Dad’s place? In the delivery room!

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You’re about to be a dad? Congratulations, life is about to change in many ways.

You’re probably wondering what to expect in the delivery room. I could also take a very good guess that you’re nervous, anxious and quite possibly terrified.

What I’ve written here is based solely on my personal experiences in the delivery room. I’m sure a midwife could impart all manner of great advice, but this is what I have seen and dealt with on the two occasions I’ve seen my wife give birth.

The one thing you need to remember is that you have a very important role as an advocate for your partner’s wishes. It is a big responsibility and no matter how stressful things get, you should be prepared to leap in and speak up so the medical team know how your partner wishes to be treated.

The starting point is the birth plan. You should discuss this with your partner and make sure you know it in detail. You’d be well advised to ensure the plan covers the main birthing possibilities; natural birth, forceps, ventouse and caesarean section. It should also be crystal clear about which pain relief options your partner is happy to consider.

Many people are dismissive of birth plans. Events will probably dictate the birth plan can’t be adhered to entirely, but it will give the medical team a very good idea about your other half’s wishes. Having you on hand to remind them of what the plan says will be no bad thing.

When our first daughter was born, I had to intervene when it became clear a forceps delivery was required. The consultant wanted to deliver our child in the delivery room with minimal anaesthesia.

As a first time mum, my wife was nervous and had made clear to me beforehand that she wanted the benefit of powerful pain relief if things got difficult. She didn’t want to feel anything in case it put her off having further children.

When I spoke up and relayed my wife’s wishes, the consultant agreed to move to an operating theatre where other anaesthetics could be used. I also got a knowing wink from the midwife which suggested I had said all the right things!

Something else to keep in mind is that your partner’s memory and concentration will be affected by all that’s going on. On top of the fatigue caused by labour, she will probably have been puffing on gas and air for hours and may well be under the influence of pethidine or the epidural, if she’s had one.

Do not expect her to remember the finer details of her birth plan and do not expect her to remember anything you say to her at this point. When I talk to my wife about her labour experiences there are huge chunks that she doesn’t recall so keep this in mind.

If you do find yourself having to speak up, be polite, clear and quick. Events in the delivery room can move very fast. You don’t want to get in the way or annoy the midwives and consultants who know a lot more about what’s going on than you.

You may also find there’s a lot of activity around your partner’s bed. Measurements need to be taken of the mother’s body, drips and cannulas need to be fitted, the gas and air pipe will be swinging around all over the place as your partner puffs on the pipe and there could be goodness knows how many people in the room. While you probably want to hold her hand and offer soothing words, be prepared to take four paces back and let the team get on with it.

Once the baby has been born, you may still have an advocacy role. If everything is straightforward and she is discharged from hospital within a day or so, this is likely to be minimal. If your partner is kept in for a few days after the birth, you may need to speak to the doctors and midwives.

Another piece of advice is to expect the unexpected. Both my children had radically different births. The first wasn’t straightforward but the second was so quick and easy even the medical team was taken by surprise.

I also wish you and your partner the very best of luck as parents. It’s not always an easy job but it is very rewarding.

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