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The Dad's Playbook to Labor & BirthA Practical and Strategic Guide to Preparing for the Big Day
By Theresa Halvorsen
Harvard Common PressCopyright © 2012 Theresa Halvorsen
All right reserved.
Introduction: Why Are You Holding This Book? You’re holding this book because your partner is pregnant and now everyone expects you to be her "coach" during labor. Judging from the stories you’ve heard from your friends, coaching is more than showing up on the big day, holding her hand and giving her ice chips. You’re holding this book because you want to do everything in your power to make the birth of your child as perfect as possible for you and your partner, whether she’s planning on getting an epidural or aiming for an unmedicated birth. Let’s start with some scenarios just in case you’re not convinced how much you need this book. Scenario 1 You’re at home and your partner’s having pretty strong contractions. You’ve called the hospital thinking it’s time; but they’ve said it’s not. The contractions aren’t close enough together yet. They want you to stay at home for right now. But she’s complaining about how much the contractions hurt and asking for help. So what do you do? You’re still stuck on the idea of being at home while your partner’s having strong contractions aren’t you? And yep, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you’ll be at home in early labor (page 000) with a very pregnant woman experiencing some potentially curse inducing contractions until those contractions are "strong enough" and "close enough" together to head to the hospital. While these contractions aren’t as bad as they’re going to be, many women need a lot of help from their coaches during this part of labor. After thinking long and hard, you realize you can’t get her an epidural while you’re still at home. That means you’re her epidural. It means you have to know what to do to help her during those hours at home. Scenario 2 You just got to the hospital. Your partner’s contractions are strong. Verbally, she’s gone from an occasional swear word to staring in a Kevin Smith movie. She’s threatening you, the admission nurse and the doctor she hasn’t even seen with bodily harm if these contractions don’t get easier. Her head is about to turn 360 degrees and she’s going to puke green vomit at any second. And the very nice, calm nurse has assured the two of you your partner will be getting an epidural soon. Two hours later, you’re still wondering where the epidural is. Unfortunately, in many hospitals it can take an hour or two once women walk through the hospital doors until she gets relief from an epidural. Hospitals have procedures in place to keep mom and baby safe during the placement and use of an epidural. Until she can get it, you’re her help. You have to know what to do. You have to have a playbook. Scenario 3 Your partner really wants to go unmedicated; she wants to avoid the epidural at all costs. She’s turning to you to help her. She’s already told you if she asks for the epidural your job is to say "no". Now you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to tell this woman you adore who is about to be in a great deal of pain, "no" when she asks for medication. Maybe a part of you is wondering whether it’s truly possible for your partner to go unmedicated. It is possible--with a strong, knowledgeable coach. But she’s really going to need you. In this scenario, you HAVE to know how to help her. Scenario 4 Your partner got the epidural and everyone just breathed a sigh of relief. She’s no longer a character in Kill Bill and is back to your charming and beautiful partner. Now you’re thinking the work’s over and you can sit back and get some sleep. Unfortunately, that’s also wrong. While you may have less to do once she gets her epidural (if she’s going to get one), you still have to help her through the process, if the epidural’s working the way you both hoped. And yes, the epidural may not work the way she wants it to or the way you both were expecting (surprise!!). Are you starting to get why you’re holding this book? Now why does all this matter? Because her birth experience shapes your future together as a family. We know women who aren’t happy with their birth experience have a higher chance of getting postpartum depression (Wolman, 1993). We also know a big element in her satisfaction with the birth experience is you. The better coach you are, the less likely she’ll be unhappy with the experience and the less likely she’ll have postpartum depression. Trust us; you really don’t want your partner to have postpartum depression. Not only is she just plain miserable, but women with postpartum depression may not bond with their babies (Kleinman, 1994) , their babies may show delayed growth and development (Kira M. Weier & Margaret W. Beal, 2004) and women may struggle in their relationships with their partners (Kleiman, 2001). Still not convinced you need this book? Here’s one more reason. Many men go into this experience saying, they’ll do anything their partner asks for. All she has to do is ask. Then you’re surprised when she asks for nothing in labor. Then you’re even more surprised when she’s pissed at you afterwards for not helping during the birth. What did you miss? Women don’t often ask for things during labor or if they do it’s "I need some water you f*cking assh*le full of sh*t and why didn’t you read my mind half an hour ago you son of a…" you get the point. Isn’t that fun? However, think about how you feel when you’ve hurt yourself. Are you thinking clearly? Are you able to clearly tell other people what to do to help you? Now think how you feel when you’re angry, sad or scared. Are you thinking clearly then? Are you able to give clear instructions about ways to make you feel better? Now combine being in a great deal of pain with feeling angry, sad or scared and you have an idea of what your partner may experience during labor. She’s incapable of telling you what to do in labor. It’s your job to coach her; it’s your job to know what to do to help, it’s your job to read her mind. Think about it like coaching your kids’ soccer team. If you know nothing about soccer, you can’t do a good job coaching and you’ll do a better job if you take a special seminar about coaching soccer to kids. Think of this book as that special seminar.
We’ve broken this book up into easy to read, easy to skim sections. While reading it from point A to point B is the best, feel skip around to get to the sections you need. It’s written to give you the information you need so you can be the best coach you can be.
Excerpted from The Dad's Playbook to Labor & Birth by Theresa Halvorsen Copyright © 2012 by Theresa Halvorsen. Excerpted by permission.
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