Helping your partner give birth to your child will be the most amazing event in your life, but you may be too busy to take it all in. She will be your fighter in the ring and you will be her cornerman. She will focus on her internal challenges, so you’ll make sure her and your baby’s needs are met. Here we help you get ready and rise to the occasion if required.
What You Need to Bring to the Hospital
Pack your bag early, as surprises are common. Here’s a list inspired by dads (download and print it).
Photos of dads helping their babies into the world. These men were often winging it, too, and just did what came naturally.
BabyCenter does a great job with online childbirth education. Here’s a link to their seven-video series, which totals about two hours. Consider watching them with your partner and take time to ask for her thoughts, such as requests for you as her birth cornerman.
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You may get a name tag in the shape of a uterus, but once the birth is over, we’ve never heard of a dad who regretted going to childbirth classes. You and mom will spend a lot of time together, in class and talking on the way there and back: a new family rite of passage for decades. You’ll get to know other couples and there’s a good chance you’ll make new friends. The class will cover everything, especially strategies for managing pain.
Most important? When her labor kicks in, she’ll know you’ve got her back; that you’ll take care of her and make sure everyone else does, too. You will be prepared to rise to the occasion should the need arise.
“A woman in labor needs her husband to be a man—if she needs to squeeze his arm until it bruises to get through a contraction, or make sure she gets what she needs, he does it. She needs to know he’s her lion at the gate.”
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Animated Birth Video (0:45)
How Babies Are Born (3:04)
With so many options, determining and communicating mom’s and your wishes requires they be written down. This is called a birth plan, and it should accompany you into the hospital to be used as a reference for attending medical personnel.
Read More (Link to full page below)
Making Arrangements at the Hospital (link to page below)
Is a Doula Right for You? (link to page below)
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She will hear a lot about “natural” birth, a vaginal birth without an epidural that is supposed to empower mothers. So for balance, here’s the downside: if a Caesarean section is required or she caves in and asks for an epidural for the pain, many new moms feel like a failure right out of the gate. That’s not good for them or your baby.
If she’s intent on a natural birth, suggest a code word (e.g., “blue”) for if she decides she wants an epidural; this way, you know she’s sure and you don’t ask for one prematurely. Suggest the code word also means she won’t feel guilty.
An emergency C-section can be staggering for a new mom who really wanted a natural birth. After delivery, while getting patched up, she may spend 30 to 60 minutes alone and feeling bad about it before she even sees her baby. So prior to Mom arriving in the maternity room, ask the nurse how you can best get the antidote—her baby—into her arms ASAP. In terms of holding the baby, her C-section incision will be an issue and the nurse will give you instructions.
After delivery, if mom is disappointed, tell her you know she’s struggling, but when you look at her with the baby, all you see is a beautiful mother and child, which makes you profoundly proud and happy. Then it’s on to helping her get breastfeeding (link to breastfeeding) going.
“My wife was full of tears when she was told that (C-section) was the option she had to take. Nothing that I could say would register. What did help was I got her girlfriend on the phone who had a Cesarean. She was the one who could answer her questions about what it was like. After she talked to her friend, she was like, ‘OK, I’m ready. I can do it.’” —Vet Dad
“There is a cultish hatred towards epidurals and we wish we hadn't bought into that as much as we did.”
The last few weeks are when most moms get scared about giving birth. Show her your Childbirth Cornerman’s Guide so she knows you’re ready to help her through it. Plan on spending most of your time with her, avoid trips away if possible, and stay in touch by phone. If she’s still working, she may have no desire to go and find it difficult to focus.
If she goes past her due date, she’ll likely get impatient and frustrated. Help distract her, especially with ideas that might induce labor. Be careful joking about horseback riding, though, as she just might insist on actually going.
Your Childbirth Cornerman’s Guide will have instructions for tracking labor at home (you’ll need a clock with seconds). Or you can download a labor contraction app to your phone—you just push “start” at the beginning of a contraction and “stop” at the end: the app does everything else. Try these:
- A good review of labor contraction timers.
- Full-Term Contraction Timer; a simple one for iPhones from the App Store.
- Contraction Timer a simple one for Android phones from Google Play.
You might want to pick one now, download it, and practice a little. On a bored evening as your due date approaches, try pulling your phone out and ask her to do a fake a contraction so you can practice timing it. She’ll think you’re joke is dumb, but she’ll be happy you’re taking your job seriously.
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On any issue of concern: call. They expect this and are prepped for it, so don’t be shy. Any concerns she has are fair game for a call, and they reassure a nervous woman about to give birth.
Once it’s time, get your hospital bags together, make any necessary calls (e.g., pet sitter?), check the house (no leaving the stove on), then head to the hospital. You’ll want to drive carefully despite any NASCAR thoughts; even little bumps on the road are painful for a woman in labor.
If it’s a standard birth, her doctor will examine her cervix for dilation (i.e., opening up so the baby can pass through). A scale of 1 to 10 centimeters is used to track her progress in labor; 2 is a good sign labor is progressing and 10 means time for the birth.
Her doctor may determine that labor will take a while, and she should wait to be admitted. First-time expectant parents often end up making two trips to the hospital before labor sets in. If mom’s up for it, suggest an activity that will help take her mind off the contractions. Go for a walk, to a movie -anything that distracts her from focusing on the clock.
Get mom checked in and comfortable. Hospitals have tons of rules, but keep in mind you’re a paying customer. If they’re busy with lots of births, get clear answers about how they will handle her needs.
You’ll be assigned a nurse who will be responsible for getting mom settled in, hooked up to appropriate equipment, monitoring her and baby’s progress, and helping to manage labor. She’s there to help, so you’ll want to quickly establish communication and a constructive relationship. Ask for her suggestions and advice and if there’s anything you can do to help. If a shift change occurs, make sure the new nurse was briefed on your mate’s issues, and take the same approach with the doctor or midwife.
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