No, I do not want to "hack my baby".
July 13, 2012 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Dads of MeFi- what do you wish you had been told before your wife/partner went into labor?

My wife and I are expecting our first child next month. We're doing a standard hospital delivery, and are hoping to avoid medication (epidural, etc.) if at all possible. A doula will be there. I'm prepared (I think) for the shock of seeing a baby squeeze out of her vagina.

What are the little (or not-so-little) things you, as the male partner, wish you knew going into labor? Shower me with your collective wisdom!
posted by mkultra to Health & Fitness (66 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Don't assume that because it's your first it'll be late. Pack for the hospital right now if you haven't already. Why are you still reading this? You should be packing. Go.
posted by randomination at 8:14 AM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Remember that any outcome that results in a healthy mother and healthy baby is a good one.

Depending on your family situation you may want to set some boundaries about visiting post birth. Your energy level will be zero.
posted by selfnoise at 8:16 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

No matter what your eyes tell you, your wife will not poop while giving birth.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:22 AM on July 13, 2012 [29 favorites]

It is a great question, but even knowing as little as I did, I do not think there is anything in particular I wish I had known before hand about the labor. I (we) did nothing materially different for the next two after having had the first, answer would be to prepare the logistical details (transportation to hospital and then home with new one, clothes, home setup, etc) then relax and wait to be amazed.

(I know you are seeking the opposite experience, but my (ex) wife would say that if she had to change something it would have been to ask for the epidural sooner. Wait too long and it is either too late or not as effective.)

We did not have any close relatives living nearby nor did we want our parents coming in for the first few weeks, as we wanted to figure this out on our own. But, I wish I had known how complicated it is, that these things don't come out with operating instructions attached and that it can be very lonely when it is just you and your wife, both first time parents, alone at home with new baby that is screaming and pooping and you trying to figure it all out. Throw in the lack of sleep and you have a perfect storm of "oh my, what have we done?"
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:23 AM on July 13, 2012

My daughter was born C section. Immediately after she was born one of the nurses asked if I wanted to cut the cord. The cord cutting station (?) was on the other side of the room. Up until that point I was sitting with my daughter's mother behind the curtain at her shoulders. I got up to follow the nurse, took 3 steps and then the nurse said...'Don't look behind you' which my brain interpreted as 'Look behind you right this second' and then I saw my then wife's gutty works all splayed out in post C section manner.

So, what I wish someone had told me was 'If the nurse says don't look at something then heed her advice'

Interestingly enough, even though I got a complete eye full and I absolutely remember being squicked out/disturbed at what I saw, I could not (and still cannot) recollect *what* I actually saw. My brain completely blocked out the actual visual memory. When I try to recall the visual memory it is kinda like the brain equivalent of licking a nine volt battery. ZAP!

Also...Congrats! Being a dad is awesome!
posted by ian1977 at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Depending on your family situation you may want to set some boundaries about visiting post birth. Your energy level will be zero.

This. Also, don't feel guilty about sending the newborn down to the nursery if you need sleep. Once the little one comes home, you'll have _plenty_ of wakeful nighttime hours.

There's a lot of fluid in the uterus, and it will probably gush once the shoulders are out. Like, thumb over the garden hose gush.

You may not immediately feel like this new little human is the most wonderful thing in existence. That's okay. You'll get there.

The first two days of baby poop are tar. This gets better, too. Wet washcloths work really, really well with this stuff, and hospitals have a soiled linens bag in every room for a reason.
posted by bfranklin at 8:26 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, another thing. If your wife is planning on breastfeeding, make sure you know what lactation specialists or other resources are available at the hospital. The process may be easy or it may be nerve-racking; there's no way to know.

Our lactation nurse sent us home with a paper schedule to follow (baby selfnoise was having some trouble breastfeeding) and it was a huge help. Baby is now big, healthy and assumes all humans have a breast to feed upon.
posted by selfnoise at 8:34 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Throw all expectations out the window. Prepare to wait around a bit. We waited for two days when they finally decided to do a C-section.

Have a list of people who want to know the status and call them with updates if (and only IF) you have time. I neglected to do this (I didn't have a cell phone at the time) and people were worried after not hearing anything for two days. It's not about them, sure, but relatives do get nervous and want to be updated.

Interestingly enough, even though I got a complete eye full and I absolutely remember being squicked out/disturbed at what I saw, I could not (and still cannot) recollect *what* I actually saw. My brain completely blocked out the actual visual memory.

I peeked over the curtain, because I thought "when am I ever going to get another chance to look into my wife's wide open belly?" and I know I saw something but I cannot remember anything about the experience.

As long as you are still at the hospital let the staff help you as much as possible. This might be the most rest you're able to get for some time.

Steal as many receiving blankets as you can. They are really useful for cleaning up spit. Did I mention babies spit a lot? Yeah, for the first year or so your kid is basically a yogurt factory.

After the birth:

I was most worried about poop/diapers. Turns out it's a piece of cake, something you get used to really quickly. Sure, there's the occasional explosion (there is no other word for it, sorry) when you'll be cleaning poop off the ceiling (I wish I were joking) but for the most part changing diapers is really easy and actually satisfying because it's one of the few times you can "fix" a crying baby and make him stop crying.

Remember to always continue treating your wife like the woman you married, and not just a mother. As tough as you'll have it, she'll have it worse.

Best of luck! I love being a dad.
posted by bondcliff at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you checked with your hospital about its car seat installation clinic?

If you haven't put in the baby's car seat yet, do that really soon. Because you won't be thinking about it during delivery or immediately after, and you really will want to take the baby home safely without the last-minute OMG of "Where's the seat?"
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Steal everything from the hospital that isn't nailed down.

OK. Not really, but don't feel bad about taking home a pack of diapers or a swaddling blanket or two.

Make sure you know what you and your wife want out of the delivery but, much as selfnoise said, don't get too tied down to what the labor "should" be: anything that results in a healthy baby and mother is a rousing success. So, be a strong advocate for your family, but be ready to be flexible if the situation requires it.

Also, have a chair nearby. I never, ever thought I'd be the type of cliched guy who got faint but, boy, was I not prepared for the water breaking. I wasn't really nauseated by it or anything, but it really is a super-intense situation.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:37 AM on July 13, 2012

It's bloody.
There's no reason to avoid medication, it's brutally hard to give birth, especially the first time.
It's dangerous.
She may projectile vomit on you (happened to me).
Nurses are, for the most part, great.
Don't trust that ANYONE in the hospital is doing things correctly.
There is no point in having a birthing plan or anything like that, the more you plan the more things are going to go wrong.
Keep the kid in the nursery as much as possible, you'll see it all the time when you get home, this is your last chance at peace and quiet.
One of you needs to be well rested, there is no point in BOTH of you staying up all night.
It's not 1955, don't act like a dad from 1955.
Parenting is wickedly hard in a million different ways.
Get as much help as you can from parents with experience in the beginning.
Your baby is just like everyother baby in the world, don't bore people with a million pictures and stories.
If you are sure you'll have more than one, have the second ASAP.
Think a move or two ahead.
Be patient.
Go with the momentum they create as much as possible.
Ignore the crying.
Have a good support network.
Use the short attention span to your advantage.
Look for other innate qualities to use to your advantage.
If you have more than 1, don't treat all your kids the same.
Be prepared to repeat yourself a million times.
Get used to life being random. You can’t imagine what will go wrong all the time.
Everything is covered with shit, literally.
Nothing is where it should be, ever.
What you say really really matters. Really.
You're going to get sick, a lot, if you send it to day care. ALLOT.
Time is always your enemy.
posted by Blake at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2012 [14 favorites]

OH! Almost forgot the most important thing, genetics is 90% of who they are, you're role is more or less to just keep them alive, they're already programmed to come out a certain way.
posted by Blake at 8:41 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah; seconding selfnoise's recommendation of checking out the lactation consultants if your wife is planning on breastfeeding. In our hospital, all of the nurses in labor and delivery were also certified lactation consultants and I can't tell you how awesome this made the whole feeding process. We were fairly lucky with baby Betelgeuse, but I think that almost everyone has some bumps with breastfeeding.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to breathe. Like, honestly. I was paying attention to everything else and stopped breathing and nearly passed out.

posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Parenting three kids is so different from parenting one kid that there should be a different word for it. I didn't feel like this with 2, but having three is not so much parenting as it is crowd control or something.
posted by Blake at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

It never gets easier, it just gets different.
posted by Blake at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, yet another thing. Our area had a really great service where they had a nurse visit you at home after a week or so. This was fantastic, as it was great for my wife to get some validation and also they will weigh the baby, so we knew she was getting enough nutrition. After all the worry at the hospital about nursing, to see that she had gained weight was one of the happiest moments for us.

So if there's a service like that where you are, I recommend it.
posted by selfnoise at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You always hear stories about people falling in love with their babies the second they come out. While I don't think a lot of people will admit this, as a Dad, it might not be true for you right away. Do not feel bad about this. It will be true for your wife. But remember, she has spent the past several months bonding with this little person who's been knocking around inside of her. But rest assured that after a few months, you'll fall head over heels in love with the little one too.

The other thing I'd mention is to be sure to keep an eye on your Wife for the next several months. Post-partum depression is fairly common, and if she doesn't seem to be herself after awhile, encourage her to talk to someone about this. (Even if it's just her OB/GYN, they are well versed in that type of thing.)
posted by split atom at 8:52 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My daughter is now five months old, and I am still freaked out by the actual act of giving birth. I never really dreamed of having kids or particularly looked forward to it, but my wonderful wife really wanted a baby and since I wasn't dead set against it, I agreed that it would be a good idea.

So, I entered the hospital with conflicting emotions. I was excited, but at the same time I was really kind of hesitant about the whole thing. (Our baby was born in Malaysia, so some or all of this might not apply) My wife had previously decided that she wanted an epidural, so they brought the anaesthesiologist. He was a nice guy, but for whatever reason ended up giving her too much medicine. It might have been a language issue, or who knows what, but after the epidural, my wife was unable to feel anything below her neck.

For some reason the nurses didn't think that the baby was ready to come out right away, but she was. So when they realized this, they called the doctor on her cell phone and told her to come immediately. The doctor rushed in quickly to take care of things. For whatever reason, she put on these big white duck boots, which totally freaked me out, because it made me envision like two inches of gore on the floor (this didn't happen, but why the boots?). The two nurses and the doctor were screaming at my wife to push, and I was holding her hand, trying my hardest not to look down.

Needless to say I accidentally looked down, and I saw things that cannot be unseen. It was seriously one of the more creepy moments of my life. I won't try to describe it here because my words can't do it justice. But my advice is to not look down.

However, once the baby popped out, I looked down and saw the doctor holding her up like a prize winning bass, and I cried. Seriously, I was unsure up until the moment of birth that I even wanted a child, and when I saw her for the first time I completely lost my composure. Just to give you a scale, prior to the baby being born, the only thing that ever made me cry as an adult was Rocky IV.

Now, the birth itself is frigging intense. You will spend hours at the hospital and it will culminate in an event that is the reason for your entire existence. It doesn't get more intense than that, really. The problem is that after the endorphins wear off, you are stuck with a living, crying creature that you aren't prepared for. No matter how many parenting classes you have taken or how many books you have read, you aren't ready for this.

When you see people who talk about how wonderful babies are and how much they want to have (another) one, you have to realize that these people either don't have babies now or it has been long enough that they have forgotten how hard it is. I'm not going to lie to you, the first thirty to forty five days is terrible. The baby has no schedule, is constantly hungry, won't sleep, and is too small to do anything that is even remotely entertaining. Once the wonder from childbirth wears off and the reality of having to take care of another human being kicks in, things won't seem so rosy.

Don't worry, though, you will get through it. It will probably seem insurmountable at first, but as time goes by the baby will start to grow and will learn to do things, and life will be amazing. But don't let other parents lie to you, that first month or so is hard,really, really hard.

TLDR; 1) Be ready to wait at the hospital for a long time. 2) DON'T LOOK DOWN THERE! 3) Be as supportive as you can 4) DON'T LOOK DOWN THERE! 5) Be prepared to cry. 6) After you get home and the awe wears off, don't get discouraged from the lack of sleep. It gets better fast and will be amazing.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:53 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think my number one thing would be that I wish I hadn't been told so many weirdly romantic fairy tales about how you'll instantly love the baby more than you've ever loved anything, and how you'll learn the true meaning of love in a heartbeat - and so on. It's true, in my experience, that over the course of the first few months you really will love that kid more than you've ever loved anything, but in that first minute or two I looked at my kid and thought, "who's that?"

I knew I was supposed to love him - and I definitely felt protective of him. But he seemed like a stranger too. At the time, I felt a little guilty about not having a magical experience - and maybe I'm the only one - but now I look back on it as a pretty natural response.

Your wife, on the other hand, really will love that kid more than life itself pretty much instantly. Why? Because she has had an intimate relationship with him/her for the past nine months.

In sum, don't let Disney tell you how you're supposed to feel. It's a pretty wild ride.

Congratulations, by the way. Nothing has made me happier than having kids. I say that without reservation.
posted by crapples at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I must have been writing at the same time that Split Atom was, above. So... what he said.
posted by crapples at 9:00 AM on July 13, 2012

Remember that any outcome that results in a healthy mother and healthy baby is a good one.

Um, honestly - this may not be true for your wife. If I had to have, e.g., an emergency C-section and my husband had afterwards said to me, 'No worries, sweetie, all that's important is that the two of you are healthy!!!' I would have been appalled and sad. Giving birth 'myself' was important to me as a start to a good mothering experience. Giving birth is an important milestone for most women. Many grieve for decades if something 'goes wrong', even if there is no health impact. It is important to take that grief seriously, work through it, acknowledge it and not just gloss over it with a 'what do you want, baby's healthy!'.
I wish you a birth that goes the way she imagined it would and that feels empowering and beautiful to your wife (and yourself). I know my birthing made me (us) stronger and was maybe the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. It's not just a nuisance you have to get over with. Even if current mainstream culture treats it that way.
posted by The Toad at 9:01 AM on July 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

So, 2 years in and some fuzzy looking back at what literally 3 days of induced labor:

* Go in with a plan, communicate, be prepared to kick the doula out if you're just not getting the support you think you should be getting.

* It's ok to go off plan if things aren't going to plan, that means drugs if they are needed, as noted above the most important thing is a healthy baby and mom at the end of the deal.

* After the baby is born, there is always, ALWAYS a family member with the baby in the hospital, someone who can wake you up for a decision to be made and who is better rested.

* If it's your thing, lactation consultant lined up after you're home from the hospital.

* As noted above, you are likely to be the one who is more highly functioning at the end of this, do the diapers, deal with the docs, fend off the family members.

* Work on the perineal massage now. No, really. Do it.

* Yoga ball, inflate and bounce on it, easier than walking when you're a zombie, can be done for hours.

* You have a doula so she is hopefully prepping you guys with the after care stuff, make sure you have stuff for your wife afterwards, there s a whole list of things you should have on hand.

* Talk to your nurses in detail, bring them cookies, attach birth plan to cookies.

* Your doula will probably tell you this, but walk your pants off now and during labor it really helped us.

* Be as flexible as you are comfortable being, there is a whole range of acceptable and healthy middle grounds for child having and rearing. Part of the big lesson for us was getting comfortable adjusting to what our particular kid needed and wanted that strayed from the ideal we had built up in our heads.
posted by iamabot at 9:10 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you've already prepared for labor (learned about natural birth, the stages of labor, etc.) there's really not much you can do other than cross your fingers and hope for a good birth. We were lucky and had a wonderful, natural, first-time birth in a hospital less than a year ago. Other folks in our birth class/friends around town had less-than-wonderful births, or downright difficult births. There was almost nothing about how we prepared, or who my wife is as a person, that allowed her to give birth relatively easily--it was 99% luck plus a little bit of not being shy about asking to change positions, etc. Be advocates for yourselves, but understand that you can't really control how labor is going to go.

You might react in any number of ways. I was shocked at how faint I felt when they had trouble getting an IV into my wife's arm and had to repeatedly jab her. Totally not a big deal, and I'm not a squeamish person in the least, but I thought I was going to black out and had to sit my ass down for a few minutes. I think I was just totally amped at that point and this put me over the edge.

I felt a lot of awe, and I felt incredibly humbled as my wife gave birth. Watching my kid come into the world was great!

People feel differently about this but: We did not find the hospital to be a restful place to recover. The nurses are always coming in and out of the room at all hours. The bed was uncomfortable, etc. It wasn't that bad, but we were glad to get the eff out of there and go home.

Unlike others here, I say hang on to your kid and don't send him/her to the nursery to cry. Personally, I didn't want that baby out of my sight--not because I didn't trust nursing staff per se. I just felt extremely protective and possessive.

Also, nobody told me that babies are actually not all the same. For some reason I thought they all start out the same and slowly become themselves. This is somewhat true, but really, they are already individuals when they're born. Mine came out with a distinct temperament and that basic temperament has not really changed.

Also, it's true that a healthy mom & baby outcome is the only thing that's important. But that doesn't mean you should state this over and over again as a way to smooth over a difficult birth. If you do have a difficult birth, you are allowed to grieve and feel pissed off and talk about it.
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:17 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

This won't be useful during the birth but read up on the signs of postpartum depression and don't hesitate to get help if your wife is exhibiting signs of it. (Brooke Shield's book is a good start for this.) She will be emotional and hormonal for a few after for sure but there is another level that takes it to ppd so just be on the lookout for that and don't assume anything is "normal".

Now for the hospital stuff - be the advocate for your wife in all matters, small and large. Don't be afraid to ask for things from the nurses. Ask a ton of questions.

Try to take a deep breath often and center yourself. Really look around while it's happening and make a memory.

From this moment on, keep all cameras and cell phones charged up all the way.

Sometimes you get turned away at the hospital if your wife really isn't in labor. That's ok - it'll happen!

Good luck!
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

"few weeks"
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:18 AM on July 13, 2012

Listen to your wife. Put yourself in her shoes. If she's upset, acknowledge that. If she's scared, acknowledge it. Don't argue or dismiss her. Don't tell her that you're more tired than she is. Don't tell her that, if she's hungry, she needs to recognize that you need your sleep. Don't tell her she has no idea how tired you are. Don't tell her that, if she needs something from the nurses, she can get it herself. Don't refuse to advocate for her, if she asks for your help in communicating with medical staff. Don't complain that she keeps asking you to bring the baby back and forth from the bassinette "when it's just beside the bed", when she's torn and sore. Bring some treats and extra food and anything else you can think of that might make your wife feel more comfortable. Lots of good ideas above.

And be good to the nurses.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:19 AM on July 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

I think there are a lot of great suggestions upthread, and I am not a man, but have had a baby. One thing that I think either of us could have dealt with and wish we had is knowing that if there is a nurse at the hospital that is making your wife uncomfortable, you and she can ask for a new nurse. To generalize, be proactive about the care of your family as necessary.
posted by freezer cake at 9:25 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

My wife had a normal vaginal delivery with our first son. I was in the room holding one of her legs. My wife's epidural wore off about an hour before she could start pushing so it was basically a natural delivery. By the end, she was screaming so much she made one of the young doctors cry from fear. Nothing was wrong, but my wife was panicking. Be prepared for the panic.

Also, I could not really look "down there". There was a bit of blood and I started to get dizzy. No matter what you think, you will NOT be ready to see what is going on down there.

For me, the panic set in as we walked into our house. From the time your child is born, you have professionals around helping you through the first day or two of your child's life. Once you are home, it is all on you. That scared me beyond belief. My wife and I both broke down and started crying. It is overwhelming It will be OK. You can do it!

Finally, be prepared for the biological. Poop, pee, vomit, and blood. Blood should not really be an issue, but the first time your kid cuts her/himself, it is really sad. I had a son so the plumbing aspect was not too foreign. There is still a lot of poop. You will get peed on at some point. For some reason, your child's own fluids are not a big deal. It is still a bit gross considering the fact that something so tiny can emit such foul odors.
posted by remthewanderer at 9:26 AM on July 13, 2012

Oh for chrissake, definitely do look down there! Sure, it's messy, but it's also amazing.

And don't feel weird about asking for the placenta if you want it. Hospital staff did not seem at all surprised about the request. I handed it off to the MIL to take home and stick in the freezer. A couple of weeks later, when all of our visitors had finally left us in peace, we dug a hole in the backyard and planted a tree on top of it.
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:34 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dads of MeFi- what do you wish you had been told before your wife/partner went into labor?

That a lot of the labor nurses are man-haters and they don't want the husbands there; at least they aren't very supportive of the men being there.

I can't tell you how many times I was told to "turn around" and "don't look" during vaginal exams, or "move out of the way" when I was simply holding my wife's hand.

This wasn't an isolated incident, either. It happened with six different nurses during two labors. And I wasn't the only one. We went to some post-birthing classes and ALL the husbands said the same thing, and three hospitals were represented.

With the second kid, I told the nurses, "I put the baby in there, so I can look if I want to." And they stopped harassing me, at least for the most part.
posted by TinWhistle at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2012

Pay no attention to the people who tell you to bring lotion for rubdowns. Bring oil.
posted by yclipse at 9:38 AM on July 13, 2012

For labor: you are in charge of Kodak moments. Make sure your camera is charged and discuss with your wife ahead of time what pics are a must-take.

Think about watching some YouTube videos of childbirth so that you're somewhat prepared. There is a lot of fluid and viscousness, and usually some blood. It's an amazing and wonderful thing, but it can be a little Cronenberg-esque for newbies.

Don't shout at your wife. For some reason during the pushing phase everyone shouts at the mother and I found it intensely irritating. Don't get caught up in that. Having my husband saying calm and encouraging things was a nice alternative to that.

Like everyone says, it's OK if you don't bond with the baby instantaneously. Even your wife may not, although it's much more common for dads to have delayed bonding.

Although your wife may be doing much of the feeding, try to do as much care as you can from the very beginning while you're both still figuring things out. It's very common for men to be kind of hands-off in the first phase where the baby needs to eat every 3 hours and then a couple of months down the road, the mother is very confident and the dad still feels uncertain, and it can really perpetuate into a cycle where the mother is the only one that either of them feels is competent to care for the baby.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:45 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was in the delivery room for the birth of my niece (my brother-in-law was also present). I was not expecting what we ended up calling the "bucket of gore" -- there was a big metal bucket on wheels they discretely rolled out from under the bed once it was go time, and by the end of it all, it was full. Just remember that the blood etc. is not the same blood that's keeping your wife alive -- it's more like super-duper menstrual blood, and it doesn't mean anything's going badly. (Sorry if this is gross, but thinking about it this way made it less alarming to me.)

Also, after the baby was born and my sister was settled in her room, my brother-in-law and I went back to their home to sleep (we had all been awake for 36 hours or something). When we got back in the morning with bagels and lox in hand, my sister was hysterical -- she had had to share a room, and with that noise and the nurses coming in constantly, she basically only slept an hour or two. We felt HORRIBLE for leaving her alone; I don't know if she's ever forgiven us. (For her second child, they sprang for a private room, and he stayed overnight with her. MUCH BETTER.)

Oh, and I also had a hard time watching what was going on "down there" -- I took a couple of peeks out of curiosity but even I, a vagina-owner, found it pretty freaky. And at one point, when my sister's pushing had stalled, they brought in a big mirror so she could see what was going on (crowning). She took one look and yelled "take that away from me!" Even she didn't want to see it! (Of course, YMMV.) It was amazing when the baby came out, though. Even though I was kind of incidental to the whole experience, it may be the most incredible moment of my life. Suddenly there's an additional person in the room! It's like magic.
posted by chowflap at 9:53 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Encouragement when the actual 'birthing' starts isn't just counting and raising your voice.

Ours was taking her time coming out. The hospital staff had brought out the vacuum and were hushedly discussing forceps.

My wife was gasping and had been in labour for 26 hours. In the 30-second gap between pushing, I asked her:
"How much do you want to meet her?"

"I want to meet her SO MUCH," she said, exhausted.

"Then take that, and push as hard as you want to meet her."

Next round: baby came out.
posted by randomination at 10:02 AM on July 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

My husband says count how many times people will tell you how much the baby resembles you vs how many times they say the same for your wife. It's really funny after a while and seems to be some built-in social tool to reassure paternity. Our ratio is about 100:1 currently with a six month baby.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:03 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep the kid in the nursery as much as possible, you'll see it all the time when you get home, this is your last chance at peace and quiet.

I can't agree more with this. Who better to take care of a brand new human: the EXPERTS who work in the nursery, or the sleep-deprived, emotional, first-time mother, who may also be recovering from major abdominal surgery (or at least a painful tear in her lady bits)?

Also, regarding this:

Our area had a really great service where they had a nurse visit you at home after a week or so.

In my area, new parents get visits from the Department of Child and Family Services if their child is born significantly premature. (Mine was born a month early, but was basically fine.) It was not really a routine well-baby check, but a more checkup on Baby Squirrel's home circumstances to make sure we were prepared to take care of her. This was a surprise to me - I wish the hospital had mentioned it before we left.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:04 AM on July 13, 2012

Sorry to add another comment right away: I really really wish Mr. SuperSquirrel had not gone home the day after Baby Squirrel was born to take a shower. I felt abandoned. I don't know if it was my hormones raging, or what, but, yeah. That's how I felt and I still slightly resent him for that almost 17 years later. I had to stay flat on my back for another day, stinky and gross, it wouldn't have killed him to do the same. And what if something happened to the baby while he was gone???

Did I mention hormones? I feel stupid writing the above, but it was so REAL and PAINFUL at the time...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:10 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Keep the kid in the nursery as much as possible, you'll see it all the time when you get home, this is your last chance at peace and quiet.

Nthing this. We didn't do this and we left the hospital super-duper-extra-exhausted. This is very literally your last chance to sleep peacefully for a long time. Take advantage of it.
posted by gnutron at 10:15 AM on July 13, 2012

The one thing nobody told me about bringing to the delivery room was non-slip shoes/sandals/slippers.

A lot of fluid gushed out after my kid was born, and while there was a tarp-like thing on the bed to catch most of it, a significant amount fell to the floor. It was some kind of saline solution the doctors pumped into my wife's womb, because of a complication during inducement (long story).

The doctors asked if I wanted to cut the cord, and I happily obliged. I took one step and found myself ass-planted on the hard floor. The nurses thought I fainted, but the doctors understood what happened. I could hear them explain while holding the infant and I struggled to stand amidst a puddle of clear fluid (nurses were opposite my wife; one managed to come around and help me up).

Not one minute after being born my kid was trying to kill me. Wear non-slip shoes.
posted by CancerMan at 10:24 AM on July 13, 2012

I agree with the night of sleep. In our case they took the baby away for her hearing test and let her sleep afterward... we got some sleep and everything was better.
posted by selfnoise at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2012

Everyone has covered most things upthread up one thing not noted that my husband liked to comment on after our first, was that you want to make sure to not give your wife just one finger to hold onto during the labor. It seems sensible, and he was told this before. He still did it and apparently I almost broke his finger, I didn't notice because I was a bit busy then.
posted by katers890 at 10:29 AM on July 13, 2012

Lots of good advice and stories above. One thing I remember having on me, which my wife appreciated during labor: chapstick.

I also recall that at the moment of birth, a huge wave of emotion rolled through me, like an ocean wave, and I just staarted crying. Weird.

Also: When it was finally time to take the baby home, there was this funny feeling we both had: "Wait, that's IT? They're just gonna LET US LEAVE with this baby?!"

Good luck!
posted by see_change at 10:46 AM on July 13, 2012

My husband and I chose for him not to be in the room when I actively delivered our son and we were both ok with this and on board from the beginning. I'm not saying you shouldn't be there, but talk it over with your wife and figure out what you both want. For us, my husband is INCREDIBLY squeamish and I didn't want to worry about him passing out or getting grossed out while I was pushing - and I would have worried. A lot. It would have been extremely distracting. So, that's what worked for us.

Take it moment by moment. See what you need to do in the moment and, well, do it. My husband was with me all the time up until I started pushing but didn't take it personally if he was off in the background. Be willing to be the gopher - getting food, water, that Thing That She Must Have Right Now, etc. Don't have too many expectations for what it will be like or what you'll need to do because labor is just totally unpredictable.

She might need an epidural. Or a c-section. Comfort her if this is a hard thing for her to accept.

And snuggle the hell out of that baby. It took my husband a while to not feel scared of breaking/dropping our son, but he got the hang of it and nothing made me happier than seeing the two of them together.

(And having a doula - YES YES YES YES YES. This will help you *both* immensely. Our doula was amazing - I had a 47hr labor and definitely would have ended up with a c-section without her.)
posted by sonika at 10:49 AM on July 13, 2012

OH HELL YES CHAPSTICK. And hair ties. If your wife has long hair and you know how to braid it, offer to do this when she starts having contractions. (My mom was the one to braid my hair but being that I couldn't shower for 24hrs post-birth and it had been 47hrs since I'd washed it... having it already tied away was really helpful.)
posted by sonika at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2012

The most important thing we were told is "There is no normal in childbirth. There are a lot of things that are OK. It does not matter if something is 'normal'; it only matters if it is OK."

Labor is weird; you can't prepare for everything. I spent the weeks before my first child was born carefully assembling a full 24-hour iTunes playlist so I'd have music I loved around me while I labored. Then I had the kind of labor that is ubiquitous on TV and nearly fictional in real life -- my water broke at home with no advance labor, and I went instantly into closely-spaced, mind-searing contractions, and we had to pack the car with me hollering and moaning. The ipod never even came out of the labor bag.

Oh, that actually segues nicely into another point. Buy a pack of Depends to have at home. Not only are they a lifesaver in the water-breaks-at-home scenario (I lost nearly a liter of fluid between our house and the hospital), but they are absolutely wonderful for coping with the first couple days of post-birth lochia. They are not sexy in the slightest, but this is now my secret baby shower gift for everyone I know.

For the first couple weeks at least, she takes the input (if she's breastfeeding) and you take the output. My husband changed every diaper on both our children in their first week of life. Not only was it nice to know that he had that situation handled, it also gave him a really good reality check as to how fragile they aren't -- he did a lot of undressing and re-dressing and sticking tiny arms through tiny pajamas and stuff, and he just got very comfortable with them in their tiny bodies. Obviously, how much of this you can do is dependent on how much time you have at home after the birth, but I would really encourage you to do as much diaper duty as you possibly can.
posted by KathrynT at 11:03 AM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Regarding the fear of seeing unspeakable things going on 'down there' - my husband found it helpful to watch videos of real births. Including graphic details. We were shown some in our birth prep class. After seeing a few, it loses the shock value and becomes awesome/interesting/touching. At least that's what my husband said, I never found them 'shocking' but I have a vagina so YMMV.
It was also helpful to talk about what we saw, together. We realized that a lot of talk about birth makes it seem 'impossible', 'unspeakable', something the body is not cut out for, an extreme event, an emergency. Remember that the opposite is the case. The female body is well-prepared to give birth. Your wife's body knows how to do this (even if she doesn't). And if there are problems, you fortunately live in a time where help will be readily available. This is not an emergency situation, it's a normal part of life. Putting it in these terms helped us, I think.
posted by The Toad at 11:17 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

- Another vote for the doula. Very helpful and centering.
- Keep visitors after the birth to a minimum. This is the time for rest, not entertaining family and friends.
- Take some pictures, but for the love of God spare your friends the photo of your dear wife drenched in sweat and looking haggard in the immediate aftermath of birth. Two or three hours does wonders here.
- It is frankly a bit scary to see your wife in agony and undergoing a very hard task that you can't assist or alleviate. You will both at times doubt if it is going "right" or entertain fears. Anticipate this as normal, but nothing anyone can say is probably helpful on this point, except maybe...
- Get to know the doula, nurse and delivery doctor well enough that they can give you some encouragement. Something as simple as a smile from them, assuring you that it is okay, will do wonders. Trust their instincts when/if you get a little freaked out.
- After the birth you will have just experienced a very intense experience. Under normal circumstances you would decompress and analyze it, but not this one. Oh no. You segue right into parenthood and find yourself saying, "what just happened?" This itself is a freaky experience.
- The fact that you asking this question means that you are likely a cool husband and will be a great dad. Anticipate the experience of a lifetime. I may forget a lot of stuff over the years, but I'll never forget the moment/feeling when each of my children were born. You will never be the same afterward, but if you embrace the experience you'll be much happier about having your changed life.

posted by dgran at 11:35 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have a chair handy in the delivery room. You may suddenly feel dizzy if you're not used to seeing, ummmm, medical stuff.
posted by Doohickie at 11:51 AM on July 13, 2012

- Don't cut the cord if you don't want to. I told my husband he would be asked and he was 'what? why would they want me to do that, that's their job'. Sure enough they asked, sure enough he said no. He had no interest. Don't feel badgered in to doing stuff.
- Be aware there is a good chance when your wife is transitioning from 2nd to 3rd stage labour she will start saying she can't do this. I did. A friend of mine got so caught up in this she went and hid behind a laundry hamper in the hall and nearly ended up giving birth there. Saying 'yes you can' or worse 'don't be silly' is not the way to go. Just be calm, say everything's cool, and realise that you know it is going to pass, but your wife will not feel like that at the time.
- Make sure she is cool with you looking at her 'down there' in advance. My husband was warned off as I didn't feel comfortable about it, and he thankfully respected my wishes. I know it is the most natural thing in the world, but I was self-concious about it, and it would have made me feel even worse if he had been looking.
-Nthing letting the baby sleep in the nursery. Within hours of giving birth I came down with the worst sinus infection known to man - and because of breastfeeding etc. I couldn't take any of the good drugs. I couldn't even lie on my back to sleep and breathe. I was getting all guilty about everything and a midwife said 'oh, he's so cute, can we have him at the nurses station for a few hours?' That woman was an angel.
posted by Megami at 11:55 AM on July 13, 2012

Be aware there is a good chance when your wife is transitioning from 2nd to 3rd stage labour she will start saying she can't do this.

Yes, absolutely. I did. I hear every woman does. My mother used to be a labor/delivery nurse and said that she found it worrisome if women *didn't* have a crisis of confidence during pushing.

The most helpful thing that my doula reminded me is "You ARE doing it."
posted by sonika at 12:07 PM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

what do you wish you had been told before your wife/partner went into labor?

I wish I'd known that a kind of bluey-purple was a natural colour for a newborn.
Also that they'd be sticking him under the kind of lights fast food places use to keep burgers warm while they cleaned him up.

I thought something was wrong, and that we weren't being told.

Turned out to be pretty standard.

When we had the second one, I was really happy to see he was at least as purpley-blue as his elder brother had been.
posted by Prof Iterole at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2012

"This might take an extremely long time"

(46 hours from start to finish for us)
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:37 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and one other thing - please don't worry if it doesn't turn out to be the best day of your whole entire life. It might be. It might not be. I know that it was a good day for my husband and I, but we both agree that it was probably not in the top ten (many in the top ten include the kid after he was born). And while it is not something people often talk about, I have had a few friends admit to me that actually, it wasn't the best day of their life when they gave birth/their partner gave birth, and they feel really bad about it.
You get a kid, that's the awesome part.
posted by Megami at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you think you can handle it at all, watch multiple child birth videos. I'd even suggest watching some where the mother is doing it natural and at least one she had some amount of an epidural. The difference between a well-done natural birth and a heavy medicated one is huge.

Watch "The Business of Being Born" if you're serious about doing a drug-free birth. From my experience, going drug free (which does have a huge number of advantages) is hard at a hospital. There's so many factors working against it. It's a weird place you just traveled to, there's all these doctors and nurses who'd love to medicate you. Just remember to be cool.

That's probably the single thing that helped me and my wife (home and Bradleyish Method) do it. It's a big deal, so be serious about giving birth. But staying relaxed and giving as much positive support to the mother-to-be is key. There will almost surely be a time in transition where she'll think she's too tired/too much pain/can't do it. That's when the partner can be the most help.

Figure out with her what things you can say that will actually help. Every person responds differently. So being able to say comfortably and confidently words that will remind her that she'll make and it will turn out great can make an amazing difference.

If she thinks she can't do it or needs drugs, try saying "let's just get through this next contraction and then see", and keep doing it until you get through it or she really decides she needs help but try to help her put it off. You can make a safe word if that would help to know for real.

If you're going to breast feed, you as the Dad will need to be her main support. Like for real. There's often issues with breastfeeding, but nearly all of them are totally solvable if you invest time and energy (we had some problems but got through it). Consider using a lactation consultant outside of a hospital/doctor's office.

If any one mentions little baby mkultra might have a short frenulum (tongue-tied) and you're breastfeeding, strongly consider having it clipped ASAP. It's a very minor deal when they're very young. And some doctors don't always suggest it since they don't always think in terms of breastfeeding (one of our lactation consultants said she thought upward of 90% of the problems they deal with are at least partly caused by a short frenulum).

I can't speak to nursery after birth, but we had no issues being with our baby constantly the day or two that followed and then used our parents for a couple of extra naps.
posted by skynxnex at 1:00 PM on July 13, 2012

If things start going wrong, stay where you are.

The rest of the room is full of professionals who deal with complications every day. If you start trying to do anything other than the coaching/holding/rubbing you were doing when things were normal, you'll be interfering with getting the problem solved.

With our second, my wife started bleeding out after birth, at the same time that another women with the same OB/GYN was across the hall, also having difficulties. Our doctor was very, very busy, running back and forth, doing different things, ordering people around, etc. They got everything calmed down eventually, but I was a nervous puppy. I'm glad I stayed where I was, stroking my wife's head, while they got her stabilized.

Also, don't remember anything your wife said in labor.
posted by blob at 1:12 PM on July 13, 2012

.Be her advocate. If somebody tries to talk her into drugs she doesn't want/out of drugs she wants, stick up for her. (They arm-twisted me into valium, so I passed out between contractions, and it was not a good thing. YMMV)
.What does she like? She might want to focus, and might want people to let her do her labor, or she might want a cheering squad - you. Discuss beforehand.
.Bring her ice chips if she wants them. Keep bringing them.
.The experience is far more important than the pictures. (My son's dad is a photographer, but a friend took pictures, because once he started, it would have become the thing he had to get right.)
.Be prepared for the what-ifs. I was high-risk for having my baby surgically removed, so we planned for it. While I was being reassembled after surgery, a nurse came in and said "Guys, the Dad has the baby in the nursery, and took his shirt off so the baby would get skin:skin bonding." We had planned for it, and hearing that the plan was being implemented really made me feel better. Plus, he got to have some very special time while while I slept off anesthesia.
.The same friend was not allowed in the OR(which was in the labor/deliv. wing), but took photos through the glass door. Nice, since by then I was drugged, exhausted, etc., and the pics are a memory aid.
.Birth gets built up as a magical experience, and I hope it plays out that way. I can tell my story and make it sound really awful, but it was mostly hard work to get fully dilated, push and then have a surgical delivery. The magical part was meeting my son, who was and is healthy and gorgeous, despite having had the cord around his neck 3 times. Birth is still medically challenging. Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby is really what it's about.
.By the time I was pushing, the special music, pretty wallpaper, etc., was meaningless.
.Listen. Great advice for marriage, parenting, and for the birth process.
.I had a post-surgical infection, so I got home from the hospital, almost immediately started a fever, and ended up going back, but not to Maternity. I had to go to a regular floor, with sick people and germs. 1 in 5 American women has a surgical delivery, so ask the doctor or birthing educator to prep you. I was not well prepared for the c-section.

babies are awesome. mazel tov.
posted by theora55 at 2:12 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

From my husband: bring snacks/food for yourself. I was taken care of, since I was the one having the baby, but my husband was fending for himself. YHospitalMV, but the cafeteria closed early and the vending machines didn't have a lot to offer.
posted by mogget at 4:23 PM on July 13, 2012

Before the birth:

Pack a "go-bag" now; there are lots of inventories on the web you can copy.

For the love of all that's holy, you should have as many meals cooked and frozen, or just pre-made frozen in your freezer as it will accomodate. I filled our freezer with >20 different meals that I had pre-cooked leading up to the birth, and my only regret is I couldn't freeze more. They were SO GOOD once the baby came, we had neither the time nor energy to cook, and having that stuff saved us from eating unhealthy take-away food.

Don't forget to pack some muesli bars or something in your go-bag! You could be in there a long time, and you and your partner probably won't want you out of the room. I got hungry.

Remember to bring some layers, hospital can be cold; especially if labour is overnight (as it was with us), and you're not the one pushing etc.

Be aware that precontractions may start some time before labour, and you may be turned away from the hospital the first time you show up. It is NOT like the movies where "water breaks", and it's game on. My partner had 3 days of pre-contractions and we had to go home the first time we went to the hospital cause she wasn't really dilated enough. Frustrating. Conversely, a proportion of women have the opposite, where it really is go-time straight away. Be prepared either way.


Support your partner, in every stage, in every way. Sympathise with her anxiety and fears (esp in that transition stage, honestly with us it was like someone flicked the "Despair" switch, and it was over just as suddenly), and articulate how proud of her you are, how great you think she's doing, how brave etc.

Support and advocate for her with hospital staff and absolutely support her if she wants painkillers, epidurals, whatever - despite what may have been in the "plan". Women can feel - justfiably, sadly - so incredibly judged for their choices with giving births and infants. The last thing your partner will need is even an atom of judgment from you. Whatever she wants to do is the right thing, always. Always.

For us, mainly, just being there was probably what my partner most valued in my during the delivery. She was giving so much attention to just giving birth, there wasn't a whole lot I could or should have done outside of general support and encouragement. I was not grossed out by anything I saw during the birth. Vaginas only exist so that babies can come out of them. It was exciting and wonderful to see my partner's courage and the amazing fact that she produced this thing inside of her.


As an analogue to support issue, one thing I found immensely frustrating with our birth experience was the hospital's monomaniacal focus on the wellbeing of the baby, at all expense to the mother. This was only in play somewhat during the birth, but after in the maternity ward, when my exhausted partner was being interrupted by a procession of unnecessary staff on her third and fourth days of not sleeping for more than forty minutes at a time, I was a little disgusted and very angry. Advocate so that she gets what she needs. For us, this meant leaving hospital asap and getting home - which was better in every single way.

Be aware that it can be especially rough for the first few days until the milk comes in should you choose to breast feed. The baby is hungry and not getting a tonne of food, your partner will be trying to learn how to breastfeed - which can be challenging even for those with optimal nipple-shapes and baby mouths. It can be all but impossible for some women, and wherever your partner falls on that spectrum you should be super-dooper supportive whether she wants to try or not try. If she's struggling she may find it a very upsetting thing as it is.

Take as much time off work as you can. As much as possible. You and your partner will not regret every extra hour you can spend at home. 8am-6pm with a newborn is a very, very very long time, and you should absolutely maximise being home as much as you can, and be prepared for an exhausted, frazzled, irritable, upset, perhaps crying, shouting etc wife when you do. Do not stop for work drinks etc go straight home always.

Encourage your partner to express if breast-feeding (no biggie if not) so you can take over as many night-feeds as you can. This may be easier once the baby is a bit larger and wake-ups become more regular.

Keep visitors to an absolutely minimum for the first month/six weeks, and most crucially, don't be afraid to tell people to leave after an hour or so. It was staggering to me how many people were prepared to stay for >five hours, and our politeness resulting in unnecessary hardship.

Don't hold back when it comes to asking/bribing/wheedling/begging/paying for any and all help. If you have the money, hire a cleaner, order some meals, even consider a night nanny every now and then (this is super expensive, but a relative might be able to do it on a friday or saturday). You will be craving sleep so badly you will feel it in your marrow. Take every opportunity you can to get it.

Do everything you can. Whatever division of labour you imagine in your head - and recognising that you will probably be working before your partner is - what she's doing with the baby is always harder than what you're doing at any time. Always. This means, you change every nappy you can, do the housework and cleaning - absolutely do not expect her to do housework. Having a shower will be challenging some days. Vacuuming etc is off the menu. Do it yourself, or don't do it all. Same goes for cooking, washing dishes, clothes etc. EVERYTHING. It will make your partnership so much stronger if you go in with this commitment and attitude, not just now, but going forwards. You can start evening things back up once baby is sleeping mostly through the night.

(PS, "sleeping through the night" does not mean what you think it does. Sleeping through the night = 12am - 5am. And you will be pathetically grateful when it happens. Which may not be for a while, or may be sooner).

Be aware for the signs of post-natal depression, and act on them immediately, over your partner's objections if necessary. A stitch in time will save so much anguish and pain in this regard. It's not uncommon for women with post-natal depression to attempt to hide and deny it. Know your partner, and have confidence to know if things are not good there, and take the steps to address it. This is probably the most important thing in this whole list.

Don't compare yourself and your baby to other parents and other babies. This is unavoidable to an extent, but holy motherfuck did I want to punch some faces when people are like, "Oh, my little angel started sleeping 12 hours a night from 2 days old!". Assume they are all fucking liars trying to paper over the existential horror of their eternally wakeful existences, and that they're baby is actually sleeping less than yours. You are the best parents for your baby, and it is the best baby for you.

Baby advice is like arseholes: everyone's got one and they are mostly full of shit. The first three months in particular are very challenging and i personally believe that people get acute amnesia around it. Older people (i.e. your parents) are especially bad. Assume they have actually forgotten everything about the first three months of all their children's lives, and so when they say "Oh s/he should be doing X by now" - don't throat punch them, just mentally add three months to the figure and say "Oh yes, any day now".

Additionally, people are really dogmatic, you may feel judged. I felt very judged to the point where I didn't want to go out in public alone with the baby after people literally said to me "Where's her mother?" when she was crying, and tsktsked me etc (strangers. Perfect strangers.). If you can, ignore those fucking haters; they don't know shit about shit. You are the best father for your child, and you know more than everyone else about how to raise your baby. Ignore the advice you disagree with and take comfort in the advice you agree with. Also, try to find/make/spend-more-time-with some other new parent friends. They will feel like the only ones who understand you sometimes, I'm afraid to say.

Best of luck, you're gonna be so great. :)
posted by smoke at 4:42 PM on July 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

Take pictures. I took a picture of myself about 5 minutes after the doctor decided that we should do a C. I had dressed up in the scrubs that they gave me and shot a picture. It was the last picture of me not as a dad.

When Mrs. Plinth was in labor, it was keeping her up and she in turn kept waking me up. I took a pragmatic approach and said, "hey, why don't I go sleep on the couch. Come wake me up when it's time to go so I can drive safely." That said, it's really bad form to fall asleep and start snoring on the cold, hard tile next to the whirlpool tub. The Mrs. would've slugged me if she could have reached me.

Things go funny fast. Be calm.

If they're doing a C, don't look. It's for the best. I, a curious and non-squeamish type really wanted to look but my reasoning went like this, "right now there is a team of doctors and nurses tending to two patients (wife and child), although it's probably not an issue, do they really need a third patient if I pass out?"

That said, here's a joke to tell the anesthesiologist (if you have one):

A rabbit walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender serves her and collects the pay. "We don't really get many rabbits as customers..." he opens. The rabbit replies, "well, I'm lucky - I'm well paid. I'm an anesthesiologist." "A what?" counters the bartender. "Just think of me as the ether bunny."

Again, if your child is delivered via C, don't. DON'T. DO NOT TELL ANY JOKES within your wife's earshot for a month after. When my second was born, the phone in the room was ringing off the hook. It was driving me up a wall. Mrs. Plinth went to empty out and the phone rang again. Right as she came back from the bathroom, I answered the phone with "Stuart's House of Fun, how can I help you?" Which made her laugh and tore at the stitches pretty badly. She may have forgiven me now. Maybe,

Make sure your wife has something to eat before you leave for the hospital. The second time, she didn't and had another C and they wouldn't let her eat anything, so post partum she hadn't eaten for close to 18 hours and was ravenous. She convinced the nurses to bring her soup, but still under the influence of anesthetic it came right back up a minute later.

I agree with "steal everything that isn't bolted down". I have the scissors they used to take out her stitches. Take diapers. They have teeny tiny ones.

Yes, get someone else to install the car seat (if that applies), in my town the fire department used to do that as a service. Consider also a Mighty-Tite. The Latch system for cars is a joke. It's really hard to get a car seat solidly latched in. The Mighty Tite puts mechanical advantage and a ratchet in your hands. Awesome.
posted by plinth at 5:21 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have no fear, eventually you will want to see a vagina for recreational purposes again.
posted by Silvertree at 6:49 PM on July 13, 2012


A lot of good advice upthread. FWIW, I say look down there -- it's amazing.

As someone with access to a car in Brooklyn I am still happy we took a car service to and from the hospital in Manhattan instead. It was especially nice on the way as it allowed me to fully focus on and support my partner who was, you know, in labor. The livery driver had a studied indifference I could appreciate. Consider it.
posted by safetyfork at 7:27 PM on July 13, 2012

One thing that seeing birth videos doesn't help with is preparing you for the smell that accompanies the gush of fluids. It's not necessary a bad smell, but it is very, very strong and like nothing you've ever smelled before, and it lingers in the room for some time. I can only really describe it as primal. It's the one part of the birth that I wish I'd been more prepared for, just so my reaction was a bit more in check to the mom doing the hard work.

Also, quickly (meaning, within a day) transcribe the most important notes of the day -- what room you were in, what the weather was like, what time the baby came, what your and your wife's first words were once you saw your baby, etc. etc. etc.. Kids LOVE hearing about the day they were born, and you'll be amazed at how quickly it fades into a blur if you don't capture some of the key details -- and that's a great, great job for the dad!

posted by argonauta at 9:37 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Mr Plinth - do not tell your wife jokes if she has just had a c-section. My husband made me scream in pain several times because without thinking, he would make a very funny aside in conversation, and the agony of trying not to laugh with abdominal stitches is just - no comedy! I remember throwing him out of my room once because of some bad puns.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:11 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

With what little personal time you'll have immediately after baby's arrival make it a point to write a happy birth day letter to your new baby. Save it with your tax documents (more easily findable). Pull out at bub's first birthday, read aloud to 1 yr old and mom. Write happy first birthday letter, put away, pull out at second birthday, read, etc. Save all birthday love letters.. Give saved collection to child when all growed up.
posted by mcbeth at 12:54 AM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

* sorry, I didn't directly speak to labor/delivery. I stand by suggestion, though.
posted by mcbeth at 12:56 AM on July 15, 2012

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