“His was the first birth I witnessed. That phenomenon is amazing. I had heard of knees buckling, so I was ready. I stilled myself for the moment and passed the test. I was a proud father when he was handed over to me in the very early hours of July 8th, 2001. I gave him back to his mom went outside to make the calls to family and –boom – it happened. My knees buckled and I slid to the ground like a boneless bag of rags. I believe I was talking to @delemomoduovation when that happened.”
The above was from the Instagram age of veteran Nollywood actor, Richard Mofe Damijo, as he celebrated the birthday of his son, Tega. By the way, this is not his first child, or even second, but he got the baptism of fire only in 2001, when he witnessed the birth of the young man he talked about.
Interestingly, there are a lot more men who are RMD’s age, who have never witnessed a birth. They mostly just waltz in when the birth is done, take a look at their wife and baby, see that they are fine, and off they go to make the calls.
It’s not really their fault, as most times, our medical system doesn’t allow men access to the labour ward. Secondly, and importantly, our culture thinks childbirth is a woman’s business, so you might hear a man who wanted to be present being told, “Are you the one who is going to deliver her?” “You need to stay out of the way”, and more.
Thankfully, a lot more daddies are not staying out of the way. They are getting really involved in parenting, right from birth, and that’s fantastic.
However, a lot of daddies are clueless as to what to do when their wife is in labour. They literally just die with worry in the waiting room, or leave their wives, because they can’t stand the sight of their wives in pain.
That is not often what a woman in labour wants. I know I never wanted that, so here are the basics of how to support your wife, when she’s having a baby.
Before labour starts:
Most men are not really keen on knowing how their baby is born, but for a supportive dad, it’s important to know this detail before your partner goes into labour.
It’s a good idea to discuss her birth preferences with her, if you haven’t sat down and talked it through with her already. It’s important for you to know what she might like you to do for her in labour – bearing in mind that her preferences may actually change when it actually happens!
A massage while she is in labour might sound great now, however during labour, she might not want to be touched at all. So it’s useful to keep this in mind. When your partner is in labour, ask again.
Pack a bag:
Yes, you read that correctly and I don’t mean, the same bag that contains all the things your wife will need in the hospital, or for baby, but your own bag, filled with the things you will need. Pack your bags already, so when the moment comes, you won’t be rushing around trying to pack a bunch of things like a headless chicken. Have your bag ready to go, so all you need to do is grab it and head out the door.
The content of your hospital bag should include; snacks, to keep your energy level high. It also helps to avoid the boneless legs situation RMD described above.
Add something to entertain you; books/ magazines/laptop. Childbirth can take a long time, and if your wife got an epidural, she’ll be spending much of that time lying contentedly in bed and taking naps. So she won’t need your constant attention.
Others include a camera, if you don’t want to use your phones for those special first pictures, and a change of clothes/toiletries. After the birth, the hospital will keep your wife and your new baby for a day or two, before sending you home (longer if there’s something wrong with mom or baby). So you need a change of clothes and at minimum a toothbrush. Don’t forget to pack an outfit for your new bundle of joy for when you bring him home.
Support during the birth itself:
Be ready to do some hard work yourself
Giving birth is often a long, hard job your wife will do most of, but you’re not exempted. At some point during the hours of labour, you and your partner will discover something she can focus on during contractions. It could be a breathing pattern, a spot on the ceiling, or an object you’ve brought with you.
Your job is to help your partner find this distraction, and then bring her back to it whenever she starts to think she won’t make it. Your partner will be relying on you to keep your concentration levels up.
Though there will be lots of experienced people around to help you, you will be your partner’s most important support.
Do whatever she needs, from running to get sweets to getting her another drink or talking things through with your midwife.
Be prepared for surprises
Neither you nor your partner knows what labour will be like, or what will help your partner, so be prepared for whatever comes your way. Since, by now, you have an idea of your wife’s expectations during childbirth, you can run interference and ensure things are done as she would have wanted.
At the same time, be flexible. Once labour has started, your partner might change her mind, or the situation may call for a new plan of action. Nobody wants a c-section, but remember that things don’t always go as planned, so in that case, go with the flow.
But remember to ask questions about your options, especially if your wife might not be in the frame of mind to ask herself.
You need a thick skin
It is important to know that women in labour can be more sharp-tongued than usual, so try not to take whatever happens in there personally.
However, if you do feel hurt, ask a nurse to watch your partner while you take a break.
In addition, let the medical staff know if your wife’s labour is starting to affect you physically. Many men get light-headed in the delivery room. If you feel queasy, sit down or step outside for some air.
During labour, your partner probably won’t be thinking of taking pictures, but trust me, these are moments she will cherish for as long as she lives.
If you have a video camera, discuss ahead of time what should be caught on tape. (Not all women want a camera directed between their legs.) Above all, make sure your efforts aren’t disruptive to the doctor and nurses… or even your wife.
Father’s duty…or not
After hours of toil, and perhaps a few tears, and some heart-stopping moments, your baby finally arrives on the scene. That’s where your job comes in: cutting the umbilical cord.
If you want to cut the cord, be sure to let the doctor know. If you would rather leave it to the professionals, simply decline if offered the opportunity.
Likely at the arrival of your baby, you’re tired, and so is your wife, but it’s not yet time to hit your bed. The new mom has been through a lot both physically and emotionally, and now is the perfect time to remind her how much she means to you.
This is the perfect time to whip out that push present, if any. Bring flowers, splurge on chocolates, or write her a love note. Whatever you do, find a special way to mark the occasion. It’s worth it.
From now on, your fatherly duties start and you will learn as you go along, from how to fix the car seat properly, to talks of circumcision for boys, to getting your new family member home safely.
You literally have your job cut out for you, but you will do just fine.
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2. Instagram @mofedamijo