Must-read advice from the founder of DaddyNatal on what NOT to say – or do – while your partner is birthing. NB some of these quotes are priceless!
I often share the story of one of my classic mistakes, made during the birth of my first son when teaching dads, so I thought it might be fun to have a tongue in cheek look at some classic mistakes. I would like to point out my mistake was BEFORE I now do what I do and was part of my learning curve, partly why I now work with dads to help prevent them making the same mistakes.
1) Remember who’s having your baby
There can often be plenty of gadgets around during the birth or our children and for us men this can sometimes be a bit of a distraction. I got a bit distracted during the birth of Oren after Steph was hooked up to a monitor for a while to keep an eye on Oren’s heart beat and check her progress. There she was trying to breathe through her contractions and was coping very well, whilst I became obsessed with the traces coming out from the monitor, it got to the point that I could recognise the pattern in the traces and see the start of a contraction. I then made the mistake that I am still reminded of from time to time when I uttered the immortal words “here comes a big one!” As you can imagine not the words a labouring woman wants to hear and Steph informs me because of that she tensed and that was probably the most painful contraction of her whole labour! Oops, so seriously remember to stay focused on mum as it is her that is having your child.
2) Stay put
Once labour has started, stay with mum! Two stories have been told to me around this topic. First up was dad, where the labour had been going on for a while decided he could wait no longer and simply must eat. He then proceeded to decide he didn’t like what was on offer in the hospital so went for a quick trip to MacDonald’s. He may have filled his stomach but unfortunately he missed the birth of his child. But the risk of missing the birth is not the only reason for staying put, another dad having had some friends turn up for support decided it was ok to leave mum with her friend whilst he went off and enjoyed a coffee and something to eat with his, eerrrm nope not a good idea, mums want and need us to be at their side, we can help make labour faster and smoother by keeping mum calm and reassured, she shouldn’t be left worrying or wondering where you have got to or if you will be back!
3) Think before you speak
Call it inappropriate male humour, nervousness, the need to fill silence… whatever you will… the fact is us men are prone to saying things we really wish we hadn’t. I thought I would list some of those classic comments that – honestly – are really not funny at the time.
“Wow, can you feel that?” (Head was crowning)
“How much longer do you think it will be?”
“Will it go back to its normal size?” (Use your imagination)
“Is he mine?” (Awestruck dad being handed his son to hold)
“If I give you £50 will you stick extra stitch in?” (Never has, never will be funny)
“My back’s killing me”
“Is that normal?”
“Wow you had it easy” (on hearing the baby’s weight announced at 5lb 10oz)
“Your stomach still looks like there’s another one in there.”
“I know how you feel” (honestly no you don’t!)
“So when do we start trying for the next?” (Said straight after the birth)
“Wasn’t that worth it?” (Again said straight after birth)
This is by no means an exhaustive list so I’d love to see what people have to add to it.
Although this was all done slightly tongue in cheek there is still a serious message from all of this. As men we have some common behavioural patterns when we are nervous, uncertain or scared, all of which can be unhelpful in the birth environment. We can make labour shorter and with better outcomes by being a good birth partner, unfortunately we can also make labour longer and more painful for mum if we don’t take our role seriously. So dads take the time to get prepared, make sure you understand what will be going on, understand your role and learn to keep you brain engaged and your tongue still.