Everyone knows that mothers endure a tremendous trial to bring children into this world. When we think about labor and the process of giving birth, we don’t usually think about the father’s role. According to movies he just sits next to the mother, holds her hand, and gives encouraging words. But in reality there is so much more that men can do to help their partner bring their little baby into the world. Here are a few ideas for how to be more involved in your partner’s pregnancy, baby’s birth, and child’s life:
Dad’s Role Before and During Labor
Attend labor classes with your partner
This is a great way for you to understand what will happen during the birth. In the classes you learn different labor positions, breathing techniques, and other advice to help the mother through the birthing process. Madison Memorial offers a variety of Labor Classes, from hypnobirthing to refresher courses for women who’ve already had children. During these classes be aware of all the different options.
Does she want a natural birth? Does that natural birth include an epidural? Do you want the umbilical cord cut right away or after waiting a few minutes? If your child is a boy, will he be circumcised? While the mother is in labor, she may become unable to make decisions so it’s good for you to know what she would want. That way you can make decisions based on what both parents want, instead of just guessing the mother’s opinion.
Ultimately, urgent circumstances may take away possibilities, decisions, and choices. Our healthcare team is accountable for the health of the baby and mother, and will do everything in their power to ensure the best possible results. Work with our team to provide the best outcome for both your partner and baby.
Understand What’s Happening During Labor
During the actual birth, the father can have an active role in the delivery, rather than just sitting and waiting for the baby. Along with providing words of comfort or giving massages, you can be the labor coach. The mother needs someone that she knows and trusts, and while she may know the medical professionals very well, she may not. That’s where the father’s role comes in. You have a bond with the mother and she trusts you. But if you’re clueless about the procedures or what’s happening, she may feel that there is no one in the room who both knows her personally and knows what’s going on. That can lead her to panic or feel isolated. This is the exact opposite of how a mother should feel during this miraculous (and potentially difficult) time.
Play an Active Role in the Delivery
Your partner probably told her doctor or midwife about how she desires her delivery to occur. Play an active role in this experience by communicating and helping the healthcare professionals to achieve her dream delivery. Come prepared with her desires at the forefront of your plan. If she would like her favorite songs playing, have the music ready to go in the background. If she wants to deliver using hypnobirthing (focusing on relaxing rather than pushing), be her labor coach, help her relax, and remind nurses of her birthing strategy if they suggest pushing. If she wants you to encourage her and hold her hand, arrange your position so that the nurses still have access to help. Reminding the healthcare team of your partner’s desires (e.g. an epidural free, natural delivery, without pushing, or vise versa) will help them perform her wishes. If the nurses or doctors are not doing things how your partner would like, voice your questions and concerns. If a certain labor position they suggest is uncomfortable for your partner, tell the medical staff. If she is in too much pain to ask questions or talk to the staff, be her voice.
Bringing your newborn home is a special time for new parents. But as excited family and friends flock in to assist the mother and admire the baby, they may leave the father forgotten on the sidelines. With all this attention directed at them, and the special bond that mother and baby share, he may feel that the mother is leaving little or no time for him. These feelings of isolation or jealousy are not abnormal, don’t belittle yourself if you experience these emotions on any scale.
At the same time, if your partner is having a hard recovery, help her to feel comfortable. Become the caregiver to fill all of her needs. This includes cooking, cleaning, and assisting in every way possible. Sometimes for her health’s sake encourage family and friends to wait a week for her to recover before visiting.
Communicate with your partner
Talking with your partner can help ease fears or negative moods so that this memorable time in your lives can remain special. As you talk together about your feelings, remember not to be accusatory or purposely fault-finding. She probably isn’t doing these things on purpose to hurt or isolate you, so sounding contentious will only distance you both from each other. Just tell her what you’re feeling and let her express her feelings too. That way you both know what the other is experiencing and can understand where your partner is coming from.
Take Turns with Parenting Tasks
Incorporate both partners in the parenting work. This can help reduce feelings of isolation for both mom and dad, because they can see that both of you are working together with your child. Ideas for spending quality time with partner and baby include walking the baby in a stroller together, taking turns changing diapers, and snuggling all three of you onto a couch for a movie. And while moms have to do all the feedings if she chooses to breastfeed, you can help during the night by rocking the baby back to sleep.
Watch Mom’s Health
While this may be a hard time for new dads, remember that new moms aren’t symptom free either.Take time to make sure that she’s doing alright, even if she’s putting on a brave face for all the excited visitors. She’ll need to recover both physically and mentally during this postpartum period.
- After getting the doctor’s okay, encourage and remind your partner about doing pelvic floor exercises. Over time these can help strengthen her pelvic muscles, but remember that her body won’t go back to prepregnancy shape in a week. It took 9 months for her body to stretch and adjust, so be prepared to wait several months for everything to feel normal again.
- C-sections require a longer recovery time at the hospital. After getting the okay from doctors, help your partner walk around the room. This will get the blood circulating and can prevent blood clots.
- If your partner had a c-section, help her with physical tasks like carrying things. Her surgery will take time to heal, so she shouldn’t be lifting anything heavier than the baby for several weeks.
- You may feel impatient to begin your love life again, but don’t be too hasty. Talk with your partner and doctor about when it’s safe to begin those kinds of activities.
- Sometimes women will become temporarily anemic after childbirth. This process may have begun while she was still pregnant, but with her recent blood loss she’ll have lost even more iron. If your partner is experiencing numb feet or hands, extreme fatigue, or trouble concentrating, she may have an Iron Deficiency.
- Having a baby requires plenty of recovery time, so help your partner eat healthily to restore her strength. Cook Healthy Meals full of leafy greens, lean meat, and whole wheat, and provide plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- The crazy hormone changes she faced during pregnancy won’t disappear for a while still. Be patient with all her ups and downs, and be her support. If she feels that you’re not listening to her concerns, it can create a rift between the two of you.
- Watch for signs of Postpartum Depression or Postpartum PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), such as extreme bouts of crying, irritability, or sleeplessness, or if she’s completely overwhelmed several weeks after the birth. These are more severe than the common baby blues and need to be treated professionally. Getting help is beneficial for both mother and baby’s health.
Practice and Have Patience
Remember that no one is naturally a perfect parent. It takes time and practice, so don’t give up if the first few diaper changes or burping sessions feel foreign or uncomfortable. Spending some quality time with your little one will help ease you into your role and you can learn what techniques your baby best responds to. This time may seem confusing or overwhelming, but with your involvement you can help your partner, new baby, and yourself feel loved, cared for, and special.
“Immediately following our delivery our baby was crying. I held out a finger which she grabbed a hold of. Then I started talking to her which soothed her. During those first moments I could tell by her reaction that she knew me and she recognized my voice. You are lucky to be a dad. Congratulations.”
-Lucas, Mary, and Lydia