Roaming through the hospital hallways shaking hands and handing out cigars. Dressed in a tuxedo maybe. That’s how Don Draper or James Bond would celebrate the birth of their child right? Let’s be real though, on the big day, you won’t be doing much. This day is all about your wife and the work she’ll be putting in. You won’t be the star of the show but you also don’t need to be completely useless either. I hate the idea of just sitting there and doing nothing. Even worse is not knowing how you can be helpful when you could be playing a reasonably large support role.
Below is a little checklist for myself to make sure I can be helpful during the big day. A list of dad’s labor and delivery support tips. Feel free to let me know in the comments what was or wasn’t useful for your family so I can add them to my personal list
1. Organize your means of transportation and map out your route
Unlike North America, car owners in HK are a minority (92 per 1000 in HK versus 685 per 1000 in Canada and 838 per 1000 in USA). Lack of parking and taxes on vehicle purchases make it difficult to own a vehicle. If you’re one of the lucky ones with your own vehicle then map out your route to the hospital. Map out a back up and even a back up to the back up in case something goes wrong. The recent protests in Hong Kong make driving a bit unpredictable. Plan out where you’ll park your vehicle. Drop your wife off at the front first if you’re going in labor during a time where parking is scarce.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, using taxi or Uber are your only options. Taxis are plentiful in Hong Kong but it really depends on where you live. If you’re up on the Peak and need to get down to Sanatorium you might not have much luck with finding an empty taxi. Those who have used Uber in Hong Kong know how unreliable it is. Drivers will accept your fare and then seemingly not move for 5-10 minutes forcing you to cancel. Or they’ll miss a turn and need to re-route and add an extra 15-20 minutes before they can get to you. Make sure you factor all these in on the big day.
One thing that should help reduce the stress for dad is to know that the whole ordeal is not as rushed and frenzied as they make it seem on TV. Labour can 48 hours or more. Educate yourself on the different phases and decide with your wife when the best time to go to the hospital is. Also check with your midwife as some recommend you go to the hospital at your first contraction while others ask you to time contractions to know when to go to the hospital. Active labor (when you should go to the hospital) is usually when your wife has strong contractions that last 45-60 seconds and occur 3-4 minutes apart.
2. Take an antenatal class so you know broadly what to expect.
Check out my other post on selecting an antenatal class. Not only are these helpful for the big day but they’ll get your head in the right place to welcome your baby into your life. The part I found was really helpful for my wife and I was learning that a natural and minimally destructive birth are well within the mother’s control. If you’re able to remember the breathing and pushing techniques that were taught and are able to implement them during the painful second stage of labor, this can make the difference between a smooth delivery and the need for instrumentation, episiotomy, or even an emergency c-section. We’ll see if this is really true, but taking a class with a strong midwife or physiotherapist gives you a lot of confidence going into the big day.
3. Let your work know and stop any work related travel beginning week 36
Or even earlier if you can manage. Also speak to them about paternity leave. As I mentioned before, paternity leave is quite limited in HK but decide if you want to take it all in one go or stagger it over a few weeks.
4. Don’t be annoying, rude or a distraction
Understand that this is probably a level of stress and pain that your wife has never felt before. I’ve heard stories of husbands that can’t keep it together and cry or yell at their wife. Or some that complain they’ve been standing for very long or their back hurts. It’s not about you, dude. Don’t be that guy.
Some other things that go without saying are don’t eat onions beforehand, make sure you wear deodorant, and just generally err on the side of not being a nuisance. Just practice being patient and realize you’re there to support.
5. Stay above the shoulders if you’re queasy
Self-explanatory. Know your limits and don’t roam around lest you see something that’ll be burned into your memory forever. Don’t be ashamed if you need to stand outside and wait in the hallway either although I’m sure your wife will appreciate the support inside the delivery room.
6. Have an honest discussion with your wife
Each person has a different idea of about what is supportive and what is not. Some like intense coaching and others just want your arm for squeezing. Some like my wife are in between. So far I’ve learned some basic massage techniques that are hopefully useful on the big day. Also try and remind her of some of the things you learned together in antenatal class. Support her lower back with your hand to make sure she has a straight spine for pushing the baby out. Remind her of how to breathe during and between contractions during second stage of labor. And make sure you keep calm and supportive while doing it.
7. Be an advocate for her in the delivery room
Doulas are not common in Hong Kong but they’d typically play this role. This gets harder in public vs private hospital. If you’ve got a birth plan, decide what are non-negotiable items for you. Don’t fight your doctor if it’s an emergency situation but voice your opinion and be strong about it.
8. Document the experience
This won’t happen many times in your life so make memories with photos and videos. Remember to not get in the way and keep it PG-13.
9. Keep family updated but within reason
Your number one goal is to be supporting your wife but family will be eager to know what’s happening. Keeping them updated may take some of the worry off of your wife’s mind. Keep close friends and immediately family updated so they know when to arrive at the hospital. Your wife will appreciate the friendly faces afterward.
10. Enjoy The Moment
You’re bringing a new life into the world and this is an incredible bonding experience for you and your wife. Remember to take a few seconds every now and then to soak it all in.
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” – Dwight E. Eisenhower
Writing down your primary goals and responsibilities for the big day helps to actively think about what you should prioritize. It also encourages you to have an honest conversation with your wife to make sure you’re both on the same page. But remember that all this planning might need to be thrown out the window when your wife’s in the middle of labor. Just be cool and go with the flow, but it never hurts to be a little prepared.