by Topher Clark:
I feel strongly impressed to write about what a man is supposed to do to help his wife in labor. The problem is that I'm the worst at birthing. You would think that, having been through it five times, I would have some kind of insight into how to make the baby come out easier, or stop the screaming, or make the nurses come to the room any quicker when you push the button. I've taken the Lamaze class so I should have some idea about how to help, but that was thirteen years ago and I only remember that you are supposed to get all up in your wife's face and count, and I have since learned that this is NOT A GOOD IDEA.
Which leads me to think that I would be more effective at giving pointers about what not to do, since basically we men need to be completely unobtrusive during the birthing, whether we know it or not. It's really not about us, fellas. I know you took your little class and it's supposedly your baby, but still. This isn't your moment to call the shots and make "helpful" comments. Mostly you need to be present, positive, and accept whatever demands are made of you. These demands may include "please-hold-my-hand-and-let-me-squeeze-yours-for-support," but they may also involve "Please-turn-the-channel-Glee-just-came-on-and-now-my-baby-won't-come-out."
All of my children were born in good old-fashioned hospitals. I know that women make many different birthing choices, and that these days anything goes as long as the baby eventually emerges. I respect that, but I should confess that hospital deliveries are all I know, so I will be very little help here to you gentlemen if your wife decides to give birth in a hayloft or on some kind of bobsled. You can take whichever of my suggestions fit your birthing plan, and I wish you the best of luck!
One pointer I would like to suggest involves food, and the lack of ingesting any. If the baby is induced, your wife has been told NOT to eat before labor, and she can't eat during labor, because ... well it's gross (I think) so I won't go into it. So it's not super great if you come in there with your big bag of Wendy's and snarf it down while your wife hungers and dilates. I get it; it's a waiting game. You are hungry, and maybe you are bored. But guess what, sporto? If she doesn't eat, neither do you. And if your wife lovingly suggests that you should go eat, then you should look at her quizzically and say "Really? Are you sure? Cuz ... really?" and then I think you pretty much can go do it.
Something I learned in that Lamaze class involves singing a special song during labor. I learned this from a video we watched. There was this man and his wife and she was in labor and they were in the shower together soaping each others' backs (it sounds really dodgy but it wasn't; I saw this video at some hospital in Pleasant Grove, Utah, so I guarantee it was respectfully and modestly shot, though no one's going to win an Oscar for it.) Anyway, they were getting all labor and delivery with a loofah, and then the voice-over suggests that some couples enjoy singing together to ease the pain. And then the guy, no joke, starts singing "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes." And the wife seems to really respond positively to that! Apparently nothing gets you through a particularly sharp contraction like drivin' six white horses, or even the mention of chicken and dumplings. FOR SOME COUPLES. I found in our first labor that rubbing my wife's back and singing "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes" is maybe not an awesome idea.
Gentlemen, here are some other things not to do during the birthing process:
1. Say things like 'Wow, this takes forever!"
2. Text updates to friends and family every 15 minutes about how this is "taking forever."
3. Sing songs about wearing red pajamas, or even whisper "oh, we'll all go out to meet her."
4. Eat those cups of crushed ice they give your wife (EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE SO TEMPTING).
5. Forget what your baby looks like. They will eventually wheel your baby into a big room full of babies who look just like yours. Mothers could tell a difference, but you can't. You better figure out which one is yours or you can be charged for negligence in some states.
6. Complain about the color of your hospital bracelet.
7. Sit in the waiting room and smoke a big cigar (EVEN THOUGH IT IS SO TEMPTING).
8. Make comments if your baby's head is misshapen or the skin is blotchy. That's normal for babies, what's your excuse?
9. Bring your other children to see the new baby wearing mismatched outfits and messy hair. Your wife will charge you for negligence.
10. Assume you know how much childbirth hurts (UNLESS YOU HAVE HAD A KIDNEY STONE).
So, fellas. Good luck! I may not have all the answers, but I've made many of the mistakes. Learn from this! My children have turned out mostly OK.
This post was original published on April 15, 2011.