Congratulations! The old you is no more, and a new, magical, Dad-you is about to emerge, blinking into the sunlight, ready to take on the world! Armed with terrible dad puns, inexplicable dad strength, and a surprising amount of puke on your shirt, you’ll soon bestride fatherhood like a colossus.
But before that, you have to get through delivery day first - the confusing combination of panic, excitement, and pride that is the delivery day. From helping time contractions to ensuring your partner’s hospital bag is in the car and ready to go, to holding your partner’s hand as she gives birth, here’s a shortlist of expert tips to help you prepare.
Well, yes, obviously. But it’s surprisingly easy to get so caught up in the moment that your usually well-honed EQ goes out the window. Your partner will be going through significant emotional and physical changes while she is pregnant. And you’re likely to have gone through a few big changes yourself. It’s fair to say that on the day of your baby’s birth, all the excitement and anticipation which has been building for you both will also be mixed with some anxiety. It will help your partner if you’re mindful of not doing any mansplaining – she’s the one about to give birth!
2. Plan ahead.
All those prenatal classes you’ve attended (or not) will have recommended you have packed a hospital bag ahead of time, and left it by the door, or in the car. Chat with your partner about any additional things you can bring when it is time to head to the hospital. And don’t forget to pack a bag for yourself, too. Bring a change of clothes and toiletries, plus some snacks, in case labour stretches into the wee hours of the morning.
TIP: Pack a button-up shirt, or wear one on delivery day, so you can have some skin-to-skin bonding with your newborn. This practice is recommended with very good evidence as a beneficial way for both mum and dad to bond with their newborn.
3. Expect… the unexpected!
Look, this is obviously the sort of nonsense advice familiar to people who’ve either watched too many ’80s martial arts films, or have a decoupage chart on the wall covered in pictures of Lamborghinis they think they can wish into existence. Except in this case, it’s good advice. Childbirth can be an overwhelming, frightening experience. Be ready to see your partner respond to birth in ways neither one of you might expect.
4. Study up.
Review what you’ve learned from your childbirth classes and research or query your partner’s maternity care professionals if you have questions about labour and delivery. Understand what will be happening to your partner’s body, and know what the process will be if she needs birth assistance. Be respectful, and don’t think you’re asking too many questions. Like a lower court judge or reality TV casting agent, there’s nothing they haven’t heard.
5. Mansplaining, no. Taking charge, yes.
You wouldn’t be human if you’re not feeling a little (or a lot of) worry. It may help to make sure you have discussed the birth plan so you can confidently remind the birthing team of her wishes. Think of yourself as a project manager who doesn’t necessarily have the skills to do the job, but does get a megaphone and his own (pristine) high-vis. You know, like a project manager normally does.
6. Help provide distractions.
No, not like by reciting key moments from the 2003 Grand Final or juggling bedpans. Instead, bring movies, a book to read to her, or anything else your partner might like to have on hand as you both work through the sometimes long hours leading up to baby’s arrival.
7. Keep an eye on contractions.
Um, not literally. But consider downloading a contraction app to help track your partner’s contractions. While at the hospital, ask a midwife to show you how to follow along with the contractions monitor. You’ll then be able to talk your partner through an impending peak or let her know that a break may be on the way, even as she holds your hand in a white-knuckled grip, and her nails scythe into your palm with the crushing downforce or a bull shark’s bite.
8. Consider working with a doula prior to and during delivery.
A doula is a trained and experienced person who provides continuous physical and emotional support, as well as guidance, to the mother before, during and just after the birth. They can be a good support person who, along with the rest of the maternity care providers, acts as an advocate for a labouring woman. The time to arrange a doula is not when the baby is about to be born though! If your partner has a doula, make sure they’ve been called to let them know your baby is on its way.
9. Be attentive. But not too attentive.
Read her signs. You know your partner and the ways she communicates. When she’s labouring, she may not have the energy to talk too much, or speak as she normally does. This means you’ll need to be extra sensitive to her ‘cues,’ or signals around what she wants.
Try not to be too chatty when she’s in labour. Many women have a sense of wanting to cut out a lot of background noise when they’re labouring. It takes an enormous amount of energy and focus to manage contractions. So, if she’s not keen on having a conversation with you, don’t take it personally. She’s just doing what she can to birth your baby.
10. Be a record keeper.
If your partner wishes to have video or photos of the birth, be sure to have all equipment, backup batteries and chargers ready. Also, it could be a sweet gesture for you to keep written notes of the day’s events to share with her and baby later.
TIP: If you’d like to be totally present in the delivery room, make sure someone you and your partner both trust is on camera duty.
11. Build and bring a contact list.
Often, dad is in charge of sharing the good news with family and friends once baby is born. Make sure you and your partner assemble a list of important phone numbers and email addresses and enter them in your phone. You can also draft an hilarious/touching announcement text ahead of time.
12. Pay attention to what your partner does (and doesn’t) want.
Talk with your partner before delivery day about the best ways you can support her in labour. Come to an arrangement so you’re both clear about how she can communicate with you about what she may want. On ‘baby day’ be prepared to get stressed. You may be tired but hey, so is she and your little baby is likely to be a bit sleepy too when it’s all over.
13. Be there.
Just your presence and willingness to help can make all the difference. If she’s not already crushing it like a sparrow, ask your partner if she’d like to squeeze your hand. Offer a foot or back rub between contractions. And let her know you’re there for her.
14. Trust your partner.
Your partner will know what she needs to do. It may help to remember that generations of women have given birth before her and she will too. Although this may be your first, or final baby, each birth will be unique and very special. While you’re at it, be a little kind to yourself as well. Trust your own ability to be the best possible support your partner needs at this time. You’ve got this!
15. Be open minded
Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Be open to birth intervention when it's needed. Although this may not have been included on the birth plan, sometimes birth intervention is necessary to make sure a mother and her baby are safe.
16. Most important: Enjoy the moment!
Take a moment or two to enjoy the day. Seeing your baby born will be one of the most magical things you will do. Even though there’s bound to be lots going on, find the time to really make the most of your baby’s birth. It’s going to be one of the best days you’ll ever have!
Written with the support of Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse and Ben Smithurst. Jan 2023. Ben is a father of two, dad blogger, and journalist from Sydney. You can find more of his work at directadvicefordads.com.au.
Last Published* April, 2023
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.