You’ve waited nine months for today. You’ve probably had many conversations about it, made plans for it and got your life ready for it – as best you can. One thing is certain: you’ve stressed about today…because today your baby is going to be born.
For dads, the day your baby comes into the world is a confusing, scary and anxious time. Here’s the reality: being in the delivery room, though it might be intense, is a father’s responsibility and privilege.
Yes, you read that right. It’s a privilege. You get the honour of being there as a miracle happens. You get to experience the joy and awe of a child seeing his or her mom and dad for the first time. You get to have the important moment of bonding between you, your child and your child’s mother. You get to start your journey of fatherhood well – it’s the foundation on which you can grow a fantastic relationship with your child. The delivery room is where you are supposed to be, dad.
Look, men are not trained to deal with emotions well, and this is a space of intense emotions, so it’s no wonder many of us want to shy away from it, or when we are there, we might want to “ease the tension” with a joke or by being aloof. Can I strongly urge you not to do this? It’s okay just to be there, feeling all the things while not trying to fix it.
Trust me, I know this hard thing to do. We’re trained to be problem solvers, and I think this is part of why the delivery room is a tough place for men to be in: we actually can’t fix anything. We can’t be proactive, we can’t take the pain away or take the burden our partners are carrying.
All we can do is be there.
Surprisingly, that might actually be enough.
That being said, there are some things you can think through so that you can be the most supportive partner you can be (which is what you want, right dad?).
“We’re trained to be problem solvers, and I think this is part of why the delivery room is a tough place for men to be in: we actually can’t fix anything.”
Remember, your number one job when the day comes is to be your baby mama’s advocate and defender. She will be at her most vulnerable at this point, and your job is to make sure that whatever plan you two have agreed to is carried out. If something does need to change, you need to understand what is happening, so that you can help mom decide how to go forward. If there’s something that’s making her scared or anxious or unhappy, it’s your job to address it, so get in there!
This might mean some awkward conversations with family too. You will have to run interference with pushy family members and even some friends who think they have some “right” to be there and to add their input. This is a balancing act and might need some diplomacy because you DO want some support – but it needs to be on your terms. Again, the question should always be “What does the mother of child need right now?”
Your role starts well before “the day”. Just because your partner will be doing all the work, doesn’t mean she should be the only one who knows what is going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and why it’s going to happen. Learn about the birth process, understand the options that are available to you, and make sure you and your partner are clear about how you would like the birth to happen – if everything goes according to plan. That means that you need to be involved in the conversations with the OB/GYN, midwife, doula, or whoever will be there assisting in the birth.
Of course, not everything goes according to plan, which is why you need to do this work well before the due date.
For us, our boy had to arrive a month earlier than any of us planned. We were caught by surprise, but we had a good idea of how it was all going to go down, so it didn’t take long for us to get our head into the game. We were lucky enough to have loads of support, and they had all been prepped for this moment too.
When Eli arrived, via C-section, it all happened so fast. It honestly felt that one moment he wasn’t there, and the next my wife was holding this tiny, grumpy baby boy in her arms. I felt relieved that my wife and child were okay, happy that I finally got to meet my new son, exhausted from the long, intense day, anxious about what the next few days held for us, excited to tell my family and so, so proud of my wife.
That’s a lot of things to feel in one moment. No wonder I cried.
So, dad-to-be, good luck in there. It’s a hell of a ride.
AfroDaddy, a.k.a. Terence Mentor, is a place for parents, especially dads, to come together and share in the “duality of parenting” – the fact that being a parent can be fantastic, wonderful and beautiful, while simultaneously being exhausting, frustrating and awful. A husband and father to two boys born 18 months apart, AfroDaddy shares his unique view and experiences, while opening himself to new experiences, learnings and people. You can find him at AfroDaddy.