Moms get all the attention. I get it... they are the ones going through a physical transformation during pregnancy. They are the ones who have to birth a human out of their bodies. They are the ones with the influx of hormones and emotions. Every woman should be treated like royalty for the task she is undertaking. But what about you... what about all you dads out there, lovingly supporting your partner through this rite of passage? You are about to be birthed as a father, and even though your experience doesn't have the outward physical manifestation that a woman's does, your journey is no less important. In fact, the transformation into a father will be the single most important job you undertake. I interviewed several new fathers and asked them if they could give you, a Soon-To-Be-Dad, some advice, what would it be. Here's what they had to say...
Take a Childbirth Class
Just about every single dad I interviewed spoke of the importance of a childbirth class. It may not be high on your priority list of ways to spend a weekend or several evenings a month, but once these dads realized all that childbirth requires, they were all very glad to invest their time. There are a couple of options when it comes to childbirth classes: the basic hospital class or an independent class like Birthing From Within, Bradley, Hypnobabies, Lamaze, etc. It is important to take a class that will not only cover the intellectual part of birth (the stuff you can read in a book) but one that will prepare you for the emotional/spiritual side of birth. Find a class that will not only teach your partner how to cope with the uncertainty and intensity of labor, but will also give you the tools to cope as well.
Take a Tour of Your Birth Place
Before a hunt, the hunter often will scope out the territory beforehand. He wants to get a feel for the land, find his hiding places, see where the water-holes are, notice his escape routes etc. This way, he lessens the chance of being surprised when he is actually on the hunt. He knows what to expect, so he can allow his instincts to take over. Your place of birth can be seen in the same way. Visit and take a tour. Know where to park after-hours, where to check in, where to get food and water. Picture yourself in the room. What do you need to bring with you? What can you leave at home? This activates your inner hunter and helps you feel more at ease, making room to be fully present in supporting your partner.
Take Care of Yourself
All the dads I talked to made a point to say something along these lines. They felt it was super important to take care of themselves. They were all in agreement that if they weren't feeling at their best, they wouldn't be able to support their partners during labor. So give yourself permission to take a break. Get a cup of coffee. Take a cat nap (You'll be amazed at what a 15-20 min nap can do!) Eat! Eat! Eat! Pack your own favorite snacks. Walk around the hospital. Go outside for 10 minutes. You will return feeling energized and ready to continue on with your loving support!
Keep Calm and Hire a Doula
Keep Calm is one the most frequent pieces of advice offered for new dads. During labor things can get intense, move quickly, and be overwhelming. Dads who are able to cope through these intense situations feel more connected to the birthing process, to their partner, and to their child. Several dads mentioned that hiring a doula for them was especially helpful. One dad originally thought they were doing it for his wife, but it turned out that having a doula there was just as helpful to him. He was able to stay calm and connected because there was someone there to encourage him, tell him when things were okay and normal, and share the journey with. Having a doula freed him up to focus solely on his wife.
Keep a Sense of Humor
Finally, you must keep a sense of humor. Especially when it comes to the first few weeks postpartum. There is some crazy shit that happens with a newborn and most of it is downright hilarious. (At least once the moment has passed and you realize you all survived). Being able to laugh at your mistakes, keep things in perspective, and realize that you are learning can go a long way in making the transition to parenthood smoother. I mean, if you can't laugh at your three-week old, sweet, beautiful daughter projectile pooping across the room at 2am...it's going to be a long 18 years!