As a dad, the delivery room might seem a mysterious place. It’s quite understandable that you might feel apprehensive about what will happen in there when your child is born. After all, your partner will be the focus of the all the attention.
So what should you expect? I can’t write from the perspective of a medical expert, because I’m not a consultant, registrar or midwife. I can, however, write from the perspective of a father who was present at the birth of both his children.
More to the point, both births were radically different. My eldest child was eventually born using forceps in an operating theatre following a very tiring 33 hour labour. In contrast to this, my youngest child was born naturally in the delivery room with no more than gas and air after a three hour labour, the final stage of which lasted just 15 minutes.
Without further ado, these are the main points I believe a first time father needs to know about the delivery room and some tips I hope you will find useful.
Expect the unexpected
When you’re in the delivery room, you should prepare yourself for the unexpected. Every single birth is unique. It may go very smoothly or it may be more complex. Whatever happens, rest assured that midwives undergo very intensive training and have to deliver 40 live babies plus the placenta before they can even qualify. Your partner is in safe hands and you may have to sit back and just let the professionals get on with it.
A little preparation will help enormously
Have you and your partner ever seen a delivery room? If not, ask to be shown around one. In most hospitals you’ll be given a tour of the facilities in the latter half of the pregnancy. Take the opportunity so you can familiarise yourself with the surroundings and ask questions.
You should also write a birth plan allowing for the three most likely outcomes; natural birth, forceps delivery and caesarean section. As the father you should familiarise yourself with this plan and act as an advocate on behalf of your partner. Trust me, she will find it very difficult to express her wishes mid-contraction while puffing on gas and air.
Who will be there?
If everything is straightforward, you may find just one or two midwives present. If things are more complicated or pain relief has been administered, there may be anaesthetists, consultants paediatricians and any number of people on hand to assist.
Just because the room is packed full of people doesn’t mean things are going wrong. When my first child was born, my wife was moved from the delivery room to an operating theatre and there were 11 people present. Our daughter was born perfectly healthily and my wife made a full recovery.
Will my wife scream and call me names?
When my wife gave birth to our second child I clearly remember her screaming out repeatedly as the baby appeared. She has very little recollection of doing this, but maintains the contractions were more painful than the actual birth itself.
That said, every birth is different, and so is every woman! You just don’t know how your partner will react. If your partner has had pain relief, the birth may take place without a sound. In reality, however, you’d be well advised to prepare for some noise.
Will I cut the umbilical cord?
This is something you should discuss with your partner as it can be included in the birth plan. In this day and age the majority of fathers seem to cut the cord and it’s something I did for both my children.
It’s a wonderful experience so if you want to, why on Earth not? Just be warned the umbilical cord is surprisingly tough, you’ll need to squeeze those scissors quite hard!
Of all the tips above, just remember each birth experience is unique and don’t let anyone tell you men have no place in the delivery room. At the very least you have an important role to play as an advocate for your partner.
Whatever happens, try to enjoy the experience. That may seem hard at the time but trust me, you’ll be talking about the magical moment you became a parent for the rest of your life.
John Adams writes the parenting blog Dadbloguk.com. He is married with two daughters and was present at the birth of both his children. He offers some advice to first time dads about what to expect in the delivery room.