your wife is Type A, she put a birth plan together. The way she hopes and wishes things will go. Having a birth plan is awesome and if things are going well, it is your job to help make sure it is executed properly by the medical staff. BUT if things start going wrong, listen to the doctor. The doctors will try to talk to your wife, but she might not hear it all, so simply help by repeating what the doctor said and ask her for her input. You do NOT need to make decisions for her, unless she gives you permission to do so.
Be her support. This will look different for each mom and even for each labor. However, the overall goal is to stand by her and help her to feel supported during her labor. This may mean getting ice chips from the nurse, finding out the status of her epidural, or rubbing her back when she’s in pain. Your ultimate goal is to help her in any way you can so she can focus on the job at hand.
Keep family and friends updated. Your partner will need to focus on the job in front of her. One way you can help her is to make sure that family and friends are kept updated about her progress. NO, that does not mean posting a social media status every step of the way. Ask your lady before you post anything. The first picture of her and the baby needs to come from her account, not yours and not your mom’s. If you leak the first picture, even via text, to a family member before she has posted it to her account, you’re dead meat.
Be her advocate. During labor it can be difficult for your partner to speak for herself. Be her advocate during this time and you will help her to be more at peace in the process. Being her advocate does not mean taking over though. Instead, find out what she needs help with and make it your mission to take care of that. Keep her ice chip cup full, make a list of questions she has for the nurses, or make sure she is being given space to rest from family.
What is my role during the delivery?
You have an idea of what your labor experience might look like, but we are here to tell you that it could be drastically different from what you think. You might have a magical experience where the baby comes out and you cry together with your wife and you hug and music plays in the background and doves fly through the hospital room, but it might also feel like you just finished running a marathon with no shoes on.
Know your limits Delivering a baby is messy. Straight up, not gonna lie. If you are sensitive to blood you may want to choose to focus on the mother of the baby and staying up top with her face rather than focusing on the down below, if you catch our drift. It is completely ok to support her by being present without looking at things you can’t handle. She needs you to know your limits so you don’t faint during her delivery. Have a talk with her beforehand about some of these limitations so you can be on the same page.
Listen to the mother and the nurses If you are focused on the mother of the baby and the nurses you won’t go wrong. They will tell you where they want you, what they need most, and how you can help. This could mean that you are holding a leg back, holding the mother’s hand, or helping her to breathe. A lot will depend on how your partner’s labor progresses. No labor is ever the same as another. Your partner will know what she needs and the nurses will be able to help you to help her.
Shut out the outside world During this time, your focus doesn’t need to be on what is going on outside of the room. People can be updated about her condition later. Turn off your phone and focus on your partner and helping her in any way you can. There will be plenty of time after the baby to address anything outside of the room. For now, focus on your partner and help her through the delivery process.
Roll with the changes Delivery can be unpredictable for moms. Your partner could spend a long time pushing, start to wear down, or even need a c-section. Know her wishes but be willing to roll with the changes. Things may not go the way you planned together. Be ready to support her no matter what comes next in this process. By focusing on your partner during this time you can be a support to her while helping her to transition into a new plan if needed.
Don’t panic When the big moment is upon you, there will be a rush of medical staff in the room. Don’t worry about them. Instead, focus on your partner and find a way that you can help. Everyone will fade away if you focus on the job you have to do in order to be a help. Instead of panicking, be the best leg holder, hand holder, or breathing coach ever. You can’t do all the jobs during this process or control everything but you can control your job.
Capture the moment but be in the moment! Technology is becoming more and more prevalent in the delivery room. Parents are wanting to video the delivery or get photos of the first moments with the new baby. While these are images and videos you will treasure, they should not take away from the main focus. Make sure that whatever technology you have does not distract from supporting your partner. It is more important to put down the phone sometimes and help your partner through a difficult process. Be sensitive to when she needs you to abandon the tech and be in the moment.
What if there is a C-section?
Not all labors end with a vaginal delivery. In fact, the Chicago Tribune reports that 31% of labors end in a C-Section. There are a lot of reasons a doctor might opt for a cesarean section instead of a vaginal delivery. However, many of them are beyond your control and will require a complete change in the labor process. Here are a few tips to help you if your partner’s labor ends in a c-section. *Please read this section even if you think all will go well. You can’t always plan for a c-section and it is better to be prepared in advance.
It’s ok to ask why This is an important point. While the doctors and midwives will make the best choice they can for your partner and the baby, it is ok to ask why a c-section is being done. Even in an emergency situation medical professionals can give you a quick explanation as to why. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and verify your partner is being taken care of.
Be her calm If a c-section is ordered at the end of her labor it can be very difficult for some moms. A lot can happen as they prepare her for her procedure. Not all medical staff are great at communicating what is happening and helping the mom feel at peace. Be encouraging for your partner as they prepare her for a c-section. Remind her that she will get through this and you will be by her side ready to support her.
Be an advocate While some nurses do a fabulous job of communicating what is going on, not all nurses do. If you see your partner getting anxious, stop a nurse and have her explain things to your partner. Don’t let her go into that surgery in fear if there is someone who can help her understand what is happening. You know your partner better than the staff in the hospital or birthing center. Help her to feel heard and cared for in this process.
Pay attention to what they need of you If your partner needs a c-section the staff will tell you what they expect of you as well. This could mean that you change into surgical garb and wait in the hall until your partner is prepared. Many times the father will have to wait for the medical staff to prepare the mom before letting the father into the surgery room. Listen to the nurses. In some occasions, the c-section is an emergency and you will not be allowed back. You will have to wait outside and be ready to meet your baby and support your partner in recovery.
Focus on the mom When you enter the room for the surgery, take the time to focus on the mom. This can be a very overwhelming process for her. Take the time to hold her hand and talk her through what is going on. During the surgery, you need to stay up by her head. You do not have the freedom to move anywhere else as this is a surgery. If you are concerned about something mom is doing during the surgery look to her nurses. They are trained professionals and will assist if anything at all is amiss.
Go with the baby Once the baby is born, most hospitals will ask the father to leave with the baby. While it can be difficult to leave your partner there, know that they are only closing up the surgery site at this point. During this time it is your job to make sure that everything is going well with the baby. Make sure to take a lot of pictures. Because your partner doesn’t get to be a part of this moment, she will want to see it to feel included in her baby’s first moments.
What happens when the baby comes?
You and your partner have done it! You’ve made it through labor and delivery and now your baby is here. This will begin a flurry of movement as the doctors and nurses are now taking care of two patients. Many men say the first time they meet their baby is life-changing. But what happens when the baby comes? Let’s look at some tips for when the baby is born.
The baby will be covered in stuff. Many dads aren’t prepared for the fact that the baby will be covered in blood and white stuff (vernix). This is a completely natural part of the process and the nurses will clean the baby off. However, if you are not expecting this, it can be a shocking first image. Don’t worry though. It is natural and will be cleaned off pretty quickly.
Find out what your jobs will be. Will you be cutting the cord? What about helping with the first bath? During the first hours of your baby’s life, your partner will be recovering and the nurses will be finishing up some post-delivery needs she will have. Speak to your partner in advance about what your jobs are going to be after the baby comes. Things like cutting the cord, getting photos for mom, and helping the mom to get situated to breastfeed and bond with the baby are all things you will probably help with. Discuss these in advance so that you can help in any way possible.
Don’t forget your partner. When the baby comes, everyone starts to focus on the new baby. Remember that your partner has just been through a long and difficult process. Take some time to be there for your partner and encourage her. Make sure her needs are being met and she is feeling seen in this process. This also means protecting the room and keeping visitors at a minimum until she has had time to deal with any post-delivery needs and bond with the baby.
What if there are complications?
Labor and delivery are very unpredictable. No matter how much you pre-plan, sometimes there are complications. The most important thing to do is to focus on your partner and on being the support person for her during this process. There could be complications or things could go smoothly. Here are a few tips for the chance that there are complications.
Be her support. Labor and delivery are already very trying experiences. If anything goes wrong it can be very hard on your partner. While it can be tempting to panic at this time, it is very important that you focus that energy into being calm for your partner. She will already be tired and overwhelmed so anything going “wrong” will definitely be harder on her. Focus on supporting her and helping her to process what is going on.
Ask questions. Depending on the severity of the situation, medical staff can answer any questions about what is going on. Keep in mind that they will answer your questions based on the information they have. They may not know all of the answers right away. Be patient as they work to get you the best possible information for your situation. That said, don’t be afraid to ask them questions to make sure you are fully informed.
Go where your partner wants you. It can be tempting to run to the area you feel you are needed most. Instead, ask your partner where she wants you to be during a situation that isn’t going to plan. Does she want you by her side, with the baby, or doing something else completely? Follow her lead on this and you are going to be able to support her better. Communication is your best friend in a hard situation. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner.
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