For all of you brave souls who have also decided to go “all in” for the arrival of your little one, here’s a dad’s guide for labour and delivery.
Being our first, my husband decided early on in our pregnancy that he wanted to be as involved as possible with the labour and delivery of our son. This came as a complete surprise to me, as he normally cringes at the mention of needles or the slightest bit of gore. But knowing that he would more or less be a spectator over the span of nine months, he was motivated and excited to be a physical part of welcoming our son into this world.
As a BrandNewDad, you might be wondering what YOU can do to help your most precious loved ones through labour and delivery? Well, besides driving her crazy or to the hospital , the short answer is, A LOT!
Go back to sleep
(Trust me, you’ll know when to wake back up!)
Two weeks before my due date, I woke up early one morning with a little spotting. I quietly notified my dear husband (DH) and after asking me if I needed anything, he went back to sleep.
No, you don’t get off scott-free! However, the timing in early stages of labour can vary greatly. As the support person, there is a general sequence of events you can mentally prepare yourself for. Most women report early labour beginning with stomach pains or period-like cramps. This is most likely due to the ripening of the cervix. Through this process, as the cervix transitions into position, there is a chance of spotting or “show.” This is another one of the first indicators that, “it’s time!”
But hold on a minute! Don’t panic and pack up just yet! For the most part, you still have some time before things really get under way. You’ll want to have discussed this with your partner well before week 40, but ask anyway and if she’s still okay with it, I recommend you try and get some sleep. This may sound like the worst time to leave and grab a cat nap but labour can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Trust me, even as the support person, you’ll need some rest. Not to mention your new baby will benefit from at least one, partially rested parent.
I headed to the kitchen and cut up some fresh pineapple. (This is rumoured to help kick start labour) Before I knew it, I had eaten almost the hole darn thing!
Perhaps before you nod off you can whip up some nosh. Neither of you may be particularly hungry but it’s so important throughout early labour that you both eat and hydrate. You’re soon going to be enduring some incredible feats of strength and endurance requiring the stamina of a marathon runner. This might be the only time you’ll have to fuel yourselves for the race. So, fix up something healthy and nutrient dense to make it through the long haul.
Run a bath
Oh, a couple more things before you head back to bed. Grab your love a glass of water, two extra-strength acetaminophen and start the bath. When the stomach cramps started to feel like intense period cramps radiating down the small of my back, I knew it was more than the pineapple talking.
Not only is a hot bath therapeutic and relaxing but it’s also reported to help soften the area skin for labour. This doesn’t necessarily mean it prevents any potential tearing (yes…tearing) but at least might help reduce some pain involved. To help make the bath extra soothing, add a couple drops of lavender oil and put on some soothing music.
Okay, you can go to bed now!
The time of your life
The contraction timing app on my smartphone was already fired up and timing of my intermittent “tummy aches” had begun. After soaking in the bath, I headed for the living room, unrolled my yoga mat and began lightly bouncing on the exercise ball. This helps to open up the hips and position baby.
Depending on how fast or slow things are progressing, it may be time to wake up. 🙂 Chances are while you were getting some shut-eye, things have been moving right along. My DH came downstairs to see me on all fours and quickly came to my side. At this point he knew all systems were a go! He took my smartphone and carried on timing. It’s as easy as pressing the start and stop buttons at the beginning and end of contractions. In early labour, the contractions may be 10 minutes apart lasting only 20-30 seconds.
While you have the smartphone, don’t be afraid to snap some pics. At the time she might not appreciate it, but in hind sight it’s neat to have that moment documented.
Initially, you will have some time in between contractions. Take this time to put hospital bag(s), and diaper bag in the car. Hopefully you have previously installed your baby car seat. We also had to worry about shovelling snow as it was a cold Canadian December morning when my LO decided to make an appearance.
Knead the dough
No, you aren’t having pizza! But you better prep those fists for some massaging.
The lower back pain becomes more and more painful. Having counter pressure will provide some temporary relief. While she is kneeling draped over the exercise ball, apply pressure in circular motions on her hips, butt and back during contractions. Your partner will be generally able to “talk” during contractions. However as the contractions get more painful, frequent, lasting up to a minute, you’ll know she’s in active labour. Our prenatal yoga instructor had us chanting vowel sounds “AaAAAaaaa” ” ooooOOO” coupled with deep focused breathing to make it through these waves of pain. As the support person, feel free to chime in and coach her through it. Unless instructed otherwise, of course!
If you completely draw a blank, panic and don’t remember any of this, don’t just stand there! Do ANYTHING you are told and try and keep your love as calm and relaxed as possible!
After each contraction you will both have a moment to breathe and relax.
Make the call
Depending on how far away you are from the hospital, ideally its best to labour at home as long as possible until contractions are a few minutes apart, lasting two minutes and the pain level is high. Otherwise you might get sent back home. If you have one, call your midwife and she may instruct you to go to the hospital at this point.
Driving Miss Daisy
If you have preregistered at the hospital, call before leaving and you can avoid any paperwork or waiting in line upon your arrival. (Our midwife did this for us)Try waiting until a contraction finishes before you head out to the car and encourage her to continue the deep breathing and relaxation imagery during the car ride. Now is not the time to drive like a maniac. You will just end up stressing each other out. Drive at a normal pace and if you must pull over if she needs help during a contraction.
Hopefully, you have done a trial run with a detour route in case of unforeseen circumstances. Once you get there, you will need to run in and grab a wheelchair. Have the hospital attendant take her up while you park the car. Don’t forget to grab all the bags and up you go!
There may be several people in and out of your hospital room. Having your birth plan or filling out a delivery marker board with different wishes/reminders for staff/visitors is helpful because you will be too busy to answer 20 questions.
Continue to massage, “oooh” and “aaaaah” and take it all in. You are going to be a daddy and holding your new little one before you know it! My husband was absolutely amazing during the entire process and even “caught” our son and brought him to my chest. It truly is a magical moment that he and I will never forget!