As you count down to the arrival of your progeny, you may read some books on pregnancy or go to a childbirth class with your wife, and feel like you can picture in your head how the whole thing is going to transpire: your wife laboring in a hospital bed (or at home for you earthier types) and you holding her hand while the folks in the white coats take care of business and bring your baby into the world. And there’s a good chance that it will go something like that. But there’s also a small chance that your baby, precocious little kid that he is, will try to make his escape from Uterus-traz before you even get to the hospital. If that happens, are you prepared?
Yes, this really does happen to people, although it’s much more common in women who have already had a baby. The cervix rapidly dilates, and the baby makes its exit all at once and is born (unexpectedly) at home. So it’s a good bit of knowledge to have locked in your brain canister. Even if your wife’s not pregnant, you might have to come to the aid of a lady giving birth in a taxi or elevator. We included a section on this in The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man, and I honestly reviewed it a couple times in the weeks before Kate’s due date (Hey, I was a Boy Scout–Be Prepared!). So give this short guide on how to deliver a baby a read, especially if you live a long way from the hospital.
How to Deliver a Baby in a Pinch
1. Don’t panic. Your wife is under a lot of stress right now. Standing there havy cavy or running around the house yelling like a little boy will not help her. Ease her stress by remaining completely calm.
2. Assess the situation. During labor your wife will experience contractions—the periodic tightening and relaxing of her uterine muscle. You’ll know your wife is experiencing one by the looks of discomfort on her face. If your wife’s contractions are less than two minutes apart, the baby is on its way, and you probably don’t have time to get to the doctor. If you can see the top of the baby’s head in the vagina, you definitely don’t have time.
3. Call for help. Just because you read something on the internet or watched Patches give birth to puppies when you were eight, does not make you an expert on delivering babies. Call an ambulance (or if you were planning on giving birth at home anyway, your midwife). Even if the baby comes before the ambulance gets there, someone can talk you through the process.
4. Get Mom comfortable. Because you’ve seen hundreds of television and movie births, your first reaction will probably be to have Mom lie on her back. This position isn’t actually the most comfortable or effective for delivery. If space is available, have her get on her hands and knees. This alleviates some of the pressure on her back. Some women also find it comfortable to stand or squat when giving birth, positions which allow gravity to aid in the birthing process. Just let nature dictate what she does. If Mom is in one of these vertical positions, keep an eye on the baby so he or she doesn’t squirm out into a free fall. If space isn’t available (say, in the back of a taxicab), the traditional on-the-back position will suffice.
5. Scrub up and prepare the birthing area. You don’t want to risk giving the baby or Mom an infection by handling them with your grubby paws. Wash your hands and arms with hot water and plenty of antibacterial soap. Birth is a messy process, so make sure you place clean sheets or a shower curtain under Mom. You’ll also need to have some clean towels handy to wipe off and wrap up the newly arrived bundle of joy. If you’re in a taxi, you can use your shirt.
6. Watch and guide. Nature is pretty dang amazing. For the most part the baby doesn’t need much assistance to make it into the world. Avoid barking instructions for your wife to push and breathe. You’ll just stress her out and cause her to possibly push when she shouldn’t. Let her push when it feels natural. When the head makes it out of the vagina, the baby will turn to one side. That’s completely normal. He or she is just trying to get in the best position to make an escape. Simply place your hand under the baby’s head and gently guide it downward. Don’t try to speed the process along by pulling on the baby. Just gently guide the shoulders out, one at a time. As the baby makes his entrance into the world, be ready to receive him; babies are slippery!
7. Rub the baby down. Take that clean towel and gently rub the baby down to clean off the fluid and blood. The rubbing will also help stimulate the baby so it starts breathing. Wipe any fluids out of its nose and mouth. If you have a straw, take it and suction out the fluids by inserting the straw into the nostril and then placing your finger on the open end. No need for holding it upside down and slapping its tush. That practice went away along with polio and celebratory cigars in the waiting room. Just place the baby, skin to skin, on Mom’s chest and cover the new arrival with a towel or shirt.
8. Don’t cut or tie the cord. Wait for a trained professional to do this.
9. Deliver the placenta. About fifteen to thirty minutes after the baby is delivered, Mom will expel the placenta, the sack that’s been nurturing your baby for the past five months. When you see the placenta start coming out, don’t pull on it to make it come out faster; just let it slip out naturally. If it’s not coming out right away, you can massage the mother’s abdomen to help it along.
10. Get medical attention ASAP. By now the ambulance should be there. If not, get Mom and new baby to the hospital as soon as possible so doctors can take care of the umbilical cord and examine the goods.
11. Bully for you! You’re a dad. And you didn’t even have to boil any water!
How to Deliver a Baby from a 1966 California State Police Education Film (NSFW)
Back in 1966, the California State Police created a film to educate officers on how to deliver a baby in a pinch. The film does a good job reviewing the basics we just went over, but then it goes one step further: it shows an actual live birth. The whole enchilada. The idea was to expose officers to a live birth via film so that if they ever encountered one in the real world, they wouldn’t panic or be grossed out.
The film stars real California policemen, so the acting is awesomely bad which makes it really funny to watch.
But again, the video features a gen-u-ine live birth, so please don’t watch it if you’re at work, in class, or if you generally find babies coming out vaginas offensive.
I do recommend watching this film if you want a nice recap on the steps to deliver a baby and if you’ve never seen a woman give birth before. If you’re a dad-to-be and are wondering what it looks like to have a baby come out of your wife, pop some popcorn and watch this film. Well, maybe skip the popcorn part.