“He looks like Demogorgon.”
My husband didn’t literally say those words out loud when our son was born. But he thought them.
After 25 hours in labor, including 6 of the intense stuff they don’t show you on TV, Mike had had enough. He later confessed being ready to cry when he saw me in so much pain but then thought better of it. “That’s not going to help her,” he said to himself, “I’ll hold it in. It will be that much more of a release when the baby is born.”
Good plan. Didn’t work. In the movies the dad looks at his son for the first time and sees himself, breaks down in tears, it’s touching. In real life, my husband looked at his son for the first time and saw a Stranger Things villain. Plenty of babies are born with cone heads. Our son’s was excessive. The nurse put a hat on him before he’d been in the world for even 30 seconds.
Mike wasn’t ready for this. You can read books. You can go to classes. Those things help. Still, when you’ve never been in a labor and delivery room before, it’s all so foreign. Your partner, who you love so much, is going through one of the most painful and all-consuming events in her life. You want more than anything to support her, but you don’t know how to do that.
I asked Mike what he wished he had known before walking into the hospital. So, here’s some advice for new dads from a recently new dad himself:
Talk to your wife about how she wants to be motivated during labor: Is she a coach-screaming-at-you kind of gal? Or a solid hand-on-her-shoulder person? How does she want you to be present for her during the process? Does she want to be touched? Serenaded? Reminded of why you love her?
Know that time moves funny in the delivery room: There were many boring hours after my water broke before anything really started happening. Then suddenly, things went from “totally fine and manageable” to “ohmygoodness give me the epidural now” (like, 15 minutes. Mike left the room with me laboring calmly in the tub with the nurse. He returned 15 minutes later to find the anesthesiologist walking in).
Unless you work in the medical field, you’re going to feel useless: Make that utterly useless. You’re accustomed to being the rock for your spouse. All you want to do is help. Yet you are the third or fourth most qualified person in the room to do that.
How long it can take from “there’s his head!” to the baby actually coming out: By Mike’s estimate, he heard “one more push just like that” for 45 minutes straight.
Pack your own bag: Want to be at the mercy of the extras the hospital has on hand? I didn’t think so. Here’s Mike’s recommended packing list:
- A change of clothes. Comfy clothes.
- A playlist
- A portable speaker (we used this Bose one)
- A pair of headphones
- An eyemask & ear plugs (so you can nap anytime, anywhere)
- A travel neck pillow (recovery rooms don’t necessarily have comfy resting areas for the dad, so this will help you get cozy wherever you can)
- Toiletries (you’ll be glad you have your own stuff and not the cheap hospital versions)
- 5 hour energy
- a book or iPad for the down moments
After everything was over, baby was born, weighed, measured, fed, and we got to the recovery suite, we were both so, so tired. We had been awake for 28 hours. We had just been through a huge physical and emotional event. And now we were parents! This baby is ours?! This was just the beginning of a whole new life.
Are you an expectant mom? An about-to-be-first-time dad? Reach out to your local Mama Coach for prenatal education and support! We are here to support you, your partner, your baby…your whole family!