While supporting the mother of your child during pregnancy and childbirth, Steve Jaeger writes, don’t forget to be patient and just get out of the way.
As a father of five, I am something of an expert on the experience of childbirth, and I’d like to be able to share my knowledge with any expectant fathers who may be out there feeling apprehensive about the whole experience. Women, in the best of times, are difficult to figure out, but in the throes of pregnancy and childbirth, they are nearly impossible. I will try my best to cover all the bases.
Part One: What to Expect When They’re Expecting
Natural Childbirth Classes: Nearly every expectant mother will insist on both you and she attending these classes. You usually go twice a week, and the woman learns helpful pain management techniques that go out the window with the first labor pain. The father can best be prepared by putting his hand in a vise and hiring a Marine drill instructor to scream curses at him for several hours on end.
Sex during pregnancy: This is very important. If you enjoy having sex with your wife you should have it now because it is probably the last time you will ever have it for the next 17 years or so.
Clothing: Just let her buy whatever the hell she wants and, above all, never, ever tell her that she looks like she’s gained any weight, even if she looks like Chubby from the Little Rascals.
Crying: All the fucking time.
Part Two: The Big Day Arrives
So now the baby is on the way. In the old days we’d wait for something called “the water breaking,” but these days that throws off the doctor’s schedule, so we just show up at the hospital when they tell us to.
Since we had her pre-registered the day after we found out she was pregnant, we can skip all of the pre-pre-registration and go straight to the birthing “suite.” This is misleading since it is only one room, and there is no sofa or mini bar, but there is a TV, so the first thing to do is find out what channel ESPN is on in the hospital. Next, get your wife comfortable, so you can find out where the cafeteria is. Chances are you’re going to be there a very long time, so food is very important. If you have brought food with you, it’s important that you don’t bring strong smelling foods, like salami or tuna fish, as they do not mix well with the odor of antiseptics, and are liable to make you queasy.
Medications: Nearly every woman who is determined to have a natural childbirth ends up begging for drugs and there is nothing wrong with that. While, as mentioned, I have had five children and have never had more than some aspirin for a headache from all of that screaming, I do not judge. On the other hand, you don’t have to ask me twice when the nurse comes in and asks, “Anyone here want an enema?”
Shaving: Back in the day (as the kids like to say) they used to shave the woman’s genitals just before giving birth, but sadly, they no longer do that except in certain parts of Los Angeles.
When the baby arrives: A word of warning. Brand new babies do not look like the ones in the diaper commercials. In fact, they look a little scary. It is advisable not to say anything like, “Holy shit!” when you first see the child, as you do not wish to alarm the mother who, after all, has just gone through as much of an ordeal as you have. Try to be supportive.
Part Three: When Baby Comes Home
This is the hard part. During the first few days after childbirth, your wife’s breasts are going to grow larger that you have ever seen them. This is the real miracle of childbirth, but unfortunately, it is for the baby and not for you. You have to leave them alone. In fact, your wife’s entire body is a no man’s land that you are not allowed near for at least the next six weeks. It’s all, “the baby, the baby, the baby.” Soon enough, things begin to return to “normal.” The baby will get on a regular feeding schedule and will be waking up every three or four hours all through the night to eat. Your wife will be extremely tired during this period. Try not to put too many demands on her. Try to help out around the house a little. Pour your own cup of coffee in the morning or maybe even pick the towel up off the bathroom floor. In no time at all, the baby will be crawling, then walking and talking, and that’s when the real fun begins.
Originally appeared at Open Salon.