Sunday, June 05, 2005

Delivery from a dad's point of view

Sure, it is kinda late for me to post this now, Peanut is 7 weeks old. No, it did not take me 7 weeks to mentally recover from the delivery, we have recently moved and getting the new place up and running has taken quite some time. Anyway, this article is specifically for the non-physically-pregnant part of the couple. In most cases you will probably be "dad" like me - but this applies to anyone entering the maternity clinic to support a delivery.

So, in modern times in Finland, the dad is expected to play an active role in the delivery room. In all honesty, the thought of being there scared me. I don't handle blood well and the prospect of seeing my lovely wife in pain just made me feel like I did not want to be there. Which is silly really, because she probably needed my presence more than at any time before in her life [except for conceiving the baby :-)].

Despite your active role, do not expect the maternity hospital or the delivery room to specifically cater to the husband. You will have to bring your own food and drinks. Make sure you get some filling foods that will slowly release energy. A delivery can take quite some time (36 Hours in our case). Some caffinated drinks such as coke/pepsi might be good. Don't eat only sugar based energy boosters. They will give you a sugar rush, leaving you more tired than you were before you took it. We had our baby in Kätilöopisto and they have a small relaxation room for dads with a microwave, coffee maker and some other basics. Check it out on one of their tours.

In case of a long delivery, you are also going to make sure you get a break and some rest. When Peanut's mom got an epidural during the delivery process, she fell asleep. I took that time to quickly go home, freshen up and call my mom to get some support. You need to be in shape to support your wife when she gets back to feeling pain and in the final stages of delivery, so you need to manage your own energy levels to make sure you can do that. If the hospital is very full, like when we were having Peanut, you wont be able to sleep in the hospital during your breaks in the birthing process or after the birth. If the hospital is far from home (>20 mins) make sure you can crash at a friend's place close to the hospital or book a nearby hotel. If you are going to Kätilöopisto in Helsinki, there is a Holiday-Inn hotel next to "Messukeskus", close to Hartwall Areena, about 10-15 minutes from the hospital by car.

In the delivery room there really is not that much you can do. The midwife will take care of all the essentials. Ask her to explain what she's doing so you know what is going on. Most midwives speak decent English. Note that a midwife in Finland is really an educated health worker. She's authorized to give injections, install drips etc.

Way before delivery, discuss with the soon to be mother how she would like to give birth. Go through the birth plan if she has one. If she doesn't have one, make one with her. See a previous article on this blog for details. This way you can help in directing the delivery in the way that the mother to be would like. Once the contractions start coming thick and fast, she wont be able to talk or concentrate much, but decisions will need to be made. Other than that, you can help with pain relief, for instance by helping her take the laughing gass in time, applying a hotpack to the lower back and wiping her forehead with a cold cloth.

Once in the pushing stage, your need to support her will depend on the birthing position. If she's on her back, there probably isn't much you can do. If she's ona birthing stool, you'll have to physically support her, which makes for an intense and involved experience. But let that not dictate what position to use, the most important thing is that the baby makes it out quick and safe, the 2nd most important that mom-to-be is as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Finally, giving birth is not a clean, clinical process. There is pain, blood, liquids, needles etc. But you will not be bothered by any of this. You will hardly remember it afterwards. I am probably the least suitable person to enter the delivery room when it comes to these things, but I survived and that means you can do it too. And it is a great experience!

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