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Gone are the days of fathers anxiously pacing the hospital corridors, cigars at the ready for when they announce the arrival of a healthy baby boy or girl. Men are now encouraged to be actively involved in pregnancy and even be at the business end of the birth.

Robbie Williams described the birth of his first child “like watching his favourite pub burn down”… But for all the jokes and hilarious stories, this day is just s big a deal for dad as it is for mom. The upside is, dad gets to sidestep the pain, and assist from the side. The downside is, well… that dad has to sidestep the pain and assist from the side.

1. Know the plan and stick to it

Although not all couples write down and carefully discuss their birth plan with their doctor, you should know what your partner wants/is hoping for. If she’s made it clear that she wants an epidural or no epidural or natural or elective caesarean, you need to know exactly how she’s going to feel about all the possible procedures. Also, remember that anaesthetists are thin on the ground in South Africa. If you’re hoping for an epidural, remind the nurses to notify the anaesthetist as soon as you arrive at the hospital.

2. Make a list and check it twice

Be like Santa. In the weeks leading up to the due date, keep a list of everything that could possibly be needed for the hospital and write it down. Whether you use a list app on your phone or an actual piece of paper, make sure you’ve thought of everything from phone chargers to music playlists – you’ll likely spend several hours in that theatre so plan to entertain your partner.

“It’s amazing how many men go into total denial when their wives tell them it’s time.”

3. Car prep

This may be the item you’ve been waiting for, but it’s not what you think. By “car prep” we don’t mean testing how fast your car can go from 0-100 km in an hour. It also doesn’t mean timing your mad racing skills from home to the hospital. It’s the rather mundane but so essential things that you need to consider. In the weeks leading up to the birth:

  • Make sure your fuel tank is never too low.
  • Have your tyres checked and include your spare-tyre.
  • Put all necessary copies, documentation and medical aid confirmations in your cubbyhole now!

4. Believe her

It’s amazing how many men go into total denial when their wives tell them it’s time. “Are you sure it isn’t Braxton Hicks?” they’ll say. Believe her. Even if it ends up being a false alarm, you need to believe her the next time. Believe her even when she’s not sure she believes herself. Don’t wait, and don’t get into an argument. Right now, your partner represents two lives and it is your job to protect them and bring them to the hospital. That is your biggest, best and most vital role.

5. Be the PR agent

The extended family are all going to want a piece of the action. They’ll be phoning non-stop, messaging, requesting updates and possibly Instagram posts. For you, this is the time to really shine. Take possession of your wife’s phone and kill all calls as they come in. Have a simple template message that you can WhatsApp to people explaining that you’re not taking calls at this time. This is the one time when people don’t need to be a part of every single moment. After the birth of your beautiful child, you can put a few photos out there with a message like “Mommy and baby are doing well.”

6. Take the doctor’s lead

Childbirth is strange because it all starts very slowly, and then suddenly everything happens at the same time. The doctor will suddenly emerge in a rubber apron and gumboots (true story) and it’ll feel like it’s all happening too fast. At this point, your wife will be surrounded by nurses, and things will become a bit of a blur. Position yourself at your partner’s head and hold her hand.

If you’re asked to move, step back politely and keep eye contact with her … and hold her hand. She’s going to be scared and in a lot of pain. It doesn’t really matter what comforting things you say at this time. It’s all about the tone. Say soothing things and keep her updated on what’s happening on the other end. Tell her when you see the top of the head, etc. – and trust me, you’ll be so excited that you’ll probably be yelling it!

Think about it this way. You will have control on the day, where your partner is not going to have much control at all. Savour every moment because you’ll never be the same afterwards.

Also read:

So your birth didn’t go as planned? Don’t blame yourself
What are antenatal classes and are they worth it?