The Laboring Dad

A Father's Perspective of Childbirth

Authored by Andy Malinski from The Dadvocate

Good grief you’re exhausted.  So exhausted.  You haven’t seen your feet in a while now—why?  Because you’re too exhausted to keep going to the gym!  You ache.  Could be the exhaustion (yup, again) but it could also be from all the changes.  So many changes.  At least the crib got built…finally.  Most food doesn’t sound very appetizing right now.  Nerves.  Wow—so much is coming so soon.  I hope she’s ready.

(Cue the sound of a needle scratching across a record…)

Wait.  She?!?

So Close, Yet So Far Away

Mom has done the miraculous and remarkable in the last nine months; just on the inside of her swollen belly is your son or daughter.  Never in your whole life has something been so close—so agonizingly close—and yet the only glimpse has been a blurry ultrasound image.  It’s been a journey unlike any other either of you has ever experienced.

For good reason, mom’s been the center of so much attention: smiles and stares and the store; baby showers; doctor visits; clothes shopping.  Preparation for that birth experience that will, ultimately, change your lives forevermore.

And dad?  Oh daddy!  The aforementioned exhaustion? Too tired to work out?  Aches from building this or moving that or just exhaustion playing a role there, too?  Nerves?  All true.  All.  True. 

Dads Experience Changes in Pregnancy, Too

Truth is, dad has faced a lot of stress, too.  The changes taking place, the work to be done, even the change in sleep patterns as mama, now sporting a bladder the size of a shot glass, is up and down from bed every half an hour!  But what is there to do about it?  Men rarely gather together to discuss these sorts of issues.  The books, too, aren’t much help as the bulk of them are aimed—rightfully so—toward mom and baby.  It can’t be denied, however, that dad is feeling the nerves, the anxiety, the stress, and the changes all around him.

And that’s just the pre-game!

The Laboring Dad

Labor.  Mom breathes, moans, cries through contractions.  Years ago, dad wouldn’t even be here.  If not at home, he’d be in the waiting room, possibly with a decent pace going on and a box of cigars to pass around once Little One’s gender had been revealed. (Never mind mom being healthy or baby weighing in at such-and-such a poundage, he just wants to know if there are footballs or flowers in his future!)  Times have changed, though—so much so that the bed in which she is laying resembles more of a Transformer than your Sealy Posture-pedic.  So there’s mom, aka Warrior Woman, taking on each contraction with a fury.  Dad?  This is the perfect time to press on her hips—help that birth canal open for baby to traverse through.  If touch seems to be welcome, rub her back (but discuss this beforehand and be open to change—with that much sensory overload going on, the last thing she might want is extra touch).  Coach her through—let her know what a remarkable job she’s doing; how amazing it is to be a part of this; and, most of all, that she is safe and loved.

For (probably) the vast majority of partners, this is the most anguished you’ll have ever seen mom.  Seeing her body contort, her face burn like fire, and noises only heard in Sci-Fi horror flicks up to this point escaping the depths of her body…

Do Dads Feel Labor Pains? You Bet They Do.

Dad?  It’s terrifying.  It’s agonizing (simply because the only way out for mom is through, at this point, and it’s quite troubling to see your beloved in such a state).  You are apt to feel a bit…helpless?  Useless?  Perhaps, even, to blame for this pain she is in?  Anxiety is normal, as is panic. 

Keep in mind that someone like a doula—a person there to help guide mom through labor and delivery BUT also there to remind dad that all is okay and he might try this or that—is a fantastic option if dad, leading up to here, is feeling uneasy and unsure.  The doula is like a coach for you both—giving you pointers throughout the process to stay focused and as calm as possible.

The Weird, The Gross, and the Ugly

Unfortunately, dad, the things you have probably never seen before don’t end with weird faces and loud noises.  As she pushes and contracts, helping to guide the baby down and out from womb to world, that pain and exhaustion may lead her to vomiting.  Also, it is very possibly that her bowels may release.  The thing to remember is this is normal.  It is natural.  It isn’t pleasant—and that goes for BOTH of you—but it’s just a fact of the matter.  Doctors, doulas, even you may be called upon to help out if (or when) this occurs.  Just remember what is happening, what love you feel for her, what gratitude for all she is accomplishing, and move into action.

Crowning.  Dad?  Quite honestly, nothing in the world could or can prepare you for this.  That area of mom’s has never looked like this before and, yes, it is a little unsettling.  Right now, for her, it has become what is referred to in these arenas as “the ring of fire.”  That old “Coke Bottle and Basketball” reference?  Yes—it’s like that.  But focus, dad, focus!  That emerging being is your son or daughter.  9 months in the making, 3 trimesters of changes galore—they have all collided into this moment.  Baby stretches through, head, shoulders, knees, and toes, just like the old song (and trust me, you’ll be hearing it again…and again…and again…).

That Moment You've Been Waiting For

Mom enters a state of euphoria—and so deserved, too; she has accomplished something wonderful.  Join her.  Hug her.  Kiss her.  Congratulate her.  Thank her.  But dad?  Give yourself a pat on the back, too.  It’s been a long journey.  Don’t be surprised if, at first glance, you feel a state of confusion in that, suddenly, you love someone with all your being and yet you’ve, literally, just met, and probably haven’t even exchanged words or possibly names (not to mention—they’re quite naked!).  Sure mom’s body helped create, nourish, carry, and birth this child into your world.  It’s imperative, however, to remember that dad was there, too.  There’s a lot ahead of you two now (just wait until you experience meconium, dad.  You may not know what that is now but, I think Robin Williams said it best: “It’s incredible stuff!  It’s part toxic waste, part Velcro.”)

Welcome.  Congratulations.  Best wishes to you all for everything that lies ahead.  Keep communicating.  Keep sharing.  Keep loving. And, as you hopefully have already, enjoy every minute.

Dads and Doulas in Tulsa

The highly trained and experienced childbirth professionals with Tulsa Family Doulas understand the unique needs of Spouses and family members in addition to the birthing mother. We are here to answer your questions, ease your anxiety and support you as you experience the birth of your child. Schedule your free consultation online or by calling 918.724.9276.