The days when fathers-to-be sat in hospital waiting rooms until a nurse handed them their newborn child are over. Expecting dads of today want to be much more involved on the day of the birth, but without adequate forethought it can all go by in a bit of a blur. Here’s how to make the most of this special day.
Prepare yourself mentally
Becoming a father, especially if it’s your first time, raises feelings most men don’t talk about much. Get yourself emotionally acclimatised by speaking to your partner about how you feel about the prospect of becoming a father. Ask your dad how he remembers your own birth and chat to some of your friends who’ve recently become dads.
Feeling a little queasy about witnessing the moment of birth? Don’t worry, it’s much less messy than you might imagine. Besides, if you do faint, where better to do so than in an operating room surrounded by doctors, nurses and the latest medical equipment?
Find out exactly what is going to happen on the big day from your partner’s doctor and by reading about it in books and online. You’ll learn about the basics of labour, how to hold a newborn, what happens at the hospital and much more at antenatal classes, which also present a valuable opportunity for bonding with your partner.
Prime your employer in the days before the big event and keep your car’s petrol tank topped up and your cellphone charged. Create a checklist itemising everything required on the day, not forgetting a camera!
It’s also a good idea to do a trial run to the hospital to establish the best route and find out exactly where you have to go. Speak to the hospital staff about rules, regulations and what you need to bring along. Important: install a baby car seat in your car beforehand and spend a little time getting to grips with it. The last thing you want is to unsettle a newborn while you struggle with fiddly safety straps on your way home from the hospital.
Leading up to the birth, join your partner at as many doctors’ appointments as possible as a show of support, and to absorb as much information as you can about the arrival of your baby.
Be her manager
Discuss all of the details of the birth with your partner beforehand and identify your precise role and responsibilities. Take care of the formalities from filling in forms to arranging for any hospital payments. Introduce yourself to the doctors and nurses and ask them to deal directly with you whenever possible to reduce the stress on your partner.
Offer words of encouragement and support, especially during labour, letting her know how proud you are and what a great job she’s doing. Offer massages, foot rubs, drinks and snacks to keep her happy. Try to keep the atmosphere light and, most importantly, remain calm. A voice of calm is highly valued in the run up to the birth. If the labour is a drawn-out affair, keep the mom-to-be preoccupied with card games, music and your witty banter.
Ready, steady, cut the umbilical cord!
The big moment has arrived: junior has entered the world! Decide beforehand if you want to cut the umbilical cord, and make sure the obstetrician knows. If you’re not comfortable with this, you can leave it to the professionals.
Bond with your baby
Mom has first dibs on skin-to-skin bonding with the new arrival, but there will be plenty of opportunities for you while she’s recovering.
Place your little one on your bare chest while lying on a bed. Talk and sing to your newborn, make lots of eye contact, smile, pull funny faces and play peek-a-boo. Try a gentle baby massage, lightly rubbing hands, arms, legs, feet and tummy.
Your partner will be too exhausted to communicate with the outside world. Use sms messages to keep your loved ones informed of developments, to announce the arrival of your baby, and to let them know when they can come for a visit. Note that you should never send out pictures of your wife in labour or post-birth without her consent.
Research shows that one of the best things you can do to bond with your baby and please your wife in those early days is to change your newbie’s nappy. Don’t be daunted, once you’ve done it once you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. A word of caution: baby boys are inclined to spray, so cover their area with a small wash cloth while changing them to avoid getting an eyeful.
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