Becoming a dad
Don't just stand there like a lemon when your partner's in labour - she needs you now more than ever. Find out how to cope while she's huffing and puffing - and when two become three.
Labour made simple
Giving birth can be traumatic for all involved, so it's vital that you understand what your partner's going through. Being prepared also means you're less likely to pass out during any one of the three stages of labour:
- Contractions This is the first indication that the baby is on the way. Contractions slowly build in intensity, along with the mother's cries of pain. Be strong. Be a rock. Don't 'pop out for a paper' and disappear until it's all over. Contractions can last up to 12 hours, and sometimes longer, so you'd have to have a better excuse than that anyway.
- The birth Once the cervix is fully dilated (the space through which the baby will squeeze out) it's time to brace yourself. Usually, the cervix is fully dilated at 10cm, so you'll get a rough idea of progress every time the midwife, nurse or doctor takes a look. By now, your partner could well be begging you to make it stop, so keep up the reassurances and don't start a row if she gets a bit cross with you.
- The afterbirth So the baby has arrived, and you're reeking of cigar smoke from a swift celebration outside, but there's still some work to be done. The placenta needs to come out, which is basically a fleshy-looking organ that has served as the interface between mother and baby for nine months. It's another delivery-job, but less painful and far swifter than giving birth to the baby itself. After that, your job has only just begun...
A new baby under your roof can bring chaos into all aspects of your lives. Things will settle down, but until you've established some kind of routine you can expect difficult days ahead. Here's how to do your bit as a dad.
- Get to know your baby son or daughter by involving yourself in day/night care - it might be hard work, but it's the surest way to bond.
- Rest when you can. If mother and baby are sleeping peacefully, avoid the temptation to get lashed on your own or stay up playing videogames until dawn. Get some kip yourself. You'll need it.
- Make time for yourselves. You're still a couple, despite this new addition. Taking care of your relationship might be the last thing on your mind, but it will benefit you both.
- Don't rush into resuming your sex life if she doesn't feel up to it. The physical and emotional impact of having a baby can be draining for you both, but especially on the mother. By all means talk about it, and stay in tune with each other's feelings. Just avoid putting any pressure on resuming your sheet action, and let it happen naturally.
- Review how things are going. Chances are you'll both make mistakes. What matters is that you learn from them, and from each other.
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