Gone are the days of men sitting in the hospital waiting room, pacing back and forth and waiting for news of their little bundle of joy’s arrival. These days, dads are right there in the thick of things, active participants in the labor and delivery process. Here are some tips to get you through it all!
7 Show your support.
Long before it’s go time, your biggest priority is to make sure that mom knows that the two of you are a team. She might be the one carrying most of the weight (literally and figuratively) but she’s going to need a great deal of support. She will need someone to help her make decisions, someone to advocate for her, and someone to hold her hand (or a knee!) through one of the most difficult processes a woman will go through in life – labor and delivery!
Do as much prep and planning with her as you can. Shop for baby must-haves, register for gifts, and plan the nursery together. Attend ob/gyn and sonogram appointments with her, if possible. This gives you a chance to be there to ask questions and to hear firsthand how things are going with the pregnancy.
If you plan on going to any hospital tours or childbirth classes, be sure to sign up or make reservations well in advance. Go with her and pay attention. Take notes. And again, if you have questions, ask them!
Most importantly, just be there for her. It’s a long nine months, and she’s bound to have some nerves, anxiety, stress, and fear – and that’s even with a smooth and healthy pregnancy! Take care to let her know that you’re with her every step of the way.
6 Be prepared.
If mom is going to have a birth plan, make sure she goes over her medical needs and desires with you. Or better yet, help her write it. Even though sometimes things don’t always go the way we plan, it’s best to talk about every possible scenario so that you’ll both know what could happen and what she wants to do in the event of an emergency. If possible, get input from the ob/gyn as well.
When the birth plan is complete, make several copies. Give one to the ob/gyn, have one stashed in each of your hospital bags, and include one with your hospital registration forms – that way everyone knows what the plan is.
Safety first! Get that car seat installed well in advance. It might seem silly driving around with it in the backseat for awhile, but it’s best to have it properly installed ahead of time so that if baby decides to make an early arrival, you’re good to go. And it’s one less thing to worry about! Check out your local seat inspection station and make sure that you’ve got it done correctly.
Make sure those bags are packed. Both of yours. Mom has probably got her hospital bag covered, but you’ll need one, too, especially if you’re staying the night(s) at the hospital. Bring a couple changes of clothes, a heavy sweatshirt (due to the hormonal shift after delivery, Mom might be hot and sweaty, but you could be freezing!) and toiletries.
Also consider bringing snacks, change for vending machines and newspapers (buy one on your baby’s birthdate as a souvenir!) and your electronic devices and chargers.
5 Provide distractions.
Labor can be a long, monotonous event. Make sure to bring things to help take mom’s mind off of what’s to come. Check with the hospital staff to see what’s allowed. Some hospitals may allow music, cell phones, and photographs, others may not.If music is mom’s thing, make a playlist of her favorite songs. Consider making different playlists, depending on how she’s feeling.
Maybe she wants to be nice and relaxed with classical music, or perhaps she wants to power through labor and delivery with some 80’s rock. Or maybe she’ll change her mind a bunch of times – it’s best to make sure your iPod is well stocked.Bring books and magazines to read and games to play – whether it’s a deck of cards or Candy Crush on the iPad. If labor is slow, you’ll want something to pass the time, and there might not be anything on TV.
And while you might be able to get up, stretch, and go outside for some fresh air, if mom has had an epidural, she’ll be confined to her bed. And, although it might be difficult, try to get as much rest as possible before push time – you’ll both need it!
4 Be her advocate.
Get to know the doctors and nurses that will be working with you. Although shifts may change and new nursing staff may come on, it helps to befriend everyone who’ll be in and out of the room. Ask questions and be aware of what medications mom is getting, what they do, and what’s happening next.
If mom needs something – ask for it. Perhaps she just needs a drink or a snack. Some hospitals allow moms in labor to eat, some do not. Maybe she’s in pain and needs her pain medication. Maybe it’s too hot or too cold in the room. Whatever it is, get it taken care of and make sure mom is as comfortable as possible.
When it’s time to leave the hospital and head for home, try to handle as much of the paperwork as possible so that mom doesn’t have to deal with it. Your hospital may offer a discharge class. Be sure to go and listen to all of the discharge directions, as there will be information provided on how to handle your baby’s birth certificate, social security, and first visits to the pediatrician. Also, listen to any after-care instructions given to the moms, to make sure that mom takes care of herself at home.
3. Handle the pictures and communication.
Discuss what pictures or video (if any) the two of you would like to have taken in the hospital. Maybe mom doesn’t want any, maybe mom wants everything recorded for history. Some hospitals don’t allow photography during delivery, but will allow pictures after a certain time. If you can, make sure to snap pictures of the things that mom might miss out on or not be able to see – the weighing and measuring, getting cleaned up, etc.
And, if possible, ask someone to take a picture of all of you – your first family photo.Mom might be happily texting and Facebooking away during labor, but after awhile, she might get sick of the “Is the baby here yet?” messages. If she needs a break, handle the communication for her. Keep important friends and family members posted of baby’s progress via text or e-mail. Discuss how you want to handle social media.
What goes on Facebook and what doesn’t? Will you post pictures of the new arrival, and when?Consider having a draft of an e-mail ready to go, so that when baby does arrive, you can fill in the particulars (time of arrival, weight, length) and then… put the phone away. Enjoy the time with mom and baby.If you have visitors coming, make sure that mom is ready and comfortable first.
She may want to freshen up and take a shower if she is able, or perhaps she’s too tired and overwhelmed to deal with anybody. That’s understandable. And after everything that she’s just been through – she deserves the rest. Let friends and family know that they will have plenty time to visit with mom and baby once they’re rested and have gotten acquainted with each other.
3 Jump right in!
Dude, you’re a dad! Time to get your hands dirty – seriously. Your wife may have difficulty getting up out of bed, so if baby needs to have his/her diaper changed, go ahead and take care of it. You’ll need the practice, and you’ll both be changing plenty of diapers once you get home – so you might as well get started now. If your wife is nursing, you might feel like you don’t really get to help out with feeding the baby.
But there’s lots you can do. Make sure mom is in a comfortable position. Help her prop herself or baby up with pillows. Keep track of nursing times and diapers. When it’s time for baby to go back to sleep, swaddle him or her up and cuddle.
And most importantly, bond with your child. One of the first things that usually happens after baby is born, is that they are placed right on the mother’s chest to cuddle skin-to-skin, which helps regulate baby’s temperature and helps calm the baby. This contact also releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, which helps build a connection between mother and baby.
This skin-to-skin contact has the same effect on dads and babies, too. So, take your shirt off, cuddle up with baby under a warm blanket, and get to know your little one.
2 You’re not done when you go home!
No matter what type of birth (vaginal or c-section) she has, the new mom will need some time to heal and recover. If it was a difficult or painful delivery or c-section, it may be hard for her to get up and down out of bed, go up and down stairs, or even lift or hold the baby for an extended period of time. Take care to make sure that mom is taking it easy and taking care of herself!
Once you, mom, and baby are at home, it’s likely that you’ll feel like your whole world (and schedule) have been turned upside down. You’re likely to have a lot going on, what with getting used to having a newborn and having tons of visitors. Make sure you have plenty of the necessities in the house, like meals that are easy to prepare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Put those visitors to work – have someone help you out with the chores.
If someone offers to help, then by all means, give them something to do. Well-meaning friends can always run errands, bring take-out, fold laundry, wash dishes, or go to the grocery store for you.While your main job is to take care of mom and baby, you need to take care of yourself, too. As brand new parents, the two of you might be exhausted, but be sure that you are both eating well, taking the time to take a shower and clean yourselves up, and getting some rest.
It’s true that you and mom should sleep when the baby sleeps. There might be things that need to get done – the dishes in the sink, the pile of laundry in the basket – but it can all wait. Grab your rest while you can. You’re going to need it.