Search the internet about labour, and you’re rightly going to find lots of incredibly helpful information and advice for women, from other mums and health professionals about what mums to be should expect when in labour and about childbirth. But what about us men, what should we expect?
OK well as I starting writing this piece, it’s 3am and bizarrely I’ve found myself shivering away in the backseat of our car which is parked outside of the hospital. I’ve been here for 7 hours now, so my first tip is expect the unexpected. I should just clarify that I’ve not just run out on my partner at the first scream (oh yes it will likely get loud in there chaps so brace yourselves) …my partner was induced at 10am yesterday, but apparently it can take 30 hours for the hormone to work, or not as the case may be, and unless your partner is in labour and on the labour ward, you can’t always stay with them past a set time. So as we live in the country an hour from the hospital, and as babies can come with very little notice and I don’t want to risk not being there when my daughter is born, I find myself frozen into the backseat of our car on a cold March night writing this to kill time. I just hope my eyeballs defrost in time to see her birth.
So, with my current situation in mind, when your partner is busy filling her and baby’s hospital bag, my first tip is make sure you’ve got a man bag too to keep in the car with a change of clothes, stacks of change for parking and the vending machines and some way to pass the time, be it your iPad or the book you’ve been meaning to read for a while.
So as the man, what can you do to help? Well not get in the way, that’s probably a good start. We are there to support our partners through this, mum and baby are obviously the focus of this one. So, if you want a cup of tea for yourself, you go sort that one. Don’t go making requests for yourself to the staff who at short notice can have impossible workloads, as babies just don’t come to schedules or staffing levels.
The truth is though there is quite a lot you do, mostly by just being there for your partner’s emotional support, as though excited she will be naturally quite anxious too. The experienced mums and the midwives will tell you that every pregnancy is different, every birth too, so mums can never really relax and know exactly what to expect even if they have had babies before. You can also help them keep nice and relaxed through what can be a very long wait, which can come as an anticlimax after a great rush to the hospital.
Perhaps a really obvious general man tip but I’ll cover it anyway, is comedy questions such as, “does it hurt?” are probably not the best idea if you want to live to see your child being born. During labour your partner will acquire super human strength, so it’s maybe not the time to get on her bad side with your perhaps usual male banter.
So what will actually happen during labour itself? The million dollar question. Well you’ll witness an absolute miracle, that’s guaranteed. However tough you think you are, or usually devoid of emotion according to your partner, you’ll likely end up a blubbering wreck when you first see your baby. Also if you’ve spent your time to this point wondering about the meaning of life you’ll soon stop, as it will be right there in your arms shortly. Prior to that part though, well chaps honestly its going to get messy. Personally I didn’t know you could lose that much blood so the first time I saw my partner give birth I don’t mind admitting I was terrified, what I didn’t realise was the amount of extra blood in the placenta so it’s not quite as bad as it seems.
Now that brings me nicely to the next thing to expect, your partner will kind of give birth twice. After the baby is born it’s not over as they have to do it all over again to get the placenta out, and the placenta will be closely examined by the midwife after Its delivered. You may also then be asked to take your top off for skin-to-skin time with your baby after he or she is born. Now as strange as that may sound in advance, I promise at the time it feels completely natural.
Beyond the birth my final tip is when all is done, locate for your partner all the food and drink she has lived without for the last nine months, it’s better than a giant balloon but by all means get her one of those too.