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.
The day my beautiful Maddie came into the world.
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!
Even with a normal pregnancy it’s often hard to recall details. The most important detail of all is that you begin a new love affair with each birth and there are no words to describe that! It’s freakin’awesome!!
My husband remembered to shower before we left for the hospital, which was a good idea, because my labor lasted 27 hours! The only good thing about a long labor, is that you aren’t in a huge panic, since things progress slower… we had time to think everything through, and we forgot nothing.
I will offer another small bit of advice based upon my brother-in-law’s experience. Since most men don’t carry purses, you might bring a small container of advil or something similar, perhaps even a toothbrush. My brother-in-law developed a terrible headache during the many hours his wife spent in her labor with their twins and was afraid it was inappropriate to complain about his headache so did nothing. And if you might be there as much as 24 hours (my first, nearly 10 pound baby was born after 21 hours) you might want to brush your teeth. My husband, who has nerves of steel and would have been a good doctor, took photos of the C-section I had to have with my second (scheduled, due to being again nearly 10 pounds and breech). The photos are fabulous but you are right, that’s a mighty big opening – it’s really hard to believe I was awake and able to talk with that going on. Thank goodness for modern medicine or many of us mom’s wouldn’t have survived our pregnancies.
moms, not mom’s, I’m just waking up!
Advil and a toothbrush are great suggestions – especially if you get those travel sized toothbrushes and single serving Advil packs available at pretty much all pharmacies.
Very good advice! Especially the showering and bringing fresh socks part. When I was pregnant, I packed my bag a month in advance for the hospital. About 11 days from my due date I had an appointment and my doctor decided we would go ahead and induce me in a week due to Sophie’s (large) size. That evening, when I told my husband, he packed himself a small bag of change of clothes and toiletries. About five hours later I went into labor!! We both took a quick shower and freshened up before we went to the hospital and I so agree. It felt better to start that process off completely fresh.
BTW, congratulations on your Warriors winning the game last night. They are very tough to beat!!
Thanks! Very exciting series so far… I’m thinking the Warriors might actually possibly have a shot!
Hahaha, my Dad passed out for all three of his kids in the 70s and 80s! All C-sections too…he had to be escorted out of the room each time. Hilarious (to me).
I had to have c sections too- not only did my hubby forget and stand up and almost pass out, but then my mom did too. The two of them were VERY close to passing out and I was mad at both for seeing all my organs. (I might have been a little out of it thanks to the drugs!). It’s such a surreal experience, isn’t it? I’m so happy for you, Spohr family!!
Funny you mention being in the moment and such… Just yesterday I asked my husband what our son’s first cry sounded like, because, although I have vivid memories of everything else about my labor and birth (he is 5 months old), I couldn’t hear that particular sound in my head. I actually wonder if I even heard it in the moment – it was such a surreal, out-of-body experience for me when I delivered him (vaginally, my first) that I think I was in some other, nearby plane of existence for just a moment. There’s a part of me that wishes we’d recorded the delivery (from my POV, NOT “down there”) so I could hear that little cry… But luckily my husband can recreate it brilliantly, lol, and I very much feel that I was in the moment for everything else. And of course, what matters above all is that he arrived safely and perfectly healthy.
With my daughter, while I don’t remember the actual sound, I remember thinking “boy, she sounds really angry about the whole thing”. I guess being pushed out on and off for about 6 hours, only to find yourself stuck and unable to say “stop pushing, damn it, I just don’t fit through that hole!” would make anybody angry.
My baby was an emergency c section after induction. I remember playing with an annoying cord that was above me, till hubby took a peek and said “umm don’t pull on that again, it’s holding your tummy open”.
Best wishes to you all!
My uncle was at the bar when my cousin was born. My grandma was not amused and she went and dragged him out!
OMG, between your delivery story and Heather’s ultrasound cheat sheet, my back is killing me… from laughing. I threw my back out on Tuesday, and was told by my OB nurse to take it easy on it. What she neglected to say was “and try not to read anything too funny”.
My husband apparently didn’t have a hard time with the concept of clothes under a scrub, but he did have problems fitting those OR footies they give you to wear over shoes. They didn’t fit over his massive boots (which he wears year round because he needs orthotics, and his heavy duty hiking boots are one of the few normal shoes in which those things fit comfortably!). Finally a nurse told him he *could* try taking his shoes off and wearing them over socks, which he hadn’t thought about.
Also, he peeked over the curtain the whole time, but he told me he wished he hadn’t, especially because he got to see the daughter before they cleaned her off, and afterward while he was holding her up to a numb to the neck me, the thought that kept going thorough his head was “must not let slippery baby tumble down to the floor, or the wife might murder me!”. Poor guy!
When you said you saw a gaping hole I seriously lol’d.
When my mom had her C-section with me the doctor actually called my dad up to see me in her tummy. My mom said he turned green.
I had both my babies with zero drugs. I say this because I think the women that have a natural childbirth are a bit more “testy” during labor & delivery. My husband annoyed the crap out of me when I was in labor with our first daughter! When I had my second daughter, I actually gave my husband a pass and told him he didn’t need to be there. He didn’t take it and was hurt I even suggested it. So I guess a lot of men these days feel its important to be one of the first to greet their new babies!
My husband was a huge support during all three of my natural births. He was great at telling me when the babies were crowning (because I am NOT using a mirror!), so apparently he does not have issues with passing out.
My dad on the other hand, also present at the natural births of each of his four children, preferred to stay at the “safe” end of the delivery, by my mom’s head. He took a peek during the birth of his second child at the delivery end and said he nearly passed out. (And this from a man who had helped sheep and cows give birth!)
Another piece of advice is to make sure to have the camera in or near the delivery room. With my second child we forgot it in the car! So we don’t have any photos of him fresh out of the oven!
Awesome list. Two things to add:
1) I recommend everyone shower before leaving for the hospital. That “freshness” feels good for the moms too. Doesn’t have to take long (if you have more than one contraction, get out), but it feels so good for like five minutes.
2) I recently had an acquaintance (another mom at my daughter’s dance class) tell me how, when her 2 year old son was born, they stopped at a bar on the way to the hospital. Her husband did two quick shots and then continued to the hospital. I try my best not to judge because I know that sucks, but I could not believe that a) he drank or b) he continued driving.
“How are you still alive?” Bahahaha that made me laugh out loud!!