Delivery Room Buddies
When I was born in 1969, fathers did not usually venture into the delivery rooms. My dad was perfectly happy sitting in the waiting room with all the other dads-to-be but he made an error. Because he is a professor, his credit card says ‘Dr. Waverman’ (he used to say he gets better service at restaurants) and so the nurse mistakenly called him for the big moment. I’m not sure he ever recovered.
Now that the idea of dads in the delivery room is so normal, it’s hard to imagine that it was ever any different.
Right before my c-section for my firstborn, our doctor gave my husband some scrubs. He must have looked a bit too comfortable because right after Aaron was born a nurse handed him to my husband and told him to take the baby to the NICU. Of course, my husband had no idea where that was and he wandered the hall for a couple minutes with the baby, only realizing a few minutes later that they gave him the baby because they thought he was a doctor. (Tall, dark and wearing scrubs equals doctor, I guess). I suppose that is a good reason to get these scrubs for daddys-to-be.
There are a lot of dos and don’ts that a dad has to remember. I would like to add: never talk about the embarrassing parts of labour publically and do send out an email post-delivery saying what an amazing human your wife is.
We have all heard the horror stories of dads falling asleep, checking their phone every few minutes and passing out. But most often the role of the dad is to hold hands (and eventually a leg), talk calmly and change the music. Of all the people in the room, the dad-to-be can have the least-defined role. Yes, he’s there for support and to take pictures and be an all-around great guy. But labour can be long and boring and then turn on a dime and poor dad can get lost in the picture.
There is a lot of pressure on dads to be some kind of superhero sidekick in the delivery room and that is a pretty tough thing to do,considering the newness of the situation, the heightened emotions and the fear of losing someone you love. A lot of dads I know talk about the feeling of helplessness and panic as they watch their wife in pain and they don’t know what to do.
So the advice from a three-time dad (my husband) is to bring a doula with you. His logic is that you need an advocate for the mom and unless the husband is an M.D., he may not know all the options and how to handle all situations. But what he does know (hopefully) is the woman in labour. And a doula knows the birthing process, the options and can advocate with the doctors and nurses. We were lucky because not only is our doula a great massage therapist, she is also a coffee addict so hubby never went too long without some caffeine. So an awake husband and a great masseuse was a perfect support team for me.
But everyone has a different idea of what they want their labour to be. My sister sees it as an intensely private experience and didn’t even want a doula there. (Private? There are like hundreds of strangers milling about.) My friend Chuck (yes, a girl) sees it as an experience to be shared and invited some friends along to the hospital. So the five of us crammed into the tiniest labour room imaginable to experience the most amazing and a bit disgusting thing I have ever seen. I got an appreciation for the awkward feelings of a dad as us bystanders didn’t really know what to do with ourselves -- we milled about, we asked her if she was hungry, if she wanted to sleep, we stood around. And then the most amazing thing happened, we grabbed her leg and then her body completely changed and a huge baby boy came out.
And you know what they say to dads-to-be about staying up at the head and never looking “down there”, well they have a point.
Want to shed a few tears? Check out this montage to the Kate Bush song: This Woman's Work, from John Hughes film: She's Having a Baby
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Any tips for expectant dads?