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Hey, (almost) Dad! As a father of three, I know a thing or two about what to expect when it comes to labor. And although every birth is different, here are a few things I've learned along the way that could keep you out of the dog house.
1. Fill the room with MUSIC. Plug your iPod or Smartphone into a small set of travel speakers and (set the mood for your baby’s entry into the world.) relax to a good play list. Bon Iver was there for my first daughter's birth and now whenever I hear it, I think of her. Music defines moments—and this tremendous one is made even more memorable with some good tunes.
2. Speak wisely. Men have no idea about the reality of childbirth...you've never had a watermelon pass through your you-know-what have you? So my advice is to choose your words wisely. Trust me, don't whisper in your partner’s ear, "It will be alright." It didn't go well for me! Say encouraging, loving, and positive things instead. Or just be present, available, and willing to do anything in the moment...grab some cold water, massage her back with some Honest Lotion, and find good food or a soft pillow for the hospital stay.
3. It's 99.8% about the mother, but try to take care of that remaining .2% (that's you). Childbirth is like a marathon, so make sure to give yourself some needed water, food breaks, and emotional and mental replenishment. Pack food bars, dried fruit, and nuts. Step back, observe the magnitude of what's happening, and take in a deep breath—this is a sweet moment—so do all you can to be present (literally) and don't pass out like my buddy did as his wife was on the final push (fainting for 10 minutes is not a cool way to get attention).
4. Photos & video are important, but know when! Make sure you've got all your digital recording devices prepared in advance, and don’t forget to pack your chargers! But more importantly, know when it is a good time to shoot since not all moments should be captured for historical reference. My recommendations for good moments: early labor, on the way to the hospital, people in the waiting room, and right after birth. And because nurses never get the love, take a bonus shot of your wife and new baby with the nurses—I'm amazed how important they are in the retelling of this experience for my wife.
5. Cut the cord - at the right time - for your baby's health. There is age-old research that says that by WAITING to cut the cord until it has stopped pulsing puts more blood, more iron, more oxygen, and more stem cells inside your baby. And this has been the way it's been done throughout history! The genius Dr. Alan Greene has a new campaign to educate parents about this more "optimal cord clamping" method - learn more here.
6. It's the real deal baby - step up! You're a Father, Dad, Man of the House, Daddy-O! Focus on the importance of this great gift. Be courteous, take your hands out of your pockets, be overly gracious, and forecast the needs of your family both during labor and beyond. Think of what your wife may need at home when arriving with a new baby. Stock the refrigerator with food or order take-out, bring home flowers, just make it special and personalized. And for that new baby, stay involved, put your phone down, be a parent (not a friend) to your child, have fun, and be a consistent figure of love and support. You are about to experience some of the best moments of your life—there is nothing comparable to being a father!
- Christopher Gavigan
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.