The Dad’s Guide to the Delivery Room

  by Erik Wolgemuth

In the weeks and months following your joyful announcement of a soon-to-arrive infant, you’ve had a handful of encounters with veteran fathers that left you wondering just what exactly happens between that scurried rush to pack up last minute necessities (while reminding your spouse to breath through contractions) and the eventual contented cuddling of the burrito-ed, (semi-)docile newborn clad in that blue and pink striped beanie. Delivery … it’s game on, dad.

This post intends to ease your nerves, to pull back the curtain on what to expect, and to enlighten you on delivery room best practices. The six points that follow are your keys to Delivery Room dadcraft:

Be Unflappable

Let’s just get this out there and in the clear: there’s major trauma on the docket. The last thing that’s needed amidst the sights and sounds of labor and delivery is drama out of you. (If the color is draining from your face simply while reading this, remember that there will be ample time to pass out following delivery. Just save it until after your baby’s arrived.) In the moment, your job is to dig deep, advocate on behalf of your dear wife and exude calmness like you’ve moonlighted on the sly as a midwife for the past fifteen years. The intensity of the delivery room is just what you expected and just what you prepared for.

Be Attentive

Remember those grand birthing plans hatched with your wife in the midst of happy dreams of the day? Plans such as these are most often – and appropriately so – schemed in an environment of serenity and no small amount of comfort. Upon entering a delivery room, those happy plans are not your wife’s current top priority. She’s…otherwise engaged at the moment. So implementation is your job, my friend. But before following the steps mapped out (e.g. Step #1: Place and light orange and lavender scented candles tastefully throughout birthing center.) read your wife first. Does she want the script or not? Don’t pressure or force a harmonious atmosphere with that perfect Indie Folk birthing playlist you painstakingly created. If she needs The Black Keys, White Stripes and the like to get the job done, that’s just become the new perfect mix. You are there to observe what’s needed, and then to immediately make it happen.

Be Engaged and Out of the Way

Given that the birthing process doesn’t – as a rule – follow any sort of structured scheduling, it’s quite possible that conflicts will result. Playoff games, key rivalry match-ups, even…gasp…March Madness can wait. This — the birth of your offspring — happens once; be there physically and mentally (your brain and attention are required as well). However, don’t confuse that 6-hour birthing course that you endured attended with 6 years of medical school. Be attentive to your wife and her needs, but don’t pretend that you’ve got the knowledge that the medical professionals are somehow lacking. Thankfully medical professionals are, as a rule, kind to overwhelmed and bumbling adult males who occupy delivery rooms. They’ll direct you; listen to them (including direct suggestions to, “Move.”).

Be Ultra-Absorbent

Don’t worry, this doesn’t involve mopping or soaking up of any nature; this is descriptive of your required disposition in the delivery room. As has been stated, major trauma is occurring and with such, stress and pain levels are at their max. You may find yourself bearing the brunt of various accusations and unilateral life-course decisions. The delivery room is no place for such things to be debated. As a result, if the whole event is deemed your fault, it’s best to agree. If you’re told that you’ll never find yourself in a delivery room again, respond in the affirmative. This will pass; there are better times and locales for continuing and adjusting such discussions.

Avoid Social Media

Preparing to depart to the hospital: Acceptable

En route to hospital: Illegal (you’re driving) and inopportune

Labor: Potentially appropriate but not advised. (How many of your buddies’ dilation and effacement updates have you enjoyed reading?)

Delivery: No. No. No. C’mon, seriously?.

Post-Delivery: Fire away. Instagram! Tweet! Caveat: Don’t miss irreplaceable moments while you try to capture the perfect photo  – trust me that in 10 years you won’t be reflecting on the miracle of #[newbaby] trending … you want to remember the moments while you’re there.

Marvel and Celebrate

The arrival of your screaming progeny is nothing short of miraculous. Result? Instantaneous love. Soak it up. Relish those moments of helpless, beautiful new life. Be amazed anew by your wife and make sure she knows it.

* * *

Those are the keys, dad. Your delivery room adventure is sure to include the unexpected, but if you remember these six points, you’ll be ready to handle just about anything.


Postscript: Before, during, and after the delivery room: don’t say you’re “Not a Baby Guy.”

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Photo courtesy of Chris and Alli Horst.