Dads, for the last few months, much of the attention has been on mom and baby, and for good reason. Expectant moms go through many physical changes when it comes to preparing for the birth of your baby. She has probably also dealt with many emotional changes. Your baby has grown from just a few cells into your son or daughter and will soon be here. You may feel a bit lost at times. Dads are often eager to be present, helpful, and strong for their growing families. However, if this is your first baby, you may certainly be confused as to what needs to be done and when. Your partner’s body has physically changed preparing for this change, and you may sometimes feel less participatory. We are here to help you find ways to support your family and emotionally prepare for your new baby or babies. First, congratulations on your growing family. Babies may be big changes in tiny ways, but they also mean more love and enjoyment. Second, relax. Families have been growing for centuries. You will get through this, and we are here to help.
Before the Baby
There are a lot of things to think about and consider when expecting a baby. One can read every baby book on the planet and not have any indication of what to do when their baby gets here. That doesn’t mean to ignore the information. Being informed is one of the best ways to prepare for multiple situations. You should not cause yourself a great deal of worry, but you should prepare for many types of situations.
Most births happen uneventfully. Moms may tell you of long labors, difficult movement, and uncomfortable moments, but all of those things are normal. Before your partner is in labor, you should both consider your plans for different scenarios.
Plan for your futures through wills, medical directives, or financial planning. This one always seems morbid for people, but one never knows when tragedy may strike. A prime example is a recent news story in which Kobe Bryant’s widow is trying to get the courts to recognize his youngest daughter as related to his estate. Planning during her last pregnancy would have prevented this.
Baby care classes/ Labor and delivery classes - Even if this is not your first baby, it may be helpful to take parenting classes or Labor and Delivery classes offered at your local hospital. Some of these classes will offer up to date hospital regulations, tours of hospitals that may have been under construction since your last visit, new pediatric recommendations, and other vital information. Many of these classes are taught by medical professionals such as labor and delivery nurses, midwives, and medical assistants.
Baby appointments - It is rare that a partner makes every single OB/GYN appointment and every prenatal activity but planning to attend as many as possible is important to mom and baby. Set up a calendar that you can both utilize. If you are old-school, a simple paper calendar/ planner is fine. If you prefer, you can set up Microsoft Outlook Calendar, Google Calendar, or a similar program. Talk about which appointments you want to be at for sure, and the best time of day to plan appointments so that you can make as many as possible.
Check your insurance - Different insurance companies pay different amounts for well mom checks, baby checks, tests, and other things. Some insurance companies pay for certain tests and not others. For instance, for mothers over 35 many insurance companies pay for genetic testing to test for three different trisomy conditions. However, there are multiple tests for this. Insurance companies have preferred providers. You may not need any of these tests, but your insurance may limit the number of ultrasounds or other screenings. You need to know what you will be responsible for upfront. Also, check with the insurance to see how to cover the baby after he or she is born. Some parents find out too late that there is extra paperwork to fill out for immediately covering the baby.
Check hospital and doctor policies - Some doctors and hospitals will allow you to make prepayments on expected costs. These costs may change throughout the pregnancy, but it can keep you from owning a large sum at the time of birth.
Check your company policies - How much time can you, the father, take off when your child is born? Do they have specific policies for paternity leave, or do you have to use FMLA? Different companies have different policies for expectant dads. Some allow a few days paid or unpaid before needing to use vacation/ sick/ or paternity benefits. Other companies enforce vacation/ sick/ earned paid time immediately. Make sure that you understand your company’s policy and any paperwork that may need to be submitted. You don’t want to be snuggling your new baby and worrying about your job.
Routes, transportation, traffic, parking and other fees - Some parking lots at hospitals have fees. Do you need to park in those lots or are there separate lots for guests of the hospital? Where does your laboring partner enter? If you live in a large city with traffic issues, do you know several routes if there is a problem? Are there tolls involved? If you rely on public transportation, do you have a plan for labor? Plan these things before your partner begins to labor.
Remember your partner - This experience is difficult for her. She probably has many fears and concerns. Talk to her and listen to her needs.
“For being husband of someone so divine, God is sending me a gift from the heaven”
Labor and Delivery
The labor itself will be up to your partner, but you may be trying to prepare for this time, too, and want to be checking off tasks as quickly as possible. Here are some things to consider.
Install the car seat - Most birthing centers and hospitals will not let you leave unless they know that the infant seat or base has been properly installed. If you are concerned about proper installation, law enforcement, fire departments, and social services often have certified installers. They are generally glad to help.
Hospital bag packed and labor and delivery plans & list : The hospital bag is personal, and you should pack anything that you think you might need, but here’s a list of popular items.
Hospital Bag Items
Comfort measures - Make sure that you understand your partner’s plans for pain management and medications. If she is planning to forego pain medication, she will need help to maintain comfort. You can help her by offering calming tones, massages, warm (not hot) showers. It is important to do your best to maintain your partner’s wishes. It is also okay if your partner decides to use medication. It can be very safe. Be sure that you understand what will happen. Many women aren’t prepared for the leg numbness the epidural causes.
Cutting the cord - Be sure that your wishes are clear. If you want to be permitted to cut the cord be sure to include this in the birth plan and discuss this with your providers. You also should indicate what should be done with the cord blood if it is to be donated or discarded.
Baby gear is individual, but there are many things that parents tend to agree are good investments. We will visit some of these here. This is a top 11 list, but chat with friends and family members who recently had children, or you can see if you can attend a baby and me class (top 10 plus one for your new baby). You will find parents have their favorite gear and gear that they find useless. Every baby is different. You may find that your baby loves the swing but refuses to sleep in a pack n play. Another parent might disagree. That’s okay.
Bringing Baby Home
Having a new baby is scary. You can do this, but it will take time to learn, as well. Here are a few tips for keeping your new baby comfortable.
When you first come home, you are going to feel like your entire world has been turned upside down. First, that is normal. Second, it will get better. Your baby will not be on a great sleep cycle at first, most likely. Most babies sleep 2-3 hours before feeding again. If your partner is breastfeeding, this means that she is only sleeping 2-3 hours. If the baby is having trouble sleeping, remember he or she listened to your partner’s heartbeat from inside a pool for almost a year. White noise machines, the sound of your heart snuggling them, and other rhythms can be comforting as can a snug swaddle. Soothing your baby back to sleep can be as comforting for you as it is him or her. If you are supplementing with bottles, see if you can take one of the feedings. She still may get up to pump her milk, but she may be able to sleep a few more hours instead. At some point, she is probably going to feel like she has lost her mind. She’s just tired and physically worn out. She has been through a physically traumatic ordeal whether she delivered via c-section or vaginally. Let her feel what she feels and support her in whatever healthy ways she needs. Her body is again changing. In some ways, it will not be the same and in other ways, it is trying to revert to normal.
“It’s a good thing babies don’t give you a lot of time to think. You fall in love with them and when you realize how much they love you back, life is very simple.” —Anita Diamant
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