Five Tips for Dads Dealing with Natural Childbirth

How I Survived Natural Childbirth with My Marriage Intact

A woman in labor in a side lying position
Photo © Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

When my wife first hinted at the idea of not using an epidural in labor, I freaked out. I totally lost it. This went against everything I had ever been taught by other new dads. She didn’t bring it up again for a few weeks, but this time she was better prepared.

She told me about the benefits of natural childbirth, which meant more than one of my friends had explained – “That just means out of her, you know… down there.” My wife told me that it would be better for the baby. The baby wouldn’t get all the drugs and would be “wide-eyed and bushy tailed.” This only conjured up images of her giving birth to a squirrel, which was about how long my attention span for this conversation was on average. She sensed I was hesitant, perhaps that’s because I told her about the squirrel, so she once again dropped the subject.

Again, several weeks passed and she brought it up again. This time she was forceful and prepared. She knew just how to address me. And she hit me right where it hurts. “What are you afraid of?” she asked. “I’m the one who actually has to do it. Is it too much to ask that we try it my way?”

There was no real argument for that that did not have me looking like a jack ass. So I did what any reasonable man would do – we did it her way. In doing it her way, I learned a lot. I’d like to share what I learned with you so that you can learn from my mistakes and come out smelling like a rose.

  1. Take a class.

    Yes, you heard me right. Go to childbirth class. Go willingly. This is where I learned exactly what would happen and how I could help her. This is the one place I could ask any question and get a straight answer, both from the childbirth educator and the other dads who had been there and came back to share. And when I say go to childbirth class, I mean a real one, not a one afternoon tour of the hospital. The more you go, the more you can learn and practice. This is a good thing and it earns you bonus points with mom.
  2. Be sure you’re in the right place.

    One thing my wife said to me early on was that she wasn’t quite sure that her doctor was on board with her plans. I went with her to a prenatal visit and I heard the right words, but she was using her special pregnancy senses to hear what they were really saying. We stuck it out awhile longer, but eventually the truth came out – they’d prefer her to just get an epidural and leave the driving to them, but they’d “let her try” to go without. No one was going to talk down to my wife! I asked her if maybe we shouldn’t find someone else. She was so relieved and we did find a better person.
  3. Get a good book.

    I highly recommend a book. I liked The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. I will tell you that I didn’t read it all. Though it had a lot of pictures for me to flip through. Simply carrying the book around and glancing at it occasionally got me a lot of brownie points. And it was actually pretty helpful in labor!
  4. Hire a professional.

    Dude, don’t do this alone. You will want to have a professional by your side, by this I mean a doula. Don’t baulk at the expense, there is no amount of money worth a positive birth experience. (Remind me to tell you about the price you pay for not having one – hint: you pay it back in postpartum depression.) Our doula really helped us figure out what we needed to do. She helped us ensure we were prepared and helped my wife be realistic in a way I never could. This was so important. It was also handy to know I’d be able to sneak off to the bathroom if I needed to do so in labor.
  5. Sit back and enjoy the show.

    Seriously, being able to know we’d done our homework was so helpful. I felt like once I’d called our doula to come in early labor, the hard part was over for me. She functioned a lot like my safety net. I knew she wouldn’t let me say or do anything stupid, but she would also let us know when we’d strayed from normal. She acted like a translator at the hospital and seemed to grease all the paths that lead to getting things done quickly and smoothly. And yes, I was even able to take a bathroom break.

In the end, we had a great birth! It was not exactly what we had planned, but it was a very positive experience. We built a team, we prepared and my wife was amazing. She had the unmedicated birth she wanted and was thrilled, despite a few hard decisions and detours along the way. I couldn’t have been happier.

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