5 Little Things Partners Can Do in the Delivery Room That Make a Big Difference

There's a lot that goes down in the delivery room that the average expecting parent might not quite expect. I know that from experience as a dad. But I've learned the best thing any partner can do is fully support the person giving birth.

Delivery room illustration
Photo: Yeji Kim

My wife couldn't sleep much the night before our first child was born; she was complaining that her back was hurting. I didn't think too much of it as her due date was in three weeks, and we had gone to her regularly scheduled OB-GYN checkup earlier that day. That next morning, she was still in pain, so I agreed I'd take her back to the doctor just in case—it was on my way to the office anyway. What's the harm in a quick pit stop? It was during this appointment that my wife and I heard the five words that would change the rest of our lives, "You're having this baby today."

Wait, what!? My wife broke down into tears nervously. I pretty much froze in place. We were not mentally prepared for this. It was only December 2018, and we had convinced ourselves we were having a baby in 2019 (which also did happen, but more on that later). It's at this point in the movies where there is typically a hard cut straight to the entrance of the hospital, where the husband wheels his wife into a busy hallway screaming, "We're having a baby!" and the room parts like the Red Sea.

But in reality, we took a moment to embrace and reassure each other we can do this, before taking the most necessary next step—calling an Uber. Within minutes, our driver Salvador picked us up, and took us straight to the hospital. At the time I told him we'd name the baby after him. We didn't. But I did give him five stars at least.

Entering the hospital, it was pretty empty and quiet, not the hysteria I had imagined. We took the elevator up to the check in floor where my wife was immediately handed an iPad to fill out all of her information. For a moment, it felt like we were at the Genius Bar at Apple, not the maternity ward. The next hour or so consisted of my wife begging every person who walked by for an epidural—the service even felt as slow as the Apple store. At last my wife was finally made comfortable, and we were on our way to the delivery room.

Now, in my mind, I expected there to be at least eight people in the delivery room: a doctor, a handful of nurses, maybe a supervisor, or a med student or two. I figured everyone would be head to toe in scrubs, and they'd put up a big blue sheet and I'd stand on one side of it holding my wife's hand calmly, while the medical entourage was on the other side ready to get this baby out. To my surprise, it was just a doctor, a nurse, and myself. In football terms, the nurse and I were the left and right guards, and the doctor was the center getting ready to yell, "Hike!"

We sat in the delivery room for about an hour or so before my wife was ready to start pushing, but it felt like an eternity. Twelve minutes later, our son Brody was born.

My experience taught me that there are ways I could have been more helpful than I was. Here are some tips that could be beneficial for the next expecting parent who is trying to be helpful in the delivery room.

Make a Playlist

Right before my wife started pushing for our firstborn, the nurse asked me if I had a playlist ready. If being a third of the receiving team wasn't enough pressure, now I have to scramble to become the house DJ, too. Some guys would thrive in this moment. You know, the guys who always insist they serve as the resident DJ at the party. I am not that guy, but I immediately assumed the alias of DJ Delivery Room—my tagline, "dropping beats, not babies!"and started scrolling through my Spotify like I was on a musical mission.

What songs should I choose? Do I go with something calming to soothe her nerves or upbeat to get her excited and ready to go? Do I take requests from the other nurses? "This next song goes out to Marianne on the fourth floor; Thanks for the epidural." Do I go with a thematic classic like Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" or Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It?" How about REM's "It's the End of The World?" So. Much. Pressure. My wife was giving me nothing to work with as she was clearly more focused on having an actual baby and not a concert, so I went with the Backstreet Boys because I figured "She'd want it that way…" And off to the races we went.

I was nervously sweating through my gray Lacoste T-shirt, wiping the perspiration from under my backwards Islanders hat. With my other hand, I was tightly holding up my wife's left leg and repeatedly yelling "push" as AJ, Nick, Howie, Kevin, and Brian harmonized in the background.

Lighten the Mood

It's always helpful to inject a bit of humor when things seem tense. Be funny enough to lighten the mood, but not overkill that you start annoying your partner. That was a bit of a tightrope act for me as my natural instinct when I'm uncomfortable or nervous is to make jokes. I learned to dial it back a bit for the sake of her sanity (and the nurses). You have to know your audience and know your time and place. The delivery room is not the Comedy Cellar. But if your partner doesn’t prefer humor during tough situations, it's a good idea to ask what will help them feel more at ease in the delivery room and make sure to come prepared.

Never Stop Reassuring

Don't stop reassuring your partner that everything will be fine. Even though it's likely you also have no idea what is going on, continue to reassure her that the doctors and nurses know what they are doing and that everything will turn out OK. More than ever, your partner needs a calming presence, even if on the inside you're jumping up and down anxiously with no idea what is happening.

Give a Hand (Figuratively and Physically)

Aside from helping out the nurses and doctor with any request they might have, there's a good chance your partner is going to want to literally squeeze your hand until you barely have any circulation left. Just let her! The least you can do is sacrifice your hand considering how much she has sacrificed during the pregnancy. If possible, try to make sure it's the opposite hand of the one you use to operate a scissor. When it comes time to ultimately cut the umbilical cord, it's definitely helpful to have some sense of feeling back so you can get the job done correctly.

Be An Advocate

Not only do you get to be the DJ, but you also get to be the bouncer! Sure, you won't be standing outside the room with a clipboard rejecting or accepting people who are on the list, but you may need to be the one to tell your loved ones who are in the waiting room ready to charge in (or waiting to speak to you virtually during the pandemic) that your wife needs some more time to herself with the baby. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Your partner gave birth and deserves all the quiet time she desires.

So naturally, I planned to use all of these tips again when my wife and I were back at the hospital a miraculous 367 days later (we did end up having a 2019 baby!) ready to give birth to our daughter. I was completely prepared for what was ahead of me, right? Wrong! This time, my wife had an unplanned C-section.

Being there for the birth of both my children taught me you'll never know what's going to happen once you're in the delivery room. But the best thing a person can do for their partner giving birth is just to be as supportive as possible and help out with the little things.

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