As we prepare to head north to Dress’ homeland of Scotland, a journey i am certain will promote a lot of content to write about – as well as stress and anxiousness which started days before the actual trip, I thought it worthwhile taking a break from the adventures of the three of us to write a post about how to best prepare yourself as a Father, or Mother, for pregnancy, labour and the post birth whirlwind you will find yourselves in.
These are all my opinions using the benefit of hindsight of what was useful in preparation for newborn arrival. You may choose to do all of these, some of these or ignore this entirely – it is obviously up to you!
Dress read this book from cover to cover a number of times and whilst I did not read it all, I was left a copy with Post-it notes with “Read Me!” written on the most pertinent parts. I felt this was like reading the book notes of the actual book you’re supposed to read for a school book review. Joking aside, of the several books we bought, this was the one which put aside any patronising tone about how great the impending arrival is going to be (Really!? Thanks for stating the obvious), giving facts and real truths about what you can expect from month to month through pregnancy and birth itself. Winging it through labour will not be possible, so it is worth reading up a bit!
Attend Antenatal Classes
I strongly recommend attending the local NCT class in your area. If you are not aware, NCT, National Childcare Trust, organise and teach antenatal classes. They are an excellent way of being in a group of couples in your local area who are going through exactly the same experience as you at the same time. We did a two day course over a couple of weekends involving a very comprehensive insight into labour, covering all stages of delivery, what to do when and more importantly how you can help as the Father. Most people have friends or relatives who have given birth at some time, but having a group of people that you belong to and can go through the run up and immediate aftermath of birth with is really important, especially for mums. Dress and the NCT mums meet on at least on a weekly basis for lunch and more often for things like baby yoga or parent-baby cinema. For the guys it is great to have a new group to have a beer with and talk through birth war stories (it will happen!). NCT charge a fee for the course, so if this is not for you, I think hospitals normally put on a free one.
Know your Birth Preferences
Assuming you are going to be present through the labour and delivery, you should have an active involvement in knowing your partner’s birth preferences. This doesn’t mean you should control it! Ultimately it is your partner going through this so she should decide whether she wants an Epidural or to just stick to Gas & Air, but it is imperative that you know what your partner’s preferences are, so if asked you can answer. Particularly for the different types of pain relief it is important for you to know how this is given, when to ask for it and what affects it may have on your baby post birth.
Download a Contraction Timer App
Useful for timing contractions and knowing when to head to hospital. Download them in advance – once labour kicks in, if you are searching on the App Store and checking which of the many available you like
the best, this will be frowned upon (at the very least).
Prepare all(!) the hospital bags
You might think that your wife or partner can pack her own but when she is in the middle of labour and asks you for her PJs, you asking her where exactly they are or flinging everything out of her bag trying to find it is not going to be looked upon kindly! I would suggest one bag each, so three in total – unless you are having more than one baby! One piece of advice is to take a bendy straw for drinks. A friend told me that for his first born, he ended up drenching his wife with water after only having cups to hand to provide hydration. Not ideal in a situation that could take over a day!
Baby sleeping guidelines have changed hugely over time, so it is important to know what is and is not recommended. The Lullaby Trust website provides the latest recommended information, to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDs) and promote safer sleeping. This is particularly useful when either of the two Grans suggest something which may have been acceptable 30 years ago but certainly isn’t now!
The one area in hindsight we should have paid more attention to. The NHS promote breastfeeding for new babies for at least the first 6 months which shows how important a topic this is to be aware of. Breastfeeding is generally accepted as hard and Father’s should understand that for all the women you see doing this at the drop of a feather in coffee shops, there was likely some stress and tears for baby and mum before getting to this point. From speaking to friend’s, midwives and reading, breastfeeding rarely just happens from day one. Whilst the instinct is there for baby it does take some getting used to and is a learning process for both mum and newborn. Understanding this and understanding how you can help is vital.
Prepare your work for Paternity Leave
Sounds simple enough and you probably think that as you have told work that you are expecting a baby that you can disappear for paternity leave – whether that be the standard two weeks or longer. Ensure you have ticked this one off and ensure that you are in a position to leave work, should the baby come earlier than expected. The last thing your wife will want to hear in the middle of labour is you shouting “Sell, sell, sell!” or “Turn the cog, 2 notches anti-clockwise”.
Guarding the house post birth
No matter how well the birth goes for your partner, the first days at home as a family are unique and they will never happen again, especially for your first baby, so you will want to enjoy these first few days as a family and more likely you won’t want to entertain any visitors. Make sure you are clear as a family what you do and don’t want in those first few days and tell your immediate family and friends, who may want to arrive on Day 2! From personal experience having the first week just to the three of us was invaluable particularly in trying to get breastfeeding established, which does need a comfortable and peaceful environment for mum and baby. Having 10 aunts and uncles roaming the house would not have been ideal!
Prepare for the unexpected
This is probably the most important. You can try to have a plan but when Mother Nature takes control then any plan can go out of the window quickly. So be prepared for it. Having an understanding of all the above points will help you to prepare for any unexpected situations. One thing I have said a number of times since Rattle’s birth is that it is easy to take the NHS for granted. I am sure hospitals across the country (and world) are different but I could not fault the level of care we received from UCH in London. Having never really used the NHS before and being a tax payer for nearly 14 years it was incredible to see the high level of care and expertise that we have available to us. So if the unexpected does happen then I am sure you will be in good hands but prepare yourself with information at least will help you in going through the process.
You can continue to follow the adventures of Rattle & Tie (and Dress) on Instagram – www.instagram.com/rattleandtie – and Facebook – www.facebook.com/rattleandtie.