Fathers-to-be have evolved a lot over the years. In my grandfather’s generation, men hung out in the waiting room with a bottle of scotch and some cigars, and never thought for a minute they should be in the delivery room supporting their wives. As bad as that sounds by modern standards, there were worse fathers-to-be back then. I’ve heard stories of men who – while their wives were in the throes of labor – waited in the bar across the street, throwing back drinks and having a grand ol’ time.
Thankfully, many (if not most) of the men of my father’s generation were in the delivery room with their wives. Unfortunately, while you’ve got to give them props for that, they were also prone to pass out the second things got a little intense.
My generation is better. We not only support our wives in the delivery room, but we stay conscious the whole time! Of course, we’re still not fully evolved. I made some definite rookie mistakes the day Maddie was born. I remember, for example, that after Heather was taken to the operating room a nurse handed me some scrubs and ushered me into a bathroom to change into them.
“Be quick!” she said. “They’re ready to get started!”
I told her I’d hurry and closed the bathroom door. About thirty seconds later she said, “Almost done?”
“Uh, getting there,” I replied as I frantically unbuttoned my shirt, pulled it off, and placed it atop my jeans on the counter.
“You do know you just pull the scrubs on over your clothes, right?”
At that moment I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, naked except for my tightie-whities.
“Of course I know that,” I said as I hurriedly pulled my clothes back on. Luckily, I made it to the operation room in time.
My other rookie mistake happened in the middle of the c-section. I was sitting beside Heather’s head while the doctors worked behind a curtain that separated us from the action. I’d been warned not to stand until the nurses said so, but when I heard the doctor say, “Almost there!” I decided to stand. And what did I see? A giant, gaping hole in Heather’s abdomen held open by clamps. I sat back down, ashen-faced (but conscious!) and forced a smile at Heather. “Almost there,” I said, but what I wanted to say was, “How are you still alive?!”
I was a lot more prepared for Annie’s birth, thankfully, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be even more prepared for the Acrobat’s arrival. As a veteran dad, I have three bits of advice for any first-timers:
1. Groom Thyself
Because Heather had an emergency c-section with Maddie, I raced to the hospital having not showered or shaved. Bad idea jeans. Birth days are LONG, and you want to feel as fresh as possible at the start. Shower, shave, and put on freshly washed clothes before leaving for the hospital. It’s also not a bad idea to bring a spare undershirt and fresh socks. My sister was in labor at least twelve hours with her first child, Spencer, and I’m sure my brother-in-law would have killed for fresh socks after standing by the bed that long.
2. Take A Breath
Yes, a crazy thing is happening. A human being – your child – is going to emerge from your wife’s body! Still, it’s important to keep calm. Your wife will appreciate it, and the more relaxed you remain the less likely you will be to make any blunders.
3. Savor The Experience
Looking back, my girls’ births were such whirlwinds that I have a hard time remembering a lot of details. This is a monumental event in your life you will want to remember as long as you live. Be in the moment; savor the experience. That’s what I’m going to do here in a few weeks.
And with all of that said, I’d better not pass out!