This post was originally written for another parenting blog I thought I was going to contribute to regularly. That didn’t work out, and the original version of this post was written in their proprietary system, so this is a rewrite based on my memory. Still, I liked how it turned out before, and I liked how it turned out now, so here’s some wisdom for your week!
Books have been filled with this topic, like every other parenting topic. I can’t claim to know all the secrets, but I do know that I learned a lot (some by doing the wrong thing…) about what it’s like to be a dad during labor & delivery at the very least. It may have been almost 6 months ago–which is incredibly hard to believe–but hopefully this will help other non-delivering parents make it through the labor and delivery process.
1. Don’t walk around barefoot. Ok, so this should be a no-brainer. Walking around a hospital without shoes on is dumb for a number of reasons–cleanliness is paramount, who knows what else has been on that floor (and in the labor & delivery ward, you REALLY don’t want to think about that), and who knows what medical supplies might have fallen on the floor that you could step on accidentally.
Keep your shoes on. Even if you try to sleep. If you do take your shoes off, put them back on before you leave the room. Period. Even if you think you need to go get something immediately, at least slide your feet in your shoes. I kinda learned this the hard way, and I’m still recovering from the tongue lashing I received–and deserved–from the nurses at the nursing station.
2. Keep a sense of humor. This is essential. There’s nothing pretty about childbirth. It’s messy, ugly, your body (or your spouse’s body) is doing things you never really thought about or understood before, and it’s extremely undignified. All of this is why I have to say thank goodness for Ann, our first nurse. We got to the hospital a little before 7 PM, after water broke at 6:15.
The overnight nurse (Ann), was incredibly gracious, kind, and hilarious. She helped us figure out what we were doing and what was going on while maintaining a wry sense of humor about it all. There are some points where you just have to laugh about things, or at least treat them lightly enough that you don’t let it overcome you, and humor is a great way to do it.
3. Be nice to the nurses. Another no-brainer. The doctor may get the glory, but the nurses are the ones who do a lot of the unpleasant but necessary work. You will rely on them throughout the whole process, and your life is just plain easier if you suck up a little and give them all the courtesy, kindness, humility and thanks you can.
4. Don’t be surprised if the non-laboring spouse gets less rest than the laborer. Ok. Now, before we get too far into this, I want to be clear–I did not expect to get much (if any) sleep, and I’m certainly not complaining. Frankly, I probably got more than most people, thanks to the soporific effect of the epidural. Nonetheless, between the adrenaline, the uncomfortable chair I had to sleep in, nurses coming to check on things in the night, me waking up to take care of things in the night, and the trouble I have going to sleep anyway, it just didn’t happen for me.
Thankfully, I brought three books and got a lot of reading done that night, so there’s a silver lining for you.
5. It’s ok to go home and sleep. All of the other things on this list are important, and I wish I had been told, or actually was told, before labor. However, if I only could share one thing with you, this would be it.
I had grand ideas about spending our first night together as a family of three. I thought it was important to set a precedent. I didn’t want to force my wife to take care of the baby herself the night after she had given birth. I wanted to be there, just like I want to be there for so many nights and years to come. However, I just couldn’t do it.
I was exhausted–see point 4. I had been through countless completely new experiences in the past twenty four hours. I was still coping with the incredible changes my life had just taken. I needed time to myself and time to decompress. But I would not accept that I needed to go home, decompress, take a long, hot shower, and get a good night’s sleep in my own bed. Thankfully, my exhaustion was apparent enough to my wife and mother-in-law that the women prevailed upon me and made me go home.
I needed that more than I can say, and although every family is different and has different needs, I will affirm anyone’s decision to do this. Don’t feel bad because you want a real shower or a solid eight hours of sleep. You need it–you’re a parent now! And one night to yourself isn’t going to make you a bad spouse, parent, or person.
Like I said, there is far more to labor and delivery than I could ever say, even just on the dad side of things. Hopefully this will help a little though, and best of luck to all of you who will go through this soon.
If you have any more tips you wish someone had told you (men and women!), feel free to comment below!