Sorry, but nothing prepares you for the birth of your first child. It is going to be traumatic. It is one part elegance and another part violence. And don’t let your wife or another fine lady scold you with the hackneyed you got it easy stuff. I am sure most men would gladly switch spots with their wives and have their body painfully split in half and contorted, but God didn’t design it this way. For what can be so endearing and so elegant and so beautiful to a husband than his lovely bride giving birth to new life. It is supposed to make a man love his wife even more. Yes, men are people too, and even the toughest of us have feelings that birth will draw out in such dramatic and powerful ways.
So, since man cannot and never will be able to switch places, it should by no means diminish the kaleidoscope of feelings he has watching the phases of birth unfold. Frankly, I find a woeful lack of preparedness and pre-birth support for the husband. I’m not talking proportionate in time and preparation like the wife, which is needed and more than appropriate, but a little husband “this is what will happen to you” preparation seems more than missing and more than long overdue. So, here are a few things I personally think every man should have in mind before the big mad scrabble dash to the hospital or in-home birth.
Get The Big Picture
This is all about knowing what’s happening at a high level. Plenty of books are available to the husband and wife to learn about the major phases of childbirth. Plus any community programs, which I recommend taking something of careful choosing. Together, self study and community programs work well to provide a big picture overview of the phases. Knowledge is power, and if anything goes wrong, understanding the context is very important to your ability to make decisions as a couple. Understanding these phases are the first step toward a emotionally stable birth (if there are no snags). And if there are snags, preparation beforehand will provide some context for any decisions at hand.
Discuss Best Case And Worse Case Scenarios
While this is a little disconcerting, experience tells me it is important to talk with your wife about best and worst case scenarios, like c-section versus planned natural, low oxygen to the baby, any cutting, undelivered placenta, post-baby surgery, and a host of things you discover in your preparation. It is good to know where you both stand before the big day arrives. And, since childbirth is fluid and dramatic, changes can occur at a moments notice, you will have covered the baselines should something important need deciding. Tough choices for critical moments are not for discovering one-another’s basic wishes. They are moments to build on those basic wishes.
Prepare For The Trauma
Watching your wife give birth is traumatic. Even the most flawless of births require incredible amounts of effort from the wife. My wife and I have been told by more than a few people that a second child will be measurably easier in delivery than the first, and that is comforting. This post is for first time childbirth and how fathers can prepare themselves. Expect to be traumatized a little, or a lot, depending on what happens. After the birth of my daughter, I was unsure if I could stand having my wife go through all that again. That sounds incredibly selfish, but call me old fashioned. I love my wife and consider myself her closest protector and best friend. My boss remarked to me weeks after the birth that he tried to convey the sheer drama and trauma in childbirth. I didn’t get the half of it. The wife is in grinding pain and the baby is going through some wicked experiences itself. And you get the box seat, watching, hoping, wondering, praying, even crying.
Prepare For The Ecstasy
The moment my daughter began to cry I bawled like a baby. It was a spontaneous, joy-filled, euphoric moment made all the more poignant by the fact that the hard part of birth was over for my wife, or so we thought. There can be no point more transcendental and high-minded than the birth of a child.
Prepare For The Unexpected
After my wife delivered the baby, the placenta did not deliver. This was concerning, and a black moment of angst and dread. What does this mean? It was a moment made all the more dire by a doctor’s suggestion that delay could be fatal. Emotionally, it was like getting side-swiped by a car. My wife was stoic. It actually bolstered me to see her so serene and confident. I am used to being strong and confident and sure of things, but this caught me off-guard, unprepared. I suppose one cannot be too prepared for blind side events; but, nevertheless, try to be. As my wife was wheeled away, I was left to tend to my baby girl. We listened to a hymn (The Lord Is My Shepherd), prayed, and called a few close friends and family for support and prayers. An hour later my wife was back, refreshed, and all was calm and just as one expects things to be.
Be An Advocate For Your Wife
There is not enough space here to explain the number of mistakes I observed by professionals that do these things for a living. One trained midwife was beyond incompetent, and only the over-competence of a second midwife saved the day. More than once I not only had to ask for things but actually had to demand. When my wife and I agreed on something, I became her advocate, making sure she and the baby were receiving the care required. The lesson is don’t just expect others to do the right things at the right time. You may have to make some demands. And don’t be shy about doing it. Your wife and child are worth more to you than worrying about other people’s perceptions. See point 1.
In line with this, consider employing a doula. This is a person who will act as an advocate on your behalf, and someone likely with tens or hundreds of birth experiences to draw upon. We will be hiring one if another baby comes along.
Become A Servant At Home
Finally, most dads have plenty of time to help at home, and it is important to become the “go for this” and the “go for that” man about the house. If you have friends and family and a church or community support group, it is likely food will be coming your way. But don’t blindly rely on this. Prepare meals beforehand, and store them in the freezer. You’ll need 1 week of meals at a minimum. Any more is just plain gracious and helpful of others. Get ready to become the chief servant. And get ready to change some diapers. It’s all in the name of family and the name of love.