I’m writing a guide for guys who are about to become Dads for the first time over four posts. The topics covered will be Pregnancy, The Birth, I’ve Got A Baby and Toddling. This is part two.

Disclaimer: This is aimed at Dads. It’s not meant to be flippant, condescending or demeaning. It is what it is. One Dad documenting and sharing what he has observed and learned. I would be interested, however, in hearing Mum’s views on these posts.

Here, then, is the

Looking for the Postman Guide to Impending First Time Dadhood
[Part 2] : The Birth

And so the time has come for you to become a Dad. It’s one of the biggest things that will ever happen to you, so take a moment to read through and prepare yourself.

Stuff is about to get real, but don’t let that panic you. There’s no point panicking because your role in this is little more than morale-booster, driver and cord-cutter. Accept this and you’ll be a lot more useful. A guy flapping around will make things worse. A calming influence will be far more beneficial to proceedings.

Pre-Labour Surprises

BirthThere are things you can expect and there will be surprises. Ideally, things will go to plan but babies have a habit of not sticking to the script. My son, Jack, behaved himself for almost nine months then decided on his due date to turn around and sit on his bum. He’d gone breech. Babies are meant to come out head first and upside down, and he was sitting on his tush. This meant that all birth plans changed and a caesarean was needed.

With Eve, Emma’s waters broke after 30 weeks. That wasn’t good. By 30 weeks, babies are mostly fully cooked, but it is still preferred that they stay in a little longer. Waters breaking doesn’t necessarily mean that labour immediately follows, but it does increase the risk of infection. Emma was hospitalised for a while and then cautiously returned home. She held on for another five weeks, which is no mean feat.

Chances are that at least some part of the labour will occur during hours when you’re not normally awake. Jenny had triggered a couple of false alarms so by the time the real contractions started, I’d rolled over and gone back to sleep. Probably shouldn’t have done that. Too late to complain – things are now starting to happen.

Labour Time

What you’ll have to get used to is Labour Time. This is different because it doesn’t work the same way as Normal Time. I got a nudge. Things were beginning to happen. Bleary eyed, I jumped up and the adrenalin kicked in. Realisation. Baby on the way. Ok, let’s get moving.And then we slipped into Labour Time. Nothing is quite real or normal. You’re in an odd, tunnel-visioned zone.

BirthIn addition to Labour Time, you’re also in the hospital by now, which is another other-worldly aspect to this whole process. There’s an odd mix of your excitement and adrenalin which is completely at odds with the calmness of the nurses and slow pace of the whole baby-delivering process. It’s a clash of experiences.

See, there’s nothing quite like a delivery unit nurse when it comes to putting a man in his place. Nothing. You are not her concern, quite rightly. You are there in your capacity of a useless appendage. You can’t make a joke. Please, don’t try. The glare of an annoyed nurse is so cutting you’ll need stitches.

By now, you’re in the unit. Your other half will likely be hooked up with a monitor strapped to her blown-up belly. There will be charts and beeps. Ignore them. You’ll worry yourself stupid that the beeps mean something is wrong. That’s not your department. Let the nurses and doctors deal with things. They’ll tell you soon enough if there’s something you need to know.

So, what is your role, dad-to-be? You can offer moral support, but be careful. If you were pushing a watermelon out of your undercarraige, the last thing you’d want is a cheerleader. You don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary. Just be there and be supportive. Pay attention. Don’t stare at your phone and leave your wife to it. That’s considered to be ‘bad form’.

Contractions

With Jenny, every time Emma had a contraction, Jenny was in pain. It was clear from the doctors that they were concerned. They discovered that Jenny was positioned back-to-back, which was not ideal. See, as well as coming out head first, babies are also meant to be lying with their backs up. Jenny’s back was next to Emma’s so an emergency caesarean was a possibility. A theatre was prepared.

I was given a gown and shoes to wear and literally put into a cupboard to get changed. This also happened with Jack’s birth. On both occasions, I honestly believed that the doctors and nurses forgot I was there. I was in a bloody cupboard for about 15 minutes. Then a nurse grabbed me and said “we’ve been waiting for you”!

birth-02Emma was out of her gourd. She was given a spinal, which is a fast-acting painkilling injection. Despite this, she was pushing, even though she couldn’t feel it. They had decided to go for a natural birth but a big ominous package lay on the floor with the words “emergency caesarean kit” on it. There were about 12 people in the room. Once things kicked off, it all happened pretty quickly. Emma had to have a double medio-lateral episiotomy. (They had to cut twice her to get the baby out.) It was pretty messy.

One year later, Emma was in labour with Eve. After the contractions were speeding up, the nurse noted that the baby was back-to-back. Emma and I just smiled at each other. No worries. Old news. Emma delivered Eve so well that the doctor didn’t even have time to prepare. She just got on with it with the nurse. I was so incredibly proud of her. Didn’t moan once. Did squeeze the living hell out of my hand, though. Did I complain? No. I was a trooper.

I was offered the option of cutting the cord but I declined. It’s not a tradition to which I have a great connection. “Excuse me, sir, but would you like to sever a tube that we’ve just pulled from inside your wife?” It’s not an activity to which I felt drawn. Besides, I would find it to be quite a sad thing to do. Who wants to be the one to permanently cut the bond between mother and child? As a metaphor, I think it detracts from the spirit of togetherness that having your first child should bring.

Baby

birth-04It should come as no surprise to you that the next step is for the baby to come out. Don’t be surprised if the baby is only shown to you for a second and then whisked away while doctors and nurses busy themselves around her/him. There was a moment of terror after Eve was born when I couldn’t hear the baby making any noises. It seemed to last an eternity but all was well. Soon enough, this tiny, scrawny creature was handed over. She was five weeks early but had a shock of black hair.

Jenny looked like she’d been beaten up. She had a cut on her head from where they’d attached the monitor during labour, marks on her head from the forceps and a mis-shapen scalp (temporary) from the ventouse (vacuum extractor), which they’d used to pull her out. She also had a red eye from the contractions. Poor thing had been through the wars, but she was fine.

When you’re handed the baby, what you get is blankets and a face. But what a beautiful face. Your heart will melt and everything will change instantly. You’ll be bursting with pride for what your partner has done and what you’ve made together. Well done.

Telling people

birth-03Now it’s your job to tell people what they’re waiting to hear. Gender, weight, everyone is doing well. Make sure you tell your partner’s parents first, then your own parents. Don’t put it on Facebook until the folks now. That’s not how you want them to find out!

Also, don’t do what I did. When Jack was born, his mum was given morphine for the pain. I, however, accidently texted people telling them that she was on methadone. Quite, quite wrong. A couple of people did text back and ask “did you mean morphine?”. Everyone else just thought that she was a heroin addict, I assume.

And you’re there. You’re a dad. Congratulations to you and your Mrs. Your chances of getting a good night’s sleep have just dropped by 87%.