As I’m sure a lot of dads would admit, I was terrified about attending the birth of our child. But in the end I coped a lot better than I expected and it turned into the most amazing day of my life.
I’ve never been good with anything bloody or gory, and if the NHS and NCT classes we attended taught me anything it was that I’d have to deal with plenty of it in the labour ward. And they weren’t wrong!
Gemma’s waters broke at 2am, we were in hospital by 7am, in the birthing pool an hour later, back out of the pool 90 minutes after that, then shifted to another room, then finally Sonny arrived (head first but born back to back!) at 1pm. I can’t claim a single shred of credit for what happened – mum Gemma is undoubtedly the real hero – but I handled my role as a birthing partner a lot better than I thought. I was terrified of passing out or having to leave the room when the real action started, but I’m happy to report I was conscious and present for every second of it.
If you’re on the brink of becoming a dad and have any concerns about attending the birth, here are some tips from my experience that will hopefully help you…
Your partner will naturally be nervous and worried when she goes into labour, and when everything starts to happen it’s likely you’ll be the only person with her. This is a moment when you need to exude calmness and confidence, so take a few deep breaths (it’s a nervy moment for you too), then try to take control of the situation. The contractions may soon become so painful that she can hardly communicate with you, so call the hospital and inform them you’re on the way.
Know the birth plan
If your partner has written a birth plan, make sure you familiarise yourself with it. It’s basically a list of written instructions you hand to the midwife on your arrival at hospital (things like if she wants pain relief, plans to have a water birth, or wants to deliver the placenta naturally) so they know your partner’s preferences if she’s unable to communicate with them for any reason during labour. But you will also need to speak and act on behalf of your partner in certain situations, so for this reason it’s vital you know how she wants to give birth.
Pack the hospital bags well
You’ve probably been told over and over again about the importance of having hospital bags packed well in advance, and this is crucial. Once your partner’s in labour there will be very little opportunity to run around the house looking for slippers, tooth brushes, dressing gowns, nighties, maternity pads, nappies, baby sleep suits etc (and believe me you’ll need a lot more than that), so aim to have everything packed and ready to chuck into the car boot at a minute’s notice.
Plan your route to hospital
This may sound ridiculous if you’ve lived in the same area for a long time, but you really need to know your route to your chosen hospital (plus a few back-ups just in case). Baby arrivals can come at extremely awkward hours, so plot a few alternative routes to account for things like traffic or roadworks. Also make sure you know where to park your car when you get there, have change in your pocket if the car park is Pay & Display, and familiarise yourself with the relevant hospital entrance.
Take plenty of food and drink
Not just for your partner, but for you too. Labour words are HOT, and you could be in there for a long time, so the entire process is energy sapping. Snacks such as sugary sweets, energy bars, bananas and big bottles of Lucozade did the trick for us – but I don’t think Gemma will ever forgive me for tucking into a lovely grilled chicken sandwich right in the middle of one of her most painful contractions. I swear I needed it though!
The chances are you’ll be very tired, scared and in some cases a little bit bored during labour if it drags on for hours; but that’s nothing compared to what your partner is going through. She’ll be in immense pain, running low on energy and absolutely terrified at the thought of the little person tearing it’s way out of her – so she’ll be relying on you for reassurance. Let the medical professionals take care of all the important stuff, while you hold her hand, bring her food and drinks, and constantly assure her she’s doing a brilliant job.
Keep away from the business end!
You may be one of those people who isn’t worried by blood and gore, but I most definitely am, so I did everything possible to keep my eyes pointed firmly north during Sonny’s birth. Gemma didn’t want me to look, and I most definitely didn’t want to see anything potentially mentally scarring, so I stayed by her head the entire time. Some dads like to take photos and video the entire scene, but if you’re like me you’ll be more than content observing from a distance.
There are likely to be moments when unexpected problems arise, some more serious than others, and naturally they’ll make you both nervous. The last thing you want at this stage is for your partner to start panicking or lose confidence, so make sure you keep telling her everything will be OK. This is when she’ll need you more than ever.
Get ready to hold the baby
I can honestly say I don’t think I’d ever held a baby in my life until Sonny arrived, but as soon as I saw him – all coated in blood and gunk with a bruised head – all I wanted to do was hug and kiss him. Baby’s crave that feeling of skin-to-skin contact from the second they’re born, so make sure you give it to them. Sonny’s birth was the most unforgettable moment of my life, and as we held him together on the bed for the first time I sobbed non-stop for around half an hour. Those first few minutes and hours are an incredible bonding experience for you as a new family so make the most of them because you’ll cherish them forever.
Put your faith in the midwives
Sonny was born at Hinchingbrooke hospital in Huntingdon and I have to say that the group of midwives who helped us before, during and after his arrival are the most dedicated, skilled, hard-working and inspirational people I’ve ever met in my life. No job is ever too big or too small for them and they took expert care of all three of us when we needed it most. I’m sure wherever your child is born you’ll discover exactly the same thing about your team of midwives, so make sure you trust them – they won’t let you down!