In honor of the upcoming Father's Day, this week at Giving Birth with Confidence, we're celebrating dads by providing a few quick reference guides for all things birth and beyond. It's common for dads to get lost -- and feel lost -- in the shuffle of pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. As the non-pregnant, non-birthing, and non-breastfeeding person, it can be challenging to figure out your role and find your comfort zone through it all. It's important to know, though, that your role and as dad is valuable and needed. Simply being available is sometimes all that's needed from your partner and child. And sometimes, more is needed, which is why we're helping you out with a few simple, but crucial tips, in our handy-dandy-dad's guide to childbirth.
Dad's Quick-Tips Guide to Childbirth
Find out what your partner expects from you - The more you talk to your partner about what may happen in labor and birth, the more opportunities you have to clarify what it is she expects from you. If your partner expects you to be very hands-on with labor comfort measures and you don't know much about how to provide that kind of support, for example, you need to come up with a plan like attending a childbirth class together. It's important to discuss with your partner your honest concerns and fears, even if that means you admit that the thought of witnessing birth terrifies you. Better to open up now and discuss a game plan than to be caught off guard and fall short of expectations in the delivery room. Get this discussion started with a simple question to your partner: "When you picture your birth, what kinds of things do you see me doing to support you?"
Get to know childbirth - Before you go into your child's birth, you really, really should know the basics of birth. If you understand the general flow of birth, including the different stages and phases of labor and the mechanics of birth, you'll feel more confident about knowing what to expect and what's normal in labor and birth. The best way to do this is to attend a good childbirth class. Reading books and articles are great, but even the best childbirth books can't replace the learning that takes place in a childbirth class.
Pack your own birth bag - Your partner isn't the only one who needs to pack a hospital bag! You'll have creature comfort needs, too, and that requires a bag of your own. Consider things like, a change of clothes and toiletries, snacks, money for the vending machines, chargers, and anything else that would make you feel comfortable for a couple of days.
Prepare for the long haul - Birth can go long. Very long. To mentally prepare yourself, consider the process a 24-hour minimum event. Movies and birth shows would have you believe that it's a relatively quick process, but that's just not typically the case, especially for first-time parents. Knowing how long birth might take can also help you prepare for how many days off from work you may need in order to attend.
Meet the players - If and when possible, attend prenatal appointments, the hospital tour, doula meetings, and anything else that's relevant to knowing who will be present for your child's birth. The more you are involved and familiar with who will be attending and supporting you and your partner at birth, the more comfortable you will feel with their care.
Don't be afraid to speak up - Questions? Concerns? Special instructions? When you are at your place of birth, remember that you and your partner are also the "customers," so to speak. You have every right to speak up when you feel like it, whether it's to ask a question about a procedure, request more time to make a decision, or to refuse an intervention.
Remember to breathe - With all the excitement, anxiety, uncertainty, and anticipation built up around birth, it's easy to get caught up in tension and stress. If you don't already have a good coping technique for calming yourself, you might miss out on the some sweet and tender moments of your labor and birth experience. Throughout it all, remember to pause, breathe, and soak in what's happening -- how you feel, what you see. Doing so will help you feel more present, calm, and collected.