Don’t ask how I stumbled upon Amy Smith’s blog on moms.com about 20 Things Dads Should Not Do in the Delivery Room; let’s just say I braced myself before I read it. Reading a title about things that should not be done presumes they have already been done and someone is happy to recount them for you so that you aren’t a buffoon like the man in her example in the future.
Amy’s blog was anything but another dad bashing. It was thoughtful and honest and even contained actual mistakes made by her significant other. But it wasn’t about bad dads; it was about how to be a helpful support during one of the most exciting events you will ever experience together.
The together part seems to be assumed these days; I remember having to attend a special class and obtaining special permission for my front row seat. We have gone from questionable to expected on the subject of dads in the delivery room over the past few decades. Some want dad back out again because relationships aren’t always strong at this point in a couple’s lifespan. They can be stronger, if we pay attention to a few things.
You can read her blog for the full treatment but I want to notice one of the themes that might otherwise get by us. Dad’s need to learn to open their mouths, express an opinion, advocate, coach and encourage their baby’s mother if they want to really offer the support she so desperately deserves.
We aren’t tempted to be quiet about our favorite football team or plans for an outing with the guys. We express opinions freely, sometimes loudly. Delivery rooms aren’t exactly our arena of competition, though. Feeling out of our element, we sometimes choose silence over words that help and support our mate. The adventure may be new for both parents and being in a strange new world with someone you love should trigger our excitement rather than ignite our fears. We are there so she won’t feel alone and it is fine to drink some of the Kool-Aid and draw courage from her presence during the adventure as well.
Several of Amy’s items included this component. It actually begins long before the delivery room. As the nursery is being prepared and decorated, you were asked several times about the color or the placement or the design. You probably deferred to her preference, which is fine. After a while she began to wonder if you even wanted this baby because you don’t seem to care about anything she brings up. Did I get that about right? The lesson? Express an opinion now and then so she will know you are alive and care.
In the delivery room, she will be otherwise occupied with breathing and contractions during some sessions where she is being asked several questions or her vitals are being taken. As Amy indicated, it would be fine to suggest that something can wait a few minutes or finish the sentence for her while she puffs (because you are engaged and you know the answers, too; right?). Being an advocate means acting in her best interest because you are the one who can observe and communicate as an interested outsider who isn’t trying to overcome labor pains.
One of the most insightful comments in Amy’s blog was her insistence that coaching and encouraging work wonders during the actual contractions and pushing to speed the process along. I know that watching someone you love go through intense pain is about the worst thing that a man will ever face but it shouldn’t silence us and turn us into spectators! Like carrying the ball through the red zone and past the final three tacklers, she wants to be cheered on and told she is going a great job. The timing is critical.
All of this assumes that we have spent a significant amount of time thinking through our preferences together before the birth. She wants a partner, a coach, an advocate and a lover to know what she needs and be there to provide the words and actions to make this a memorable experience. And she deserves it.