First let me say Happy Father’s Day! Whether you’re a first-time dad or you’re adding a brother or sister, you may be thinking quite a bit this weekend about the job you’re about to take on. Although you’ve been to the childbirth classes, taken the hospital tour, assembled the crib, and installed the car seat, you’re still a little nervous about being ready for the big day.
Of course, I am the only dad at Sparks & Favor, so this year I thought I’d try to offer you a few thoughts I’ve gained from sharing that special day with many other new dads.
I’ve been a father for over thirty years. I don’t know whether my training as an obstetrician made me more or less nervous than any new parent. Our first (of two sons and one daughter) was born on the first day of my first job as a full-fledged, out-of-training obstetrician. I will tell you that I was just the dad—not the doctor—and was certainly nervous!
Like most of the new dads whose infant sons and daughters I’ve delivered over the many years since, I worried about my whether my wife would be safe and comfortable, whether my baby would be healthy; and I even thought a little about myself. Would I be the supportive labor partner that my wife was counting on—responding in ways that were helpful to her?
Let me offer you some reassurance. Most dads do a great job! As a couple, you have developed sensitivity to each other’s feelings and reactions and a sense of how to respond to these over the course of your relationship. You already know the words and gestures that are likely to help mom relax during labor. This fact is why we childbirth professionals realized years ago that a woman’s labor and birth experience is easier with her partner present. We no longer send dads to the waiting room.
Your childbirth classes have taught you other relaxation techniques that mothers in labor often find helpful. Beyond these, prepare for your child’s birth by participating in developing your baby’s birth plan. You and your partner should discuss your feelings about who (if anyone), besides the two of you, will share this experience, medication during labor, special actions such as cutting the umbilical cord, your wishes about circumcision, etc. Your childbirth education instructors can offer more information about birth plans. Your individual plan will guide us to fulfill your expectations for a family-centered birth experience.
Dads—remember to call us before you set out for the hospital (unless you feel you’re experiencing an emergency). We can help mom decide whether her contractions are true labor. We will also alert the labor and deliver staff that you’re on your way.
an unexpected event
I’d also like to offer a word about situations where labor and your baby’s birth do not happen as you planned. In these situations, remember the most important element of your birth plan—a healthy mom and a healthy baby! If you planned an unmedicated delivery but mom becomes too uncomfortable, if labor slows or stops progressing, or if your baby is not tolerating labor we will give you our best recommendations about how to get to a safe delivery. We will try to give you options and explain the risk associated with each so that together you can make an informed choice.
your questions are important too!
Finally, we want you to have peace of mind about the care of your new (or growing) family. We encourage you to come to prenatal appointments and ask questions. Call our office or after-hours service if you have an urgent concern. If our nurses cannot answer your question we will always return your call. (Be sure your partner has listed you on her HIPAA form). During labor, again if you are concerned about something—ask us! Occasionally a dad begins to feel uncomfortable or unwell during labor or delivery. Our excellent nurses are almost always able to offer suggestions that will solve this for you. You’re an important part of this event.
I hope you have found some reassurance here, although you must realize already that worrying is part of your new job! You will enjoy the moment of your child’s birth like nothing else you have experienced. And a few years from now when that child asks, “Tell me about when I was born,” you will tell him or her about your memories of that special day and about your joy!
Again, Happy Father’s Day!