We need a drum role for Birth & Baby’s first guest blogger. Putting his head above the parapet this week is John Adams, editor of Dadbloguk.com. John talks about a dad’s role during birth. Whilst John is not a HypnoBirthing dad, the central message of advocacy and the importance of agreeing birth preferences stands true however you plan your birth and however it plays out:
What is dad’s role in the delivery room?
The one piece of advice I would give any soon-to-be dad is that you have a very important role as an advocate for your partner’s wishes. Whether in the delivery room during the birth itself or the maternity ward afterwards, you should be prepared to leap in and speak up so that the medical team know how your partner wishes to be treated.
The starting point is the birth plan. You should discuss this with your partner and make sure you know it in detail. You’d be well advised to ensure the plan covers the main birthing possibilities; natural birth, forceps, ventouse and caesarean section. It should also be crystal clear about which pain relief options your partner is happy to consider.
Some people are very dismissive about birth plans and claim they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. I think that’s an unnecessarily negative view. As the labour progresses, events will probably dictate the birth plan can’t be adhered to entirely. The plan will, however, give the medical team a very good idea about your other half’s wishes. Having you on hand to remind them of what the plan says may be no bad thing.
When our first daughter was born, I had to speak up for my wife when it became clear a forceps delivery was required. As a first time mum she was nervous and told me she wanted the benefit of powerful pain relief if things got difficult as she didn’t want to be put off having further children.
The consultant had been planning to deliver our child in the delivery room with minimal anaesthesia. When I spoke up and relayed my wife’s wishes, he agreed to move to an operating theatre where other anaesthetics could be used. I also got a knowing wink from the midwife which suggested I had said all the right things!
Something else to keep in mind is that your partner’s memory and concentration will be affected by all that’s going on. On top of the fatigue caused by labour, she will probably have been puffing on gas and air for hours and may well be under the influence of pethidine or the epidural (if she’s had one). Do not expect her to remember the finer details of her birth plan and do not expect her to remember anything you say to her at this point. You are likely to be disappointed!
If you do find yourself having to speak up, be polite, clear and quick. Events in the delivery room can move very fast. You don’t want to get in the way or annoy the midwives and consultants who know a lot more about what’s going on than you.
You may also find there’s a lot of activity around your partner’s bed. Measurements need to be taken of the mother’s body, drips and cannulas need to be fitted, the gas and air pipe will be swinging around all over the place and there could be goodness knows how many people in the room. While you probably want to hold her hand and offer soothing words, be prepared to take four paces back and let the team get on with it.
Once the baby has been born, you may still have an advocacy role. If everything is straightforward and she is discharged from hospital within a day or so, this is likely to be minimal. If, however, your partner is kept in for a protracted period of time you may need to speak to the doctors and midwives.
Post-birth hormones will be running high and your partner may be more emotional than usual. This is perfectly normal but it may mean that you have to get involved and explain what your partner’s mood is really like and how you think any medication treatments are affecting her.
Another piece of advice is to expect the unexpected. I’ve been present at the birth of both my children and they were both radically different experiences. The first was a more complex birth but the second was so quick and easy even the medical team was taken by surprise.
I also wish you the very best of luck as a father. It’s not always an easy job but it is very rewarding.
John Adams is the editor of Dadbloguk.com. Follow him on Twitter @dadbloguk