Expectant Dads – How to be a Super Hero

How to be a Super-Hero – or what your role is during your child’s birth.

How are you feeling about the birth of your child? If you’ve seen TV births, be they fictional Soap accounts or real births on Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute you may be worried about how you are going to perform. TV dads generally fall into 2 camps – the headless chicken or a rabbit frozen in headlamps. In reality you have a great role to perform, can assist your partner in so many ways AND reflect afterwards on what a great part you played. When you perform your role well, you get to be a SUPER-HERO in your partner’s eyes. It’s a Win-Win situation.

First let’s look at what’s going on for your partner during birth. Women are designed to give birth perfectly well. However, most women hold varying degrees of fear about birth, ranging from ‘a bit nervous’ to ‘terrified’. Such fears cause her body to release the stress hormone catecholamine which sends her body into a fight or flight response. As much as she might want to she can’t take either option so instead she freezes which stops her body working effectively, causing childbirth to slow or stop and become painful. So where do you come in? Well, if you can keep her chilled and relaxed she won’t feel fear, which will make the birth smoother, even enjoyable and because YOU made it happen that way, YOU get to be the SUPER-HERO.

So, you’re now asking how you’re supposed to make all this happen. It’s surprisingly easy.  Let’s think of what’s going to make your partner stressed or fearful. In the build-up to the big day she is going to hear a lot of horror-stories from friends and family and she’s going to probably watch too many negative birth experiences on TV too. You will need to counterbalance this by helping her to prepare for the birth in a positive way.

The first way you will do this is by attending ante-natal appointments and classes with her. This is not just so your partner can feel supported it is so you can pick up a huge amount of useful information. You’ll learn how your local midwifery team do things and you’ll start to learn the jargon that might be used on the day too. You may also be able to build up a relationship with the team that you will see when your child is born. Even if you are planning a home-birth it is worth taking the tour of the maternity unit with your partner. Take a look at the birthing suite and ask how the room works. Can you lower the lighting or play music? Can you move the bed around and are birthing balls available. Ask what the process is for checking in. Find out where to park; do you have to pay; do you have to use a different entrance in the evenings or weekends? Research now will help on the day.

Write a Birth Plan together. This will explain to the midwives and doctors the preferences that your partner has for the birth. Ensure you understand what your partner wants so that you can advocate for her. Ensure that all avenues are explored. She may want to aim for a fully natural birth but the plan should also state her preferences for other eventualities. Take the opportunity to work out what everything is in the hospital bag. When the baby is born the midwife will ask you for some clothes and a nappy. Make sure you know what they are, and where they are.

So, THE BIG DAY has arrived. You, the SUPER-HERO, swing into action.  If you
are going to hospital, your partner will let you know when she is ready. You already know how to get there, where to park, and have money ready to pay for the parking. You know how to get into the maternity ward and have the maternity notes and birth plan to hand. You are fully in control. Your partner is concentrating on what her body is doing so it is your role to protect her from anything that could break the flow of childbirth and to advocate on her behalf. In fact all conversations between her and medical staff can be channelled through you if she wishes to stay within her birthing body.

You reach the birthing suite. You’ll have chatted through what she didn’t like about the room so help her to be in a place where she can’t see the things she didn’t like e.g. the clock that is going to tell her she isn’t labouring fast enough. Talking of time, many hospitals will aim for your partner’s cervix to dilate by 1cm per hour. Well, the arrival at hospital may cause things to slow or stop for a while. Tell her that’s OK, her body is just adjusting to its new environment.  Staff are going to come in, breaking the flow.  This is when you are really masterful and take control. When intervention or timescales are suggested YOU are really going to swing into action and YOU are going to do that by asking questions using your BRAINS! This is how you’ll do it:

B is for Benefit – What is the benefit of the intervention suggested?

R is for Risk – What is the risk?

A is for Alternatives – What is the alternative?

I is for Instinct – What does your Instinct tell you?

N is for No – What happens if you doing nothing – or wait another hour?

S is for Smile –  You’d be amazed how far approaching this politely will get you.

Before you know it, your baby is with you. You’ll tell your partner how great she’s been, you’ll tell her how proud you are of her and you’ll melt when you see your beautiful baby. You are also going to feel hugely proud of your part in the birth. You’re not a TV dad, you’re a SUPER-HERO. Prepare to take the plaudits for a job well-done.

If you’d like to know more about how you can support your partner during pregnancy and birth, and prove to be a Super-Hero, take a look at my Private HypnoBirthing Classes and Group HypnoBirthing Classes.

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Fear Release – What do we need?

In HypnoBirthing Classes we do various fear release exercises i.e. we tackle the fears that the parents hold so that they can move on positively to the fantastic birth that they are going to have and the parenting adventure ahead of them. Often parents talk about how they are going to cope and say, ‘I don’t even know what to take to hospital’. I have just finished working with a second-time around couple for whom the memory of carrying various items of paraphenalia around hospital is still strong. Personally I remember calling my mum in a panic towards the end of my pregnancy because I had no idea what I needed to buy for my baby and then she started to bamboozle me with words such as romper-suit and babygro. She may as well have been speaking Hungarian!

So, here are links to a list you’ll need for your hospital bag:

Hospital Bag

and a list of things to buy for your baby’s return home:

What Do I Need to Buy?

Good luck! And if you can think of anything else that parents might need do leave a comment.

Everything but the kitchen sink?

One thing I’m asked time again is what to take in a hospital bag. The last thing you want is to have got settled in the maternity ward to realise that you’ve left the most crucial item behind so I have written a list that should cover most eventualities.

The Bag Itself

Lets start with the bag itself. Try to keep the size and weight of the bag to a minimum because the person carrying the bag, hopefully not you, is going to do a lot of carrying as he/she walks from the car park to reception, and on to the maternity ward,  the delivery suite and finally the postnatal ward. You may find it easier to take 2 small bags, one for you during the birth and one for after the birth, perhaps with a nappy and first clothes on the very top to avoid the whole bag being emptied to get the baby dressed. Soft bags rather than hard sided cases are preferable for squeezing into hospital cupboards.

For Mum

  • Something comfortable and light-weight (hospitals can be very warm) to give birth in.
  • A dressing gown, preferably in a dark colour.
  • Slippers.
  • Lip balm
  • Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games and so on. If you are likely to want to use your iPad, play music or a DVD take a battery-operated equipment, as many hospitals won’t let you plug things in. Some hospitals provide their own CD players or radios so check this when you take the maternity tour during your pregnancy.
  • A hairband. If you have long hair, you’ll probably want to tie it up.
  • Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable. Perhaps leave these in the car for your partner to collect as required.
  • Nursing bras, tops or nightie to make breastfeeding easy.
  • Breast pads
  • Old, cheap or disposable pants. If you end up having a caesarean large ‘hip huggers’ can work really well.
  • Proper maternity towels. These are usually a little softer than sanitary towels which is useful if you have had stitches.
  • A toiletry bag with anything you would normally take for a couple of days away.  Maybe some make-up too, especially if your local newspaper visits the hospital to photograph babies for its new arrivals page! I learnt this to my cost when I ended up in the local ‘Advertiser’ looking like the creature from the deep!
  • Arnica tablets to help with bruising after the birth. Many women report that taking arnica helps reduce bruising and helps the healing process.
  • Food and drink for during and after birth. HypnoBirthing® mums especially tend not to lose their appetite so be prepared with a supply of goodies. Also, if you give birth during the evening or night it may be that no food is available until the morning and by that point you will have worked up a hunger. Remember that your partner will be hungry/thirsty too.

For Baby

  • Nappies
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Nappy Bags
  • Something to go home in; consider whether the weather is likely to be hot, cold or wet.
  • Sleepsuits, Bodysuits etc.
  • Blanket.
  • Socks or Booties
  • Scratch Mitts
  • Muslin Squares
  • Hat
  • Don’t forget to have an appropiate infant car seat ready. Most hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one. Take the time beforehand to read the instructions. When I put my baby in for the first time I had no idea how to tighten the straps and the midwife wasn’t able to help either so I had to get the manual out before we could leave!

For Your Birth Companion

  • A change of clothes for your birth companion in case their’s get messy.
  • Something to wear in the pool if he/she is likely to join you.
  • Food and drink.

Don’t Forget!

    • Your birth preferences. Take a few copies in case there is a shift change during your birth.
    • Your hospital notes.
    • Change for the car park. Leave some change in your car now (out of view) so there will always be some change available. During your hospital tour ask whether there are any special arrangements for the maternity patients. At my local hospital the parents pay for the first 2 hours and then a sign is put in the car to tell the parking attendant that the ticket will not be renewed due to it belonging to a birthing mother. This was not widely advertised so it is worth asking.
    •  A fully charged camera. Don’t rely on your phone or tablet that you have been using for hours to keep you entertained to have sufficient juice left to take photos.

 

Don’t Take:

Anything valuable since hospitals tend not to provide lockable cupboards and you may have to move to a different room quickly so items are easily mislaid.

 

I purposely haven’t put quantities down since you can never tell how long your birth will take and how long you will remain in the post-natal ward. Some mothers leave hospital within a few hours whilst more complicated births can result in a longer stay. Therefore, take enough for a couple of days but leave additional supplies, well labelled, at home for your partner to bring in as necessary. Perhaps go through it with him/her since new parents don’t necessarily know the difference between a romper suit, a babygro and a sleepsuit; I certainly didn’t and neither did my husband. Also ensure that your partner knows the whereabouts of the closest Mothercare. Boots or similar in case there is something that you have totally forgotten.

I won’t have covered everything so please, if you can think of anything else, please add a comment. I hope this has been helpful.

If you’re also worried about what you need back at home, check out: What Do I Need To Buy?