My partner can at times be a man of few words, but I managed to get him to share some thoughts on what it was like experiencing labour for the first time when we had Tilly last year. He was such great support for me throughout the whole process, even if he did keep saying “Oh shit!!!” as Tilly’s head made its appearance hahaha.
Before we had Tilly, what did you think labour would be like?
I thought it would be quick, like a few hours. But I did see on TV that it looked quite scary. It’s pretty scary in person. I was worried, I just wanted you to be ok.
How would you describe the experience?
It was very emotional, scary and happy at the same time. It was hard seeing you in pain, and quite draining. The epidural was great, it made the situation go from intense to calm.
I thought your midwife was pretty average. She seemed experienced but she was no help, all she was doing was telling you how long it was going to hurt for and not finding a way to make it better for you which was frustrating. She should’ve offered you an epidural. Why do people not want to get one? What’s the big deal? It’s common sense to get pain relief if it’s sore. I’d do something if it meant it was less painful, who cares?!
What was it like when Tilly arrived?
Words can’t describe, it was amazing, the best day of my life. It looked excruciating when they pulled her out by her head… like this (demonstrates on Tilly’s head lol).
What was it like for you afterwards?
It was hard leaving you at the hospital. I wanted you both to be ok and for you to get some rest.
What do you think it will be like this time around?
I think it’ll be easier since I’ve experienced it before and know what to expect. I’ll be more cool, calm and collected.
What advice would you give to other dads for when their partners are in labour?
Know what to expect. I didn’t know what to do to help you and it was frustrating. I thought it might help take your mind off the pain if I counted with you.
Be a good support team. No one else is better support than you. It can be hard when you’re the only one in the room who hasn’t been in the situation before but you’re still important.
Do you think it might’ve helped you if we kept up with our antenatal classes?
Possibly, but I don’t regret that we stopped going. It was interesting but not enough for us to want to go every Friday night for however many weeks. A one day course might have been better.
I think the one thing I realised after this little conversation is how important it is for dads to feel prepared for labour. Obviously as mums we need the most preparation and care, but it’s tough for our partners too. For me, I lost all sense of time. It was like I zoned out into another world. But for him, before I had the epidural, it was hours of being with me in the hospital and supporting me through every contraction; I’m not surprised he found it draining. I sure wouldn’t like to see him in pain like that, even though there’s something amazing coming at the end.
It’s really important that dads know the things that they can do to support you, and also that they feel comfortable to do so. It is their baby too that is entering the world, so they first and foremost need to feel involved and that their input is valued by those in the room. I can imagine it might be easy to feel like you have to take a back seat when you’re the only man there. You might have an idea of want you want to do to help or an opinion that you want to voice, but not necessarily feel like you can. This was particularly true for when I had the epidural (you can read a bit about my experience with it here). Your partner needs to know what you want so they can speak up for you if need be.
For first-timers, this could be a valuable discussion to have with your midwife, your partner and whoever else you are planning to include in this amazing experience! Make sure Daddy feels included, informed and encouraged.
Image: Tilly’s first cuddles with her Daddy