It’s time to run through some of the things a Dad needs to be aware of when his partner goes into labour. This is necessary because, unless you time-warp back to the 1950s, you will probably be there to see the show. Suffice to say : like a spectator in the front row of a stand-up performance, you will inevitably become part of the act. So know your stuff!
These are some of the terms that my wife suggested (insisted) I learn:
Dilation – From time to time in the hospital, a nurse will check your partner’s dilation, by seeing how many fingers she can fit through the opening in the cervix, the muscle wall that holds a baby in the womb. The goal is a gap of 10cm. That’s ten fingers. Two hands. Yep.
Epidural – At some stage during labour, your partner may shout this word at you, the midwife, or even the hospital janitor. An epidural is a potent anaesthetic administered into the spinal column. Like absinthe, it numbs from the waist down and usually has no lasting effects apart from involuntary shaking as its influence wanes. While a popular form of pain relief, epidurals greatly increase the chance of further medical intervention during the labour.
Oxytocin – Amazingly, this naturally produced chemical is referred to as “the hormone of love”. It is created as a result of such actions as kissing, lovemaking, hugging or watching ‘Love Actually’. What’s also amazing is that this description is not only used by people who sleep under dreamcatchers, but by doctors and scientists. Keeping oxytocin levels high during labour relaxes the mother and helps speed up the process – so why not put some Barry White on the iPod labour playlist?
Perineum – The stretch of skin between the vagina and the anus – not the ancient Greek who slew the gorgon Medusa. That was Perseus. You may have to summon some of his courage, however, if called upon to massage this area during labour to prevent it tearing during the final stage. If this does happen, perhaps follow Perseus’ example and don’t look, else you be turned to stone…
Episiotomy – If, when the baby’s head pops out, the attending doctor suspects that the mother’s perineum is likely to tear, then he will make an incision, increasing the diameter of the vagina. This is promptly stitched up after the baby has been delivered. NOTE: It is accepted practice for the father not to ask the doctor to put an extra stitch in.
Crowning – The baby’s head is beginning to come out. When you hear the phrase “The baby is crowning”, that is your cue to stop fiddling with the camera settings and get down there to greet the new arrival!!!