A First Time Dad’s Guide to Surviving Childbirth

This is something I wrote for a friend of mine, before he and his wife had their first child some years back. It was a list of things that I wish somebody had told me, before I went “into battle” with my wife in that thing they call a “delivery room” – over 5 years ago. I am posting it to my blog in the hopes that it helps all the soon to be dads out there that are trying to put on that they know most of what’s going to happen, but then get to that day – only to realize (like me) they had absolutely no clue. Here’s what I wrote:

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS FROM EXPERIENCE GAINED FROM WATCHING MY 3 CHILDREN BE BORN, AND THE SITUATIONS FOLLOWING THEIR BIRTH. THE CONTENT MAY BE A BIT GRAPHIC, BUT GET USED TO THAT. THE INFORMATION PROVIDED MAY OR MAY NOT BE HOW YOUR WIFE WILL RESPOND TO ANY GIVEN SITUATION DURING OR AFTER BIRTH. IT IS SIMPLY MEANT TO BE A GUIDE TO GIVE YOU SOMEWHAT OF AN IDEA OF WHAT TO EXPECT, AND HOW TO HANDLE, THIS THING THEY CALL CHILDBIRTH. AFTER THIS, YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN. GOOD LUCK.

Section One – Before Birth:

What happens when her water breaks? – 

This can happen before she goes to the hospital, or after she gets there. When it breaks, it’s not like in the movies where it gushes all over the floor, and sounds like someone just turned a shower on. It’s more like it “leaks” out. And the more she moves, the more it leaks. Most of the time she will run to the bathroom thinking she is peeing herself. If you think about it, it’s like a sack of water with a baby in it, trying to get out a small hole. Some of the water is trapped in different places in the sack, and so the more she moves, the more it finds it’s way out. Have a few towels ready for the seat of the car if it breaks before at home. It will leak all the way to the hospital, and the maxi pad that she put on, won’t last more than 5 minutes. Does it smell? No. Is it bloody? Shouldn’t be. Mostly clear, with little bits of “whatever that is” in it sometimes.

 What do I bring to the hospital? –

You’ll want a change of clothes, shower stuff, a book or something to read before labor get’s hard, a toothbrush, THE CAMERA (don’t forget the memory cards and extra batteries), video camera?, stuff that may distract her (in a good way) during labor. This may include a picture of both of you on vacation at a favorite spot, her iPod with her “labor playlist” on it, etc. Also have good selection of old memories in your head that you can remind her of. Like “hey honey, you remember when you and I took a walk on the beach when we were in Oregon, and we found that little cove where we watched the sun set?” Helps get her mind off of the pain.

Section Two – During Labor:  

Is it true that she might poop during labor? –

Yes, she might, but nature has a way of “cleaning her out” before the pushing part comes. Most of the time they have diarrhea before that point, and there’s not a whole lot left to come out. Will she be worried about that? Probably at first, but when it comes to that point where she is pushing hard, she could care less. She just wants that baby out of her. NOW.

Is true that they yell at you during labor? –

For the most part, no. Are there times when she will get a little pissy and may send some crisp words you way? Yes. You just have to feel her out. It helped Val if I found a place on her body to rub softly, and rhythmically to give her something to concentrate on. A rhythm. Also breathe with her. She will have a tendency to “tense up” during contractions. This only makes them worse! She has to find a way to RELAX through them. Talk softly to her, and remind her to breathe through them. (Side Note: The hospital ice machine is the most amazing nugget ice machine on planet earth. She might want you to feed her a few pellets at a time. If she doesn’t, mow down the whole glass yourself.) Contractions will start out pretty slow (5-7 minutes apart), and then get to where they are a minute or less apart. Should you sit down? No. This is your part. She’s got the raw end of the deal, let me tell you. Will you get tired of standing all night long? You bet. Don’t let her panic either. At a certain point she will start talking like “I don’t think I can do this”. You have to talk her through it and tell her she’s going to do just fine, and you’re right there with her. Oh, and don’t play your Game Boy while she’s in labor.

What exactly is happening “down there” during labor? –

Ah yes, the vagina. What used to be your play-toy, is now morphing into this crazy looking birth tube. The doctor, and the nurses, and the other nurses, and pretty much everyone who walks into the room will now be sticking their fingers “up there” to check how far she is dilated. Once she get’s to around a 8 or 9 (10 being ready to give birth) you’ll start to notice a “bulge” about 5 or 6 inches above her vagina. That’s the head. At this point she will be complaining about feeling a lot of “pressure” down there, and will be saying that she wants to push now. The docs won’t let her though, until she is dilated to a 10. This is always a fun conversation between the doctors and your wife, as everything inside her entire being is screaming PUSH NOW, and the doctor is saying “just wait a little longer, breathe through it”. At this point you may want to make sure there is nothing around within easy reach that she could grab and throw at the doctor (like a lamp). Ok, so now she is at a 10, and the doctor has given her the ok to push. If they haven’t already, they will now “break down” the bed, and put her feet into the stirrups like you see in all the movies. At this point, there is no such thing as modesty. With each push her vagina opening will get bigger and bigger, to the point where you wonder how that’s even possible. Now here’s the point where you either look away, and stay “up north” with you wife, or decide “how bad can it be, I kinda want to see it”, and watch her push it out. I have tried both. The time I watched it come out, it took me a few months (or more) to look at that area the same again. It’s hard to explain, but it just did something to me, and it took me a while to not see that image in my head whenever I thought of that area. What I recommend is to take pictures standing at her bedside, from about the middle of her body. That way you can see enough to catching it coming out, but not so much that you are scarred for life.

What’s it look like when it comes out? –

Bloody, covered with white stuff, and oh yeah, attached with an umbilical cord. The doc will ask you if you want to cut it. I did with all 3 of ours. Kind of gross, but somehow I felt I had to. It’s some type of “right of passage” I think. They usually put the baby right on mom’s bare chest when it comes out. This is up to your wife, but most like it. They check all the vitals, and towel dry the baby while it is there.Bathcomes later on. Oh, and don’t forget about the placenta. (the bloody “glob” that was attached to the inside of the uterus, plus the sack the baby lived in) They deliver that after the baby comes out. Another very bloody and gross after effect of birth. I guess there are some people who say it’s great fertilizer for your garden, but the thought always just makes me want to hurl.  

Section – The Hospital Stay: 

Ok, so now where do we stay? –

Pat your self on the back, you made it through birth! Exhausted? Yeah, imagine how your wife feels. After a few hours they will now move you to the room where you will spend the next couple days. I always thought you would just stay in the same room you delivered in (where I had already set up all my electric toys, laptop, etc), but no, they move you to the “other rooms” that aren’t delivery suites. If you’re lucky, there will be 2 beds in the room. If you’re not, there will be a bed for your wife, and a chair for you. Chairs suck. Ask for a bed if you can.

How about food? –

Get used to walking down to the café to get yourself food. They will deliver the food to your wife, but not yours. This is ok though, as you get you get out of the room for a while and get some air. If your wife get’s tired of the hospital food, you might find yourself running to her favorite fast food place for lunch. Something about giving birth makes them ravenous.

WI-FI? –

The hospital usually has free Wi-Fi for you to use. Just ask for the password from the nurse station, and you’ll be sending pictures of that new bundle of joy to everybody that has an email address.

Section 4 – Time to go home:

Night #1 –

Let the fun begin! If the baby is breast-feeding, they usually get up about every 2 hours for feeding. Since your man boobs don’t work, this means that your wife will be getting up every two hours to feed the thing. This will make her crabby. So to help, you will be the one that gets to change the diaper every 2 hours, and then hand the neat little bundle to your wife to feed. The good part is that then you get to hop back in bed. The bad part is that it’s only for 2 hours. This will improve with time however! Hey, and some kids sleep the entire night as soon as they are born (or so I’ve heard). Have any of mine done that? No.  

Section 5 – Sex after birth:  

How long do we have to wait? –

Doc recommends at least 6 weeks. More if there were complications with the birth, or if they had to cut at all. Some couples won’t wait that long, but you need to at least wait until the bleeding stops, since you could cause an infection if you do it earlier.

Is she going to feel the same after giving birth? –

Here’s one of those questions you have in the back of your head, and mostly due to the locker room talk you’ve heard over the years about them getting “loose” after giving birth. This has not been the least bit true in my experience. Some men even say that their wives even feel tighter after birth, than before. 

Will I hurt her the first time we do it again? –

Yes. More or less depending on several things, but it will probably hurt a little. GO SLOW! And use LOTS of lube, since they can be a little dry down there for a while. This is not the time to try out that new position you’ve been wanting to try. The missionary position, or her on top (so she can control the depth) works the best, and it’s going to take her some time to get used to having you inside her again. Just take it easy, even though it’s been 6 weeks, and you’re about to go crazy, and let her tell you what feels best. You may even try it, and it’s just too painful to keep going the first time. Don’t panic! She will eventually be ready for it again. It’s incredibly frustrating to the guy, but it will get better!

Does she hate sex? – 

This is the question you will be asking your self quite often during the several months after she gives birth. Between breast-feeding (like cold water to her sex drive), and being up at all hours of the night, it’s going to take some time to get back in the swing of things in the ol’ sex life. The key is to keep communicating about your needs to her in a loving way, and being patient with her. She isn’t just trying to be mean (even though it sometimes feels like it to the guy) when she’s not interested. She is just not to that point yet. The hard part is to NOT become bitter or mad at her, and have that “whatever, I’m not even going to ask anymore” attitude. There are times that even though she doesn’t want to have intercourse, she may be willing to “help you” in other ways until she has a little more energy for full on sex. Remember to let her talk out her feelings, even though she isn’t giving you sex. There is a tendency for us guys to just “close up” and go work out in the shop when we feel rejected sexually. This doesn’t help the problem at all. If your wife doesn’t feel emotionally connected with you, she sure as heck isn’t going to feel like diving into the sack with you – with reckless abandon. Remember, talking is like foreplay to our wives. 

Will our sex life ever be the same as it was before kid(s)? –

The short answer? No. But it’s not all bad. Sex will now take more planning. Gone are the days of “whenever you feel like it, no matter what time of day it is, or in what room”. Now you have to time it for nap time, or in the 2 hours you have before you go to bed, after you put the kids down. There will be nights you plan on doing it, and then when your head hits the pillow, you’re so exhausted, that it just isn’t going to happen. Sex is now more of an adventure of “fitting it in” to your schedule of dirty diapers, feedings, play time, etc. Is it going to be hard work? Yeah. Is it worth it? You bet it is! The sooner you get used to the idea that your married life constantly changing, and not try to live in the “good old days”, the faster you will learn to look forward to the new and constantly changing challenges that lie ahead for both of you.

  1. A great guide!

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