The day your first child is born is full of surprises, Kyle Ricketts learned.
It is easy to feel like the embodiment of useless during your partner’s pregnancy.
You’ve done the fun part, and then you literally wait and watch while your partner transforms in front of you.
She’ll deal with everything her body can throw at her while you scratch around to give her some words of encouragement.
That feeling of uselessness was one of the biggest surprises for me when our firstborn was in transit to the delivery room. Seeing how much the human body can handle was another.
There was plenty I wasn’t ready for and heaps I didn’t know. So to give expecting dads an idea of what is to come, here are some of the hidden things you’ll only find out about after.
1. Your partner is more flexible than you realise
When it comes down to the last quarter and the baby’s head is emerging – ‘crowning’ as they call it – the midwives come in and start ripping your partner into positions you’ve never seen.
Not that she notices, she’s too busy pushing a human into the world to really care. But you will.
They’ll push her legs until her knees are at her ears, and then push down as she pushes up to expose everything to the heavens.
It’s a team effort, but it’s likely you will be on the bench. If you’re not, the most you’ll be doing is pushing a leg into position or holding her hand and telling her what a great job she’s doing.
2. It’s a marathon, not a sprint
You hear people talk about how long they were in labour for and it never really sounds possible – 24 hours, 12 hours … I’ve even heard of 32. Everyone’s different.
We were there for 17 hours and my partner had to be induced as our little squatter refused to leave the premises and had to be forcibly evicted.
Even then it was a long day.
Watching your partner in pain is exhausting for you, too. Whatever you do though, don’t try and compare. You will lose.
Just remember that it’s a long day and mentally prepare yourself for it.
3. The birth itself is quick
When it comes time, the birth itself is over in a blink. It’ll start off slow, then it’ll happen in a rush. You’ll blink and there’s your baby. If only that was all it took!
4. Babies can come out sideways
This was definitely a surprise for me. It was strange enough to see a human head pop out of a spot where you’d swear one wouldn’t fit, but to see it come out sideways was almost comical.
They turn, the shoulders get clear, and BAM! A new human who is half you. Literally that quick.
5. Your baby comes out grey
Like an alien, your baby will emerge covered in goop and crying.
I thought they came out pink. I bet that was one of the things they tell you in the birthing class. Either way, it’s still weird to see it.
We’ve got a picture of him as he was half inside still, arms spread wide, eerily reminiscent of the movie Alien.
Don’t worry, they turn a normal colour not long after being exposed to air.
6. You don’t get to stay with them
After an exhausting day providing emotional support, possibly from a distance, you (and your partner of course) are spent. Time for a well-earned nap.
But if you opt for the public system you’ll be sent home before too long, so don’t get too comfortable.
It’s a hospital, so beds are at a premium. If you have your baby through the private system, you’ll likely have the luxury of staying in the hospital and finding your way together over the first few days before heading home.
Me? I drove home running on fumes a few hours after the birth. I should’ve pulled over for a 15-minute power nap, but I didn’t. (Luckily I made it home safe.)
7. Midwives can be rough with your baby
Be ready for this, because if you’re not you’ll find yourself in a state like I did.
I remember it clearly. One of our midwives cruised in and just started ‘ragdolling’ our newborn son around, shoving his arms where she needed them as she dressed him.
The memory might be worse than the reality, but they were rough with him.
I wasn’t happy and made my feelings known. The midwife explained that they do this all the time and what I was seeing was experience rather than neglect.
Luckily my partner was more alert to this than I was.
It’s an incredible day, but you’ll struggle to remember much of it afterward as your sleep deprived brain only retains the important stuff.
The important thing is you do whatever your partner asks you to do for her, and you may just survive.