What do you do when your partner goes into labor?
Nine months ago, I wouldn’t have had a great answer. I’m the first in my family and my group of friends to have a kid, so my basic knowledge about babies, labor, and parenting were slim to none. Fortunately, babies take nine months to develop, which means there's ample time to prepare. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but here’s a few helpful.
Do Your Research
Type “baby advice” into Google and you’ll soon be overwhelmed with conflicting information from websites, blogs, and message boards. The better solution? Sourcing information from old-school methods like books and classes. My two favorite books have been The Expectant Father by Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash, which gives you a month-by-month look at what’s going on with your partner, your baby, and yourself, and The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, which is a must-read if you plan on supporting your partner during birth.
Classes are another great way to learn useful information such as baby first aid and what to expect when your partner goes into labor. Not only do you benefit from getting solid advice from a certified expert, but also your classmates will ask helpful questions you might not have thought of. Again, you might be overwhelmed by the amount of classes available (let’s file infant massage under “optional”), but I would just go for the basics like infant CPR and a general class that covers labor, breastfeeding, and partner support.
Form Your Support Network
Becoming a father is a life changing event that’s not without its set of challenges. Having someone to talk to who’s experienced what you’re going through can be an invaluable resource. When I found out we were expecting, I reached out to everyone I knew who was a father. I took old friends from high school out to lunch, met coworkers for drinks, and called my dad more frequently. It might take some effort to find someone, but being able to get your frustrations and worries off your chest with someone who understands will be incredibly therapeutic.
Get Your House In Order
You may think you have plenty of time to buy a carseat or a crib, but don’t procrastinate too long - nine months can go by faster than you think. The sooner you start prepping your home, the easier time you’ll have. This is especially true if you expect your partner to help - the last thing she’s going to want to do when she’s eight months pregnant is put together Ikea furniture.
Practically everything you need is on Amazon and can be at your doorstep in two days. If you’re like me, you probably want the best of the best, which is why I’ve found websites such as The Nightlight and The Sweethome incredibly valuable for their product research and recommendations. If there’s something you want that’s a little outside of your price range, try checking out your local thrift stores. A brand new glider chair costs several hundred dollars, but Chelsea and I found a used one for $20. I bought some fabric at Ikea and reupholstered the whole thing into a brand new chair. Not bad for a total of $30.
If your partner is planning on having a baby shower, you can put some items on your registry too. However, I would avoid putting baby clothes on there. In fact, try not to spend any money on baby clothes. Once people found out Chelsea and I were expecting, they were all too eager to send us their hand-me-downs. Newborns grow surprisingly fast and a lot of baby clothes you’ll get will have been hardly-worn.
You don’t have to worry about babyproofing your house just yet. While you’ll want to make sure certain things like long drape cords are taken care of, other things like cupboard doors and sharp corners can wait until you baby is more mobile. Instead, focus on preparing some meals in advance. Even the simplest meal can be difficult to prepare, especially when you’ve only slept for two hours. Do your future sleep-deprived self a favor and freeze a hearty dish like chili, lasagna, or stew in advance, or even better, set up a meal train with some of your friends so they can deliver some delicious food to you.
Set Expectations At Work
If you’re fortunate enough to have a job that provides you with paid paternity leave (which in the United States, isn’t always a given), you should take a full advantage of that benefit. I interviewed some fathers and one of the most common pieces of advice given to me is take all the paternity leave you can afford. All the fathers I spoke to agreed that it’s an amazing experience to be at home spending time with your newborn and none regret it. I recommend speaking to your manager and HR representative as soon as possible to set expectations and dates. Cover your leave by creating a detailed plan that helps your team transition your projects with ease. It should include the date you are leaving, the status of your projects, the names of those people covering your work, and the date you plan to return. Lastly, because you’ll be gone for several weeks, you’ll want to make sure you put in a strong effort at work now.
Enjoy Your Last Days Of Freedom
As the birth of our daughter comes closer, Chelsea and I have been spending more time than usual eating at nice restaurants, going to the movies, and staying out late with our friends - all of which become near impossible when you have a newborn. If you have some extra vacation days, consider taking a “Babymoon” to a place where you and your partner can just enjoy each other’s company and revel in your last days without parenting responsibilities. Parenting is going to be hard work and there's tons to prepare for, so make sure you give yourselves a break (or at least sleep in).