Guest blogger: Stephanie Heintzeler is a German educated midwife and US licensed Doula. She has delivered over 1,200 babies. Find out more about Stephanie at the New York Doula.
Working as The New York Doula for over a decade, I’ve seen quite a few dads-to-be become totally overwhelmed and unprepared leading up to childbirth. Although dads aren’t the ones in the spotlight on the actual day of labor, their support in the delivery process is equally important. Not sure how to handle a baby on the way? Start by avoiding these 10 things during labor:
1. Don’t stay out too late as the due date nears. I once had a dad stay out with friends until 3:00 am and came home to his wife in labor. In a panic, he drank endless amounts of water in order to sober up for the birth. Thankfully, as the hours passed, so did the booze out of his system. Within at least two weeks of the due date, set a reasonable curfew and think twice before ordering just-one-more drink.
2. Don’t save everything for last minute. Signing up for childbirth classes pre-labor prepares you for things like common signs of labor, breathing techniques and newborn care. It’s also a great opportunity to talk about topics like natural birthing, C-sections and epidurals. And, most importantly, have a game plan: know what hospital you’re going to, who to call and what to pack. Once you get to the hospital, there’s no turning back, unless you forgot your wife.
3. Don’t invite your family, co-workers, neighbors and mailman to the hospital. The last thing a mother in labor wants is a whole village breathing down her neck. Discuss ahead of time a list of people you would like to invite to the hospital within your immediate family and close circle of friends. Having all your loved ones there to share this special moment sounds like a great idea, but in the moment, there will only be one new set of eyes grabbing your attention.
4. Don’t get so up-close and personal. The idea of having your sweaty and bloated face framed in a camera or video lens leading up to labor is as – if not more – appalling as contractions. My suggestion? Record from a distance. Sometimes, there needs to be a moment of personal space to breathe. Moving into the armchair across the room for a 2-minute timeout isn’t considered rude, it may actually be quite appreciated.
5. Don’t order pepperoni pizza when you get hungry. Stay away from snacks with a strong scent, because the smells are amplified for someone in labor. Stick to nuts, nutrition bars or plain crackers that have minimal odors. If you need something heartier, excuse yourself to eat outside the room.
6. Don’t hold onto expectations. Everyone has a birth plan, but let’s call it birth preferences. Your birthing experience may be completely different from your best friend’s experience – every birth story is unique. Always listen to the doctor or doula’s advice, remain calm, and be flexible with your decisions.
7. Don’t ever feel insulted, ever. Emotions and hormones can sometimes translate as screaming insults that have no meaning or truth behind them. Going through labor is A LOT to deal with – it’s important not to take things personally. Imagine a time when you said something you regretted from a place of exhaustion or discomfort. Then, multiply that feeling by 100. I’ve assured ”my” dads on several occasions: what is said in the delivery room stays in the delivery room.
8. Don’t try to be a hero. Look away if something is making you light headed. Cry if you feel like it. And allow yourself to be scared if that’s what’s coming up. These are all normal emotions that arise as an expectant father. The last thing you want to do is try to be a tough guy and end up passed out, on the floor, when your family needs you most.
9. Don’t share minute-by-minute updates over a group text. The experiences you share in the delivery room are intimate and precious. The best thing you can do is: stay present. There are wonderful stories that are great to share on social media; this is not one of them. Allow the story of your child’s birth to remain private and special in your mind, and forever in your heart.
10. Don’t take on the responsibility of doing it all. Expectant dads agree the help and support of a doula is priceless. A doula can help figure out a birth plan, remain on call for questions and also take some of the responsibilities off dad-to-be during labor. Many mothers I have worked with admitted feeling much safer when a doula is next to them during birth. 6 weeks after birth, mothers who had a doula tend to be less anxious, more confident, more satisfied with their partner and more likely to be breastfeeding.