Just as childbirth is one of the biggest moments in a woman’s life, it’s also a huge transition for every new father. In a matter of hours, you’ll go from living your life as a man and a partner to being (at least partially) responsible for a brand new person. It’s no small feat, but there are ways to make sure things move along smoothly – starting with the points below.
Get your mental health in check
Being a great dad in the delivery room often means pouring all of your focus and attention into your partner and your brand new baby, but this first step is all about you. If you don’t look after your own mental health, you’ll find those early days and weeks of fatherhood so much more difficult and stressful – and this problem is sadly common amongst new dads. As many as one in ten new dads experience anxiety, while depression affects one in twenty, and, wanting to be a stoic support system, they are often reluctant to seek help. Just remember the lifejacket analogy: you need to put your own jacket on before you are equipped to help someone else.
Do some pre-birth preparation
The best thing you can do for yourself, your partner, and your baby is to go into fatherhood with your eyes open. Take in as much information as you can about the birthing process from other dads, your partner, and the internet (although you should take some online sources with a baby finger-sized grain of salt). The more you know about the birthing process and what to expect, the more supportive you can be for your partner, especially if this is the first baby for both of you.
Follow through in the delivery room
When your partner is in the middle of giving birth, she has limited headspace for birth plans and any other details that were *conceived* outside the birthing suite. That’s when you have the opportunity to step in and make sure that your partner has her wishes heard. If and when things get tough, you can advocate for her wants in conversations with the doctor, doula, or any other assistance she has opted to have in the room.
…but also be ready to compromise
Remember creating a birth plan with your partner, ready for the big day? Well, sometimes, all of the back rubs and ice chips in the world aren’t enough to make sure the birth process goes to plan, and you have to be prepared to go with the flow. If the medical professional in the room with you says it’s time for Plan B (or C), it’s your job to be another voice of reason and keep your partner calm. The most important thing is that both baby and mum make it out of the delivery room in good health.
Eliminate every possible distraction
During early labour, distractions can be a very positive thing, helping your partner move through the contractions – but during active labour, the story is very different. A woman in labour needs two things: support and focus, and that means eliminating as many distractions as possible. Whether it’s unwanted guests or incoming phone calls from your mother-in-law, there’s a lot to think about – and if it gets too much, don’t be afraid to shoo people out of the room.
Get those all-important photos
As a dad in the delivery room, you’ll be one of the first people in the world to see your baby in the flesh, so do mum a favour and capture the moment. The first time your partner puts the baby on her chest for that blissful skin-to-skin contact, be there with the camera. Then, when it’s your turn, make sure you get your own photos with the baby and the three of you together. These are those priceless memories every new dad talks about!
A dad’s role in the delivery room has changed drastically over the past fifty years, and it’s a great privilege to be so involved in the process. Get these things right, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a smooth beginning to family life together. Good luck!