A first-person account on what dads should expect in the delivery room during their wife’s labor and delivery hospital visit.
This really is for all you soon to be dads out there who don’t want to be clueless during your wife’s labor & delivery visit. It is quite normal for the dad to feel lost because there’s going to be a flurry of activity in a relatively short time of frame. Most dads tend to not remember what happened because it all goes by in a blur and before you know it, you’re driving your baby home. The main focus during the entire delivery is obviously going to be your wife but there are multiple ways you can support her and make the visit a lot less exasperating for everyone involved.
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In the last few weeks leading up to your wife’s due date, pack and re-pack your hospital bag as often as you can. Your main goal should be to minimize what you’re taking to the hospital to the bare essentials. You will be exhausted even before you get to the delivery ward if you’ve packed eight different bags for the entire two-day visit.
If there are Covid restrictions in your hospital or if it’s a busy time, then parking spots may be scarce and additional security checks may be in place. All this means that you’re going to walk quite a distance with numerous luggage in tow. If you still feel the need to pack heavy, take only the important stuff and leave the rest in your car. You’ll have plenty of time to come back once you’re checked in to the delivery room.
Waiting on Arrival
If your only exposure to any kind of emergency hospital visit is the movies, then you’re in for a pleasant shock. Don’t expect to be wheeled into a room as soon as you get to the hospital.
Whether your wife’s delivery is a planned induction or an unplanned drop-in, plan on having to wait to get a room assigned for the baby’s delivery. Most labor & delivery wards are always operating on max capacity or resources are stretched pretty thin that one often has to wait before a room is assigned.
My wife’s second delivery was a planned appointment but we still ended up having to wait almost 40 minutes before we were taken to her delivery room. No matter what, it is always good practice to call ahead to the delivery ward so that they can get prepared for your arrival.
Befriend the Nurses
Soon after you’re taken to the delivery room, the nurse assigned to your wife is going to get consent forms signed and also ask a plethora of questions about allergies and pregnancy plan. Nurses also want to know how the pregnancy journey has been so far especially if your wife’s had any problems like gestational diabetes, pubis symphysis dysfunction or any localized pain. Their main goal isn’t to pry but to tailor their care plan accordingly.
The nurse is going to be your new best friend because they will be your go-to person for your wife’s during the entire shift. However, each nurse will also be taking care of multiple patients at once. If you have questions about anything, now is the time to ask them because they’re usually prioritizing the patient who is closer to the delivery stage. During shift change, the nurse will also debrief the next nurse about everything that’s been discussed so far.
Bells and Whistles
There’s going to be a bevy of monitors that will be hooked up to your wife to monitor the labor process. Monitors for the fetal heart rate, the tocodynamometer(toco) to measure contractions and possibly even one to measure your wife’s heart rate. Don’t be alarmed by the individual beeps and bells that come up periodically on each monitor. Your nurse will be monitoring all of them for any anomalies at her station.
Don’t Starve Yourself
You will end up waiting multiple hours for your wife’s cervix to be fully dilated once her water breaks. This is usually the best time for you to eat something in the cafeteria or pick up any additional snacks from your car. Although most hospital cafeterias operate extended hours, try to get there well before a shift change to avoid waiting on long queues at the checkout or food station counters.
The packaged items at the to-go counter often tend to be cheaper than any brand name items. For example, my hospital was offering Greek yogurt with additional toppings which ended up being cheaper than a brand name yogurt cup of the same size. It also goes without saying that bottled water is probably going to cost you more than what it costs at the grocery store. Carry a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated.
Don’t get enticed by foods you generally wouldn’t try and stick to healthier options, if possible. The last thing you want is for you to fall sick during this crucial time.
Although your nurse will handle pretty much everything your wife needs, be prepared to provide additional support as needed. The nurse may not come immediately when called if they’re catering to multiple patients at once. So, it’s really on you to take on an active role.
Your wife is not going to be comfortable in the hospital bed once they’re hooked up to all the various monitors. Try to help her with simple things like adjusting the bed, changing channels on the TV or even assisting her when she needs to visit the bathroom. Your wife will be on a fluid diet until she delivers the baby which means she will need to pee quite often unless she opts for an epidural, in which case they insert a catheter.
Relish the Calm
In the hours leading up to your wife’s delivery, you will have some time for yourselves to just sit back and discuss things. Use this opportunity to discuss who she really wants in the delivery room, share updates with close family members or send off a few urgent work-related emails. You may need to act as a bouncer to keep pushy family members out of the delivery room. This time is really for you and your wife to bond because your life will be a whirlwind once the baby arrives.
Finalize on the shortlist for your baby’s name. Almost every nurse or doctor who visits your wife will want to know the baby’s name. However, its perfectly fine to keep it to yourselves until the baby arrives. Just let them know that you have a few names shortlisted.
Related: 450 Strong Baby Names
The Final Countdown
Your nurse will be checking in periodically to let you know how far apart the contractions look. Things usually heighten once your wife is fully dilated and ready to push the baby out. All of a sudden, you will have nurses and doctors flood the room. The actual ‘baby pushing’ process can take a while – an hour or more with the first baby and lesser on future babies. It isn’t easy trying to poop out something the size of a long watermelon!
Nurses often like to joke about how dads faint during the delivery process because it does happen quite often. Most first-time dads are a bundle of nerves once the wife is in active labor and pushing the baby out. Hence, it is important you stay hydrated and give the medical staff a wide berth to do their work.
Your main role is to really support your wife and assure her. Give her words of encouragement and let her know how things are progressing. Your wife can also opt for a mirror to see for herself as the baby comes out.
The culmination of all the activity in the delivery room is the arrival of the baby. As soon as the baby is pushed out, one of the nurses will make sure the baby cries and then plop her on your wife’s chest for some skin-to-skin contact. Most often the baby is covered in poop which gets cleaned by the nurse.
Meanwhile, there’s another whole set of doctors monitoring your wife’s vitals and performing any necessary medical action. Sometimes, a larger baby may end up stretching your wife’s vagina a bit too much and cause a tear.
Post Delivery Support
You may be transferred to a post delivery room a couple of hours after delivering the baby. Your wife will be exhausted and extremely sore from pushing the baby out. Moreover, hospital beds aren’t necessarily the most comfortable ones to get a full night’s sleep. This is when she needs your support the most.
Most babies sleep extensively the first 24 hours after coming out of the mother’s womb. This is your best night to get a good night’s rest because the baby will require a lot of attention for pretty much every night after this.
The extra night at the hospital is usually to monitor your baby and wife’s vitals.
During your stay in the post delivery room, you’ll be visited by a number of folks like lactation counselors, nurse practitioners, administration, etc. Make sure you get any necessary work related forms signed and your baby’s birth certificate information verified before being discharged. After discharge, it is really hard to get any typos corrected.
Try to take short notes of important things like any pregnancy complications, tips provided by the nurses/lactation counselors and so on. These will be useful for you to refer to later, especially if you have another baby a couple of years later.
Your notes don’t have to be extensive, just a few lines of text typed up in your phone and emailed to yourself will suffice. After all my six lines of text ended up becoming this post a few weeks later.