A Man’s Guide to Pregnancy: Your Progeny Enters the World

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 31, 2011 · 44 comments

in Fatherhood, Marriage, Relationships & Family

You’ve taken care of your wife during the last nine months. And you’ve made preparations for the baby’s arrival.

And now the moment has arrived at long last: it’s time to bring your progeny into the world.  Are you ready?

___________

For most of human history, the delivery of a baby was an activity strictly relegated to the women’s sphere. Dad was left to pace around outside, waiting for news that his progeny had entered the world and he had officially become a father. His main duty was to hand out cigars to his friends once the nurse bounded through the lobby doors to exclaim, “It’s a boy/girl!”

These days, most couples choose to have the father of the baby right by the mother’s side throughout the whole birthing process. Some men (and some women I suppose) likely aren’t that keen on this new responsibility. For me personally, I never would have missed seeing my boy enter the world for the first time and take his first breaths. That’s an amazing moment that I’m very glad is no longer privy to only the ladies.

Just because it’s a relatively new manly role, doesn’t mean you can’t ace it. Here’s how to navigate this only-a-few-times-in-a lifetime responsibility.

Note: This post is given from my experience being the husband of a wife who chose to have an epidural and give birth in a hospital. If your wife is going the natural and/or home birth route, your experience will be different and more intense, and you should attend a childbirth class to prepare yourself.

Also, I know that the word “epidural” sends shivers down some of your non-anesthetized spines. But this post is not the place to debate birthing choices—there are a thousand mommy blogs out there where you are welcome to hash it out. Every couple should do their research and decide what’s best for them and their baby.

Before Birth: Pack a Baby Bug Out Bag

Bug Out Bags are for crisis situations like earthquakes, hurricanes… and when your wife goes into labor and needs you to take her to the hospital. When the moment comes, don’t be rushing around trying to pack a bunch of things like a headless chicken. Have your bag ready to go, so all you need to do is grab it and head out the door.

What should you pack in a Baby Bug Out Bag?

  • Snacks. The labor and delivery nurse who taught our childbirth class said that while she has seen some men pass out during childbirth, it was never from the blood or birthing weirdness, but from getting faint from not eating. In all the excitement of the day, you may not feel like eating, or you may not have brought anything to eat, and don’t want to leave your wife’s side to go grab a sandwich. So bring some energy bars and others snacks to the hospital with you.
  • Books/ magazines/laptop. Childbirth can take a long time, and if your wife got an epidural, she’ll be spending much of that time lying contentedly in bed and taking naps. So she won’t need your constant attention. The hospital room has a tv, and that’s about it, so bring some things to entertain yourself. Some hospitals have wi-fi these days, so you can bring your laptop and review this article!
  • A sweatshirt. Hospitals keep the rooms kind of cool, so even if it’s the middle of summer, be sure to bring a sweatshirt or long-sleeved shirt.
  • Camera. You’re going to want to take pictures after the birth. Still pictures. Don’t be the guy who videotapes the birth. Just don’t.
  • Change of clothes/toiletries. After the birth, the hospital will keep your wife and your new baby for a day or two before sending you home (longer if there’s something wrong with mom or baby).  So you need a change of clothes and at minimum a toothbrush. Consider bringing some pj’s as well. Don’t forget to pack an outfit for your new bundle of joy for when you bring him home.

During Birth: Be Her Support

Once you get to the hospital, your role becomes that of coach and support for your wife as she goes through what can be a nerve-racking process. Here are your roles.

Interference-runner. Befitting her personality, Kate took a very “eh, whatever” approach to how the birth was going to happen, but I know some moms draw up birth plans that specify their preferences pertaining to the medications they will receive, how the birth will happen, and what will happen to the baby after he’s born. If your wife has one of these birth plans, make sure the nurses and doctors are aware of it, and run interference between your wife and the people in scrubs. Don’t get in their way, but if they’re about to do something, you can ask what’s happening, and if it’s really medically necessary. If it’s not, push back and ask that they follow the birth plan. Your wife shouldn’t have to be the one who needs to stay on top of everything.

Hand-holder. If your wife gets an epidural, then birth will little resemble the sweating, panting, screaming cliché you’ve seen countless times in movies. There’s really not much for you to do. If all goes smoothly, over the course of hours she will dilate, the doctor will decide it’s time for her to push, and out will come the baby. During this time, your job is to be the rock. The calm, confident, hand-holder, who’s there with a reassuring look and word.

Be sure to be flexible and roll with the punches–because things do not always go smoothly. You may get a textbook birth where everything progresses right on schedule. Or you may get a birth where all of your best laid plans go awry. Remain levelheaded no matter what happens.

Leg-holder. When the time for pushing comes, the doctor may have you hold one of your wife’s legs up and out. Let the doctor and nurses do most of the coaching on when to push. Your job is to just be a cheerleader.

Now, at this point, you can look down and see your baby’s head coming out of your wife’s vagina. It’s a trip, man. I’ve heard that some men are grossed out by this and thus retain a repulsion long after birth to what once was a favorite area. That seems kind of weird to me—I thought the whole thing was crazy, but cool.

Cord-cutter. You will probably get the option to cut the baby’s cord and thus officially bring your baby into the world as a separate, free-wheeling human being.

After Birth: Start Things Off on the Right Foot

Don’t be alarmed at the baby’s appearance. When your baby comes out, he may be wrinkly, covered in mayonnaise-like stuff, and have a cone-head. Don’t worry—he’ll change dramatically in the next days and weeks, and start looking less like a weird, eyebrow-less Benjamin Button-like creature and more like a human baby.

Help your wife out with breastfeeding. If your wife is planning on breastfeeding, it’s best for her to give the baby his first feeding within the hour after birth. So don’t have all your friends and family rush in right after the baby is born; give your wife some time for a calm first feeding. We called our families a little while after the baby was born, let them know the news, and asked them not to come for an hour.

Despite its image as the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding doesn’t come completely naturally (it’s about as natural as the first time you had sex). And sometimes it can be difficult—and stressful–to get it going. Call me unmanly, but before Gus was born I read a couple of books about breastfeeding, and I was very hands-on in trying to get the positioning and latching right. Kate was much appreciative.

Bathe the baby. You will likely be invited to go to the nursery to give your baby his first bath.

Have the circumcision decision already made. We’re not going to discuss the different sides of this issue–we’ve already had that debate. But by the time the baby is born, you should have done your research and made a decision. Don’t still be hemming and hawing about it at the hospital.

Help out with diaper changes. Most hospitals will let new parents keep their new baby in the room with them for most of the time. (They put Gus in this tub that sat on a cart. We called it the Gus Bucket.) It gives you a chance to hold your kid and watch in awe as she sleeps. It also means you get to change her diapers. Newborns go through a ton of diapers. In fact, they have a doctor mandated quota they’re supposed to meet to ensure they’re getting enough to eat. Your wife will probably be dog tired for a day, so roll up your sleeves and help with the diaper changing. Make sure to mark a notch for every diaper you change so you can tell the nurse. And if you and your wife need a baby break to get some sleep, you can always ask the nurses to take the baby to the nursery for a few hours.

Keep visitors at bay. If your wife isn’t in the mood to see visitors, or she is, but not a particular visitor, or if a visitor is overstaying her welcome, then your job is to kindly keep them away or show them the door. Just tell them that your wife has been through a lot and wants to rest right now. Don’t worry about hurting people’s feelings–your wife and baby are your top priority.

Make sure the information on the birth certificate is correct. A nurse will give you a sheet to fill out with information for the baby’s birth certificate. Write down everything with your best penmanship and double check that you spelled things right. You don’t want little Burt’s birth certificate to say “Butt.”

Have the car seat ready to go. Most hospitals require that you have a car seat installed before they’ll release your baby to you. I could write an entire post on car seats, but to keep things short, you’ll need a car seat designed for infants. They consist of two parts: 1) the carrier and 2) the base. Have the base properly installed in your car before you arrive at the hospital and bring the carrier to your wife’s room. Our hospital checked to see if little Gus was properly strapped in before giving us the okay to leave.

Escort your wife outside and then bring the car around. They’ll wheel mom and baby out of the hospital and to the curb. Go and get the car and pull it up to the exit. Put your newborn progeny into the car and help mom into her seat.

You’re on your own now.  When you’re in the hospital, it’s still a surreal experience where doctors and nurses and friends and family are in and out. But once you’re in the car, and you shut the door–boy, it really hits you. You’ve got this baby for the rest of your life. Better start learning how to be a dad.

A Man’s Guide to Pregnancy Series: 
How to Take Care of a Pregnant Wife
How to Deliver a Baby in a Pinch
Getting Ready for the Baby Bomb
Your Progeny Enters the World

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim August 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm

One thing I would recommend is having a beach towel in a trash bag in your car, ready to go when the birth time is a couple of weeks out. If/when her water breaks and you are on the way to the hospital, she sits on the towel while it is inside a “bowl” made from the trash bag. This way the fluid does not get all over the interior of your car.

2 Brian E August 31, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Nice post! It’s definitely a day that requires some pre-planning. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I know you specifically asked for it not to be discussed, but I think it’s only fair to point out that natural birth doesn’t resemble the screaming, sweating and panting cliche you mentioned either. Nor is the epidural route a painless, fancy-free experience for all women.

3 Shepard August 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Yes its definitely worth being somewhat prepared for the day. However, whe you are called upon to be a leg holder, it is a gut check like no other. Birds-eye view of something that you only saw in science class and swore you would never see in College.

4 Greg H August 31, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Excellent post! I would suggest that if you do take some kind of birthing class, to be active and supportive of your wife by helping with practicing breathing techniques, etc…although all of that went out the window for us when the Dr. ordered a C-section because of conditions. Be ready to roll!

And do make sure the carseat is in correctly. Really, really secure. A lot of the times various agencies will host a free carseat clinic and make sure you have yours set up correctly.

5 Rhodes August 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm

As a father of four, this is good advice. I would also suggest bringing the numbers of the close people that won’t be there so you can call with news and designate someone (usually one of her girlfriends is glad to do it) to call a list of other people that you want notified and to update via social media if you want. This will allow you to get back to enjoying your wife and new child.
Also, when I went with the nurse to clean up the first child, I realized that the newborns are not as fragile as we men think they are. Also, I asked the nurses lots of questions about taking care of the baby, what things to watch/be concerned about, etc.

6 Andy August 31, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Holy smokes! Ha ha! “You’re on your own now.” I’m just trying to think of a truer set of words related to child birthing/rearing and I’m just drawing a blank.

I was a cord cutter and I’ll add something to that. It’s pretty industrial strength, guys. Once I was done wondering if I was cutting it correctly, I started wondering if they had any garden shears handy.

7 Josh D. August 31, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Watch what the nurses do and ask questions. They lift, feed, clothe, swaddle, and diaper babies all day long. They are pros and are usually happy to help you if you are willing to learn.

And be ready for the meconium (tar-like poop) for those first few days.

8 Robert Weedall August 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Also don’t be worried if the baby is orange or blue. This is probably caused by either Jaundice or some other infection. In developed countries this can be sorted out very easily.

9 Robert Pruitt August 31, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Wow, this has excellent timing. My wife is in labor right now with our 4th.

10 DeliBoy August 31, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Add to your bug out bag:

Ear plugs – sleep can be difficult to come by when there are room mates, TVs,
noise in the hallway, and visiting nurses / aides. Baby wipes – for some strange reason, non of the hospitals we went to for our four kids had these (they use wet cloths). Bring some for the really difficult first poops.

Her favorite foods, especially if it’s something the pregnancy has restricted. Hospitals will often give access to a refridgerator, so ice cream is a good option. If you plan to smuggle in alcohol, remember that it gets into breast milk (if that’s important).

Slippers!

Nice soap and shampoo. The provided hospital stuff is worse then a hotel. I always
get some expensive Aveda stuff that she’ll look forward to using.

Chargers for cell phones, cameras, laptops, etc.

Make sure you have 2-3 outfits to bring the baby home in! If you can believe it, I
screwed this up the fourth time around and ended up purchasing a radically overpriced outfit in the hospital’s gift shop. Be sure to include blankets.

Size N diapers – strangely enough, our hospitals only had size 1, too large for many newborns.

Make arraignments for yourself – you may find yourself staying for long periods of time, coming and going at strange hours. The hospitals usually provide a fold-out bed, blanket, and pillows, but you may find it preferable to bring your own. Like soap and shampoo, what’s provided is utilitarian.

11 Irene August 31, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Great Post! My husband did pretty well on most of these things except he allowed his family to stop by. He wasn’t thinking about Mami then – LOL! love the site.

12 Steve September 1, 2011 at 6:24 am

I think my favorite part of this post are the “related posts”. First three are “A man’s guide to pregnancy…” (makes sense) and the fourth is “A gentleman’s guide to tipping”.

13 Chris September 1, 2011 at 7:15 am

My wife actually decided to birth at home. We’re not all granola and patchouli, but both nursing professionals–she did a volume of research on the issue and presented a good case to me. What a wonderful experience! This was my second child with the first having been born in the hospital, and from the point of view of the dad, although it is still emotionally draining in a good way (it is still Labor for mom; and supporting mom is not easy) it is LITERALLY a walk in the park. We still had to prepare supplies, actually more supplies since we needed to store the midwife’s list of stuff. But the birth was amongst the familiar surroundings of our home. Serene, except for the two hours of active Labor (the whole thing lasted 46 hours), but during that time it is again eustress rather than distress–a feverish work of creation. Being a nurse myself, I was enthusiastic about participating, so that I massaged the perineum and guided the baby’s head through crowning and delivery. I caught my daughter, cut the cord, all the gory good stuff right in our bedroom where it all started.

In short, I thought I’d put in a word for home birth. If you are in the middle of a pregnancy, I’d say do a little research, watch the many films, and read some books. If your a DIY kind of person, maybe it’ll be for you. Remember midwives are excellent professionals, certified by the state and recognized worldwide for their expertise, so technically your not doing it all on your own.

14 Bruce Egert September 1, 2011 at 7:42 am

One more thing–open up a bank account and start it off with whatever you can–even if it is only ten dollars. You will need to be on a regular savings plan to help finance the baby’s college education.

15 Darren Bush September 1, 2011 at 8:30 am

A “Dress for Success” Story.

It was important to me to be dressed well for the birth of my children. I don’t mean a three-piece and a double windsor, I just wanted to be dressed as well as or better than the doctors. Call it respect for my wife and unborn child.

The first one…fine.

The second one…not so good. My wife picked me up from work at my second job working in an outdoor shop. I was dressed in cut-off jeans, sandals, and a black t-shirt with a skull and crossed canoe paddles, sporting a few days of scruff and a day of perspiration.

We stopped at the hospital to apply some prostagladin gel to her cervix to soften things up so we could induce the next day. In a small percentage of cases, that kicks things off. It did.

So while I was wearing khakis, a nice button-down oxford shirt for daughter’s birth, I was wearing dirtbag paddler clothing for my son’s birth. The nurses look at you differently when you dress like a dirtbag paddler.

Interestingly (and this is the moral of the story), doctors and nurses treated me very well at the first birth. At the second, I was treated like an idiot, nothing was explained to me, and if I asked, they’d talk to me like I was 12. “We need to make sure her tummy is squeezing the baby out.” Yeah, thanks.

The irony was at the first birth I had barely graduated from university. At the second birth, I was an epidemiologist working in breast and cervical cancer. In short, I knew my way around the plumbing, but to them I was Joe Dirt.

16 JonathanL September 1, 2011 at 9:16 am

My wife and I took two classes at the hospital before the birth of our son. One was lamaze, which was the biggest waste of time I’ve ever participated in due to how the birth actually went. The other was baby basics, and it was a great short class that really prepped us for the foundation of baby care, and I highly recommend it.

Also, I wish more people had outlined what to expect. It’s like three months, at bare minimum, of caffeinated days and sleepless nights, falling asleep in chairs and couches, and hearing your baby’s screams everywhere you go, especially if you’re not with your baby, and if you’re a man, you better be prepared to suffer in silence. Not complaining; it is what it is.

17 Chris September 1, 2011 at 10:17 am

Great post – but you missed a big one.
Get your wife a gift!!

She has just endured an experience you will never understand and all the attention is now on the little one. Make certain that you, of all people, remember to honor her. It doesn’t have to be big, but it does need to say that you remember that she is still your priority.

18 David H. September 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

When this series first came out I was really excited because my wife and I had just found out that we were pregnant. I was looking forward to AoA being able to give me some guidance with pregnancy as it has with other areas of my life. Sadly a few days later we had a miscarriage. There is an experience that tests ones manliness. In less than one week we went from starting to accept that we were first time parents and being really excited about it to a harrowing experience that is the loss of a child. My wife is a medical student, which helped a lot because we had an idea what was going on and were a little prepared because she had learned that one-in-five first time pregnancies end as a miscarriage. I know it is sort of taboo to speak/write about this topic, but because there are about a million in the US a year that it affects enough people to bear mentioning. There is plenty of literature out there, some support groups, and we have found that a lot of people have experienced one. Whatever happens once you find out your wife is pregnant you better man up and be prepared for anything.

19 JWG September 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

if your wife gives birth in a hospital, you will need to play a more protecive role. The nurses will come get the baby for tests AND THEN NOT BRING IT BACK. You will need to stay on them. Do not ask for your baby. Tell them to give it to you.

20 Aaron September 1, 2011 at 10:44 am

And don’t forget to remind the doctors or nurses to drain your wife’s bladder! In the craziness of it all, they often forget. Your wife will probably be all numb from the epidural and she won’t be able to tell that she has better than half a liter’s worth of pee in there, and a swollen bladder can really complicate the birthing process.

Once again, because it’s super important:
!!!REMIND THE DOCTORS OR NURSES TO DRAIN YOUR WIFE’S BLADDER!!!

21 Danny September 1, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Excellent advice. Any day I will be taking this trip for the second time and I am ecstatic! One more piece of advice I would add, and it doesn’t apply to all men, but it definitely applied in my case is be prepared for a surge of emotion that you have never experienced. There is something amazing about seeing a piece of you, your own blood, your boy (or girl) coming into the world. It is a feeling that can only be understood by those who have experienced it but it is an incredibly emotional experience. I hate to admit it but I was sobbing uncontrollably at the birth of my son, and I had no idea why. I was so happy and so fulfilled that I suppose my body could not contain joy. There is something about becoming a father that hits a man right to his core. This is what we are here to do, pass on our lineage to a new generation.

22 Michael September 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm

@JWG – definitely play the protector role in the hospital to both your wife and new child. As far as the nurses taking the baby for tests – go with him/her. There is no reason they should take your child out of your sight. Your baby doesn’t need to sleep in the nursery (unless it’s the NICU). Your baby can stay with you and your wife until you leave the hospital.

23 Chris Homan September 1, 2011 at 6:10 pm

David H.:

I am so sorry for your loss. May you and your wife find strength in this trying time.

24 Daren Redekopp September 1, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I appreciate your advice to not be alarmed at the baby’s initial appearance. When my first son was born, he looked like an absolute angel. I was stunned by his beauty. When my second son was born, however, I thought my wife must have had an affair with an orc: he was that homely. Now that 2.5 years have passed, he looks just like me! By that I mean ridiculously handsome.

25 Quigath September 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

@Chris – yes a gift for the new mother would be appreciated certainly.
In my case, I wish I’d known it was flowers that were expected.

26 zeus September 1, 2011 at 9:06 pm

These are all great tips and when my wife has any children I’ll be by her side to watch our children be born.

27 Chuck A. September 2, 2011 at 2:34 pm

When it comes to being the helper, it helps to know the process of the hospital in which the delivery will occur. Ask to take a tour well in advance of the big day, with your spouse, so there won’t be any surprises. Like with our first, when I was terrorized into hold my wife’s leg and watching the birth, when she and I had planned to not have me see it. We didn’t know that was standard practice, and when they cajoled me into doing it, I felt like I had no alternative (I was told they were short-staffed and they needed my help!). The same goes for cutting the cord. Neither my wife nor I wanted me to be the cord-man, but boy did the staff pressure me. I was feeling quite useless and secondary, and almost caved to their terrorism. Also, the hospital had no nursery; they insisted that the baby be in the room 24/7; their answer as to “why?” was that we’d better suck it up and get used to it. Pretty harsh words to two young, harried and tired parents.

With our second, we didn’t know that it was hospital practice to keep the baby in the nursery most of the time; those first 18 hours or so, we saw our daughter a few times, mainly for feeding. We didn’t even get all the feedings, as some were done outside of our presence by the nurses. After that, we had had enough and it almost came to blows when we demanded that the baby stay in the room. Different hospital, different practices.

With number three on the way, we won’t put up with any crap. We will have it our way, the doctors know it, the staff will damn well know it, and if they try to pull some monkey-shines, it won’t fly. Like mentioned in the article, I had major mental problems after watching the birth. I had to see a counselor about it, because it ruined our sex life. And I mean completely ruined. I’m over it now (but the relationship scars remain), but since I didn’t even anticipate the reaction, it is a good idea to contemplate the whole thing for yourself before the day arrives.

And as a complete aside: to those of you who smoke, don’t plan on quitting a week before the birth like I did with our first kid. My A-hole quotient was through the roof. If you don’t want to leave your wife’s side, get some of those snus pouches, or the gum. You’ll survive better and treat your spouse with a gentler touch if you’re not craving.

28 EJ September 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm

To myself the best part of being a father (so far) was seeing my 3 children being born. I was glad I didn’t miss it. I must say being there for my other half was wonderful and made her extremely happy. She felt loved and cared for. It makes your bond stronger ( to your lady & child) along with a lot more appreciation for what she goes through during the process. I must say if the shoe was on the other foot, I (and most men) would probably let the human race go extinct before going through that.

I raise my glass to my lady and all the ladies that cook us great food, pamper us, provide our wonderful bed time fun, companionship, and our offspring.

29 Andrew September 3, 2011 at 3:10 am

“if your wife got an epidural, she’ll be spending much of that time lying contentedly in bed and taking naps.”

Unlikely… Unless the mother of your child has the epidural put in right after arriving and hits the button every single opportunity it still hurts. I speak from experience, my wife required an epidural to prevent her from going into shock after 24 of the 36 hours she was in labor and it was no picnic even after the epidural.

30 Jane Porterfield September 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm

To Brett and Kate…. Kudos for such a well thought out plan of action for Dads. So often, there’s tons of information out there for pregnant women, but no so much for dads-to-be. I would say that these days, most women want their partner involved in the process of labor and delivery. Having 9 or so months to prepare is a good thing.

Reading, asking questions of others who’ve had babies, taking childbirth classes and having a plan so you don’t leave everything til the last minute is the only way to approach the situation.

Yes, unpredicted things can happen and you can’t expect the unexpected, but educating yourself and staying informed is key to a better experience, regardless of the situation.

Well done!

Jane

31 Andrew Ray September 7, 2011 at 3:15 am

My wife gave birth in May. We live in Slovakia, and hospitals follow a style probably like America around the time I was born (25 years ago). But, she had her birthing plan, and perhaps the fact that she was married to an American and living in Slovakia (common in west Slovakia, pretty rare where we are in the east) made the doctor and staff more flexible. We had a fairly natural birth (my wife did get a drip of some hormone to help speed up labor, which didn’t seem to really speed it up any…).

I brought with me my Nook eBook reader in anticipation of several hours of reading waiting while my wife was in labor. Instead, it was several hours of alternating between sort of push-massaging my wife somewhere on her thigh per the doctors instructions and helping her with bouncing on an exercise ball (apparently the latest trend in deliverys in Slovakia). Be forewarned that your normally sweet, affectionate wife will act differently under stress, and that your thoughtful attempt to stroke her face with your hand might be received quite unhappily!

Definitely be ready to defend your child from the nurses– it was really amazing– an hour before delivery, the doctor was out at lunch, things started to pick up, and it seemed like no-one was around to help us. The moment my son was delivered (doctor was back with a nurse to help us by then), 3 more nurses descended into the room. Our plan and agreement with the doctor was to let the umbilical cord stop pulsing before cutting (it is said to ensure the baby gets enough blood), but she wanted to cut after 20 seconds, saying the pulsing had stopped– I reached and still felt the pulse, and managed to get her to wait about 2 minutes. Then the nurses were bundling up the baby (in spite of our wish for baby-mother-skin-to-skin contact) and rushing off with him somewhere, so I followed after them and ended up in front of a window to the nursery to watch them weigh, ready to break the glass and rescue my son if they did anything else!

Then we got back into the room with my wife, who was getting some stitches from where cuts had been made during the delivery, so they said that she could not have the baby on her until those were done. I could see that my son was cold, and felt it was really stupid to expect a newborn baby with such little thermal mass to warm himself under a blanket, so in what is certainly a first in hospital history in Slovakia, I stripped off my shirt to put my son on my chest to warm him up.

For the first several hours of his life, my son never left my sight until I was sure my wife could take care of him, after which I slipped off for some pizza.

Also, you want a doctor who respects you and your wife. We first were going to an obstetrician that my wife’s sister recommended. He is the type of doctor who expects to give orders and be followed, so the birth-plan wasn’t something he really liked. The final straw was a checkup a week before delivery. The doctor, instead of explaining to Jana “I want to give you an injection of magnesium now” just tells his nurse “prepare an injection”. I told him, “why do we need that injection? she’s been taking magnesium capsules”, so then he ordered her off to another heart scan of the fetus. I was left waiting outside, and saw him eventually go in to where my wife was. Some minutes later she came out in tears as he was saying that the baby is in distress and needs a C-section. After a bit more of an argument with him we left, drove to a private hospital in a bigger city where the doctor confirmed that the baby was fine. I am convinced that first doctor wanted to perform a C-section to assert his control and perhaps also because he knew we want to have many children which is not very safe with C-sections.

In the end, we had her female gynecologist perform the delivery. She was much more respectful of our wishes and of us. I don’t know how it is in the U.S., but I suspect there may be arrogant doctors as well, so watch out!

32 Chayyim P. September 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm

We had a doula-assisted birth in the hospital (two weeks before due date, so the on-call OB/Gyn stood in for the missing midwife). No anaesthesia, but a terrific atmosphere in the birthing room, thanks to the doula (labor assistant). Dim lights (up until the actual delivery), soft music playing, pleasant aromatic oil, soothing encouragement, massage, and lots of suggestions for me as to how I could be helpful. In contrast, I walked down the hall and glanced in at a poor woman laboring away, essentially alone, in a brightly-lit, antiseptic room, the father-to-be absorbed in watching Wheel of Fortune on the booming TV in the room. Your choice– even in the hospital it doesn’t have to feel like your wife is there for an appendectomy.

33 Greg September 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Couldn’t possibly agree more with the last paragraph. The ride home from the hospital after our oldest was born was the most nerve wracking drive of my life.

34 Jeffrey Guterman September 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Thank you for the informative article.

35 Steve September 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Great article! We’re about to have my second child and it was great to brush up and learn a few new things.

I linked to this article on my site: littlereadfatherhood com

36 Cara September 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Bring something to do, yes. But PUT IT DOWN whenever a doctor/nurse enters the room. I was never a “napping mommy” type and my husband’s book that he was reading… I wanted to rip that thing to shreds because I had to repeat to him what the doctor/nurse had just said. After the first 5 hours, I told him to get rid of it, or ELSE.

37 Mrs. Peel September 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm

My husband dutifully rubbed my back for at least 12 out of the 15 hours I was in labor, or else hosed me down in the hot shower in our delivery room. That definitely took some stamina and patience. Now pregnant with our second baby, we are taking Bradley Birth Method classes, which require the dad to act as the coach and really step up to the plate. This is a great class whether or not an epidural is chosen. Thanks for a great post!

38 Danny September 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I just wrote a post on my blog that shares some similar advice. My wife just gave birth to our second son 5 days ago. http://findingtheman.blogspot.com/2011/09/becoming-dad.html

39 JeremyN September 21, 2011 at 6:06 am

That whole story pretty much sums up the birthing experience me and the wife had 3 months ago. I can’t think of anything to add really, nice job.

40 Anya September 24, 2012 at 8:44 am

Just wanted to say that I loved the post.

All my births however have been natural, two in hospital and one at home, and I just wanted to say that TV births are unrealistic in general. Birth without an epidural is purely different in that a woman can get up and move about.

41 CG October 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm

@JWG (even though it was a while ago!) Spot on! You do need to be protectors in hospitals, and expect the unexpected! While delivering our 3d of now 4, a childless neighbor came to the hospital to visit – problem was, she was carrying a large empty bag, pacing and talking to herself, which caused nurses’ station to alert security. She told them she was my sister! Weird stuff, and I was in no condition to “Cowgirl Up” and deal with a would be baby-napper. My husband dealt with security, staff, neighbor’s husband, alerted our friend babysitting no.’s 1 and 2, and never let the baby out of sight, ever! More work than he was expecting, but I knew then, as I always do, my kids and I are safe with Big Daddy!

42 Uche November 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Nice post I must say! My wife is pregnant with our first child. I have learnt alot from your advice to help me cope well even during delivery. Thanks for the great job.

43 Paul March 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm

There is a lot of fear about passing out for the father-to-be. If a guy is going to pass out at the sight of blood, etc., it seems likely that the cause is hyperventilation. Ironically, the root cause is that your body is not retaining sufficient co2. The suggestion is to hold your breath for a comfortably long period of time (say 10 to 15 seconds). Do this a couple of times until your breathing returns to normal. Your wife needs you there by her side, not down on the floor. Breath right.

44 Jake April 8, 2013 at 11:05 am

Respect your wife’s privacy. no male relatives in the room please.

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