Your partner sits you down and shows you the blue line on the test…
Yes, she is sure, she did the test seven times!
All of them the same,positive. A blue line clearly showing in each box.
Now pick yourself up off the floor, dust yourself down, you are going to be a Dad and you have plenty of homework to do.
“But where do I start? What do I have to do? Its not me having the baby so do I need to know all this? What am I expected to know? What if it all goes wrong? Help, someone, please help me!“
Calm down, sit down, grab a cup of tea and some of your partners ‘secret’ stash of chocolate biscuits. The following are my top tipsdevised especially for first time Dad’s who wish to offer their full support to their partner throughout the transition into parenthood.
I can not guarantee what lies ahead will be straight forwards, perfect and smooth sailing as nothing ever goes entirely to plan. But with the following top tips you can at least prepare yourself, whilst gaining some important ‘Brownie Points’ from the other half.
Preparing for labour and birth:
Take the time to sit and to listen to your partner. Listen to her concerns and questions and offer to help her find answers ( make sure you have replaced her chocolate biscuits for such talks or you’re clearly going to loose Brownie points )
Learn and absorb information pertaining to the events of labour and birth as a natural physiological event. Remember neither of you have done this before so knowledge is key, knowledge is power! Read books (I highly recommend Harris, M. Men, Love & Birth 2015), attend antenatal workshops (Antenatal class/Active Birth/Hypnosis for birth) and talk to others. But please listen only to the positive stories. I suggest a ban of a certain TV programme from your evening entertainment! (Your partner will know the one I mean, and if she doesn't then its...)
Attend at least 2 Antenatal appointments with your partner. The most important of these being a talk with the midwife at around thirty six weeks when the preferences for birth will be discussed.
Be an active participant in writing 'preferences for labour and birth' with your partner so you are aware of her wishes and of your own. This will give you both the opportunity to consider your ‘Wishes, Wants and the What If’s’ of labour and birth. This will help prepare you both for all events thats may lie ahead.
Be with your partner supportingher during the early stages of her labour. Offer her snacks, drinks and the opportunity for relaxation. Being aware of her preferred methods of coping with the intensity of labour will allow you to offer her the support she has asked for. Your antenatal homework will allow you more understanding of the process of labour and help with your confidence in this early stage.
(Now's the time to claim those chocolate biscuits you have spent so long earning)
During labour and birth:
Ask questions and expect answers - If at any point you are unsure what is happening or you just have a question, please ask your midwife to help you to understand.
Be there, be the supportshe needs throughout the birthing experience. Whether Hypnobirthing, Active Birthing, using aromatherapy massage, birthing in water, or planning a more managed method of coping; be the support she has asked for.
Remain an active participant - offer your partner massage; changes of position; have snacks and fluids ready (you're going to lose those chocolate biscuits again); hold her when she asks but be prepared to step back if she needs you to.(Unbeknownst to many Scientists, a woman’s nails during childbirth are deadlier than the teeth of a Honey Badger, so some sort of Kevlar for the arms may be a good investment!)
Due to your homework in the antenatal period, you will feel more prepared for all possible events ahead. All your clever preparation now comes in to play. Have a copy of your partners ‘preferences for labour and birth’ with you and read them to remind yourself at any point her Wishes, Wants, and her preferences in the event of any ‘What Ifs’.
Watch in awe as your partner births your baby, but do not expect the first cuddle as mum will need to keep your little one skin to skin for at least the first Golden Hour post birth. Once the hour is over, a little attempt at a breast feed has happened, and IF your partner can bare to part with your new ’being’; then please spend time skin to skin with your little one.
Let that Oxytocin flow around the room.
Make sure that if you have anyquestions that these are answered as soon as appropriate post birth. Especially if the birth did not go as smoothly as you both had hoped. If a ‘What If’ occurred then you may need to talk it through.
Look after yourself too. We tend to forget about Dads in that you have also just been through a huge life changing event, you also need to rest and restore yourself. Eat and drink frequently, nourish yourself and your partner. Accept help from good meaning relatives and friends. But try to limit any visits in the first week at home as this is time for some major bonding as a new family.
Sleepwhen your baby sleeps! A simple ask and this is one we usually just mention to new mum’s but its an opportunity for you to all rest together.
In the event that labour and birth didn’t go to plan, you may find that more questions begin to arise as the days pass. You must talk, talk to your partner and health care providers. If this is not enough and questions remain then please accept help/support from those who offer.
Congratulations you are a Dad! Embrace this transition, your life has now changed forever, a new path is forming. Walk forwards, walk tall, and gather yourself for the responsibility that lies ahead!
In essence, what I ask is that every Dad-to-be enforces their right to simply ask questions throughout the childbearing experience, to learn all you can about the events that may lie ahead, to Listen to your partner and to offer support throughout, guided by her preferences for birth.
Just be the best you can be.
Now off you go, you have homework set and a deadline approaching, tick tock!