Movies like to poke fun at how men behave in the delivery room. They faint in the delivery room, or grimly endure the stream of invectives from their screaming, sweating wives: ‘This is all your fault!’ Many of them are…useless. ‘Stay calm, honey,’ they say, which is possibly the worst thing to tell someone who’s in the last stages of labor. You try staying calm while pushing something the size of a watermelon out of your body.
But with a little preparation, Dads can stay cool, confident and in control during the Big Day–and provide their wives with the right support and encouragement.
1. Be as helpful as possible in the ninth month.
Women need rest, and a lot of it, in the weeks leading up to labor. But it’s also the busiest month, as you and your wife prepare for your baby’s arrival. Be a sweetheart and do everything you can to help! Finish painting the nursery, assemble the crib, buy the carseat, or at least drive your wife around as she runs these baby errands.
2. You stay calm.
If you feel nervous and scared, imagine what your wife is going through! You can be a big help just by staying calm yourself. You’ll only agitate her if you start to panic, and the last thing the doctors and nurses is a hyperventilating father-to-be passing out at their feet.
One way to stay calm is to read up as much as you can on what will happen during labor. At least you know what to expect, or what questions to ask the doctor.
3. Keep your wife comfortable.
Keep a cold wash cloth with you to wipe your wife’s brow. You may also want to fill a cooler with ice chips, which will help alleviate her thirst.
4. Be the family advocate.
Your wife will be, to put it mildly, very busy during labor. It’s your job to communicate what she needs to the hospital staff, including the desired birthing plan or any special wishes concerning the baby (like if you wife wants to breastfeed exclusively).
5. Document the details!
Your wife will barely remember labor, thanks to the fog of pain and drugs. So, try to document as much as you can with your videocamera or photos—from labor itself to moments like the doctor and nurses with the baby, or the first minutes in the nursery.
However, don’t be a jerk and take lots of unflattering photos of your wife screaming and sweating. Some women would rather forget those moments. It may be best to talk about what she wants to be captured on film—long before you both enter the delivery room.
6. Focus your 100% attention on your wife.
For God’s sake, don’t bring your PSP, laptop, iPhone into the delivery room. You need to be there for your wife, not ‘entertaining’ yourself while you’re waiting for the baby’s head to pop out. Talk to her, read to her, walk her up and down the hospital aisles while you wait for the cervix to dilate.
7. Come with a ‘Thank you gift.’
Write a card or buy a special gift for your wife to give to her after delivery. After everything she’s been through, she deserves it. This is a great time to show her your love and appreciation, just to give birth to your child.
Flowers would be nice, but you may also want to give jewelry (there are some beautiful bracelets for mothers where you can select birth stones and other charms that symbolize your new family) or a favorite perfume.