Advice for dads-to-be: Don't do a Robbie in the delivery room
Robbie Williams may have entertained his wife during her labour, but not every mum-to-be would have enjoyed his antics. Mother-of-three Heidi Scrimgeour offers 10 tips for delivery-room dads
Robbie Williams' unconventional delivery-room behaviour during wife Ayda Field's labour seems to have reset the bar on the role of fathers during childbirth.
While Ayda was in labour with the couple's second child, Robbie filmed a series of quirky, comical videos in the delivery room and shared them with the world via YouTube. Not everyone approved, but I particularly liked the pic he took of Ayda's glitzy stiletto-clad foot, and the video of him singing 'Let It Go' from the Disney film Frozen while Ayda breathed through a contraction, prompting her to say 'Babe, stop singing'.
The couple posted a final video together announcing the arrival of their little boy, thanking their fans for 'sharing the journey' with them, and assuring critics that 'no mothers were harmed' in the making of their delivery room videos. But entertaining as his antics were, I don't recommend singing Disney songs or photographing a labouring woman's footwear, so here are 10 tips for delivery-room dads:
Don't underestimate your role
In the wake of Robbie's delivery-room video footage there's been lots of focus on the fact that dads should fade into the background in the delivery room and ensure that mother and child remain the centre of attention. But I know many mothers - myself included - who credit their partners with being the very reason why their birth experiences were overwhelmingly positive. Dads have a huge part to play - my husband's calm demeanour and unwavering support and encouragement made all the difference to how I coped, so don't assume you're not a main player in the proceedings. We got as far as the delivery room with your help; now's the time to help get us through the delivery.
It can be alarming to watch the woman you love experiencing mind-bending pain, but it's not as bad as it looks. Well, OK, it totally is but if you go to pieces about it we'll probably freak out too. Don't dwell on the pain but rather focus on how well we're coping. Even if we're not. It helps, honestly.
Don't go to sleep
If you're accompanying your partner to the delivery room for the birth of your child you'll probably have gathered that there are times when a woman doesn't appreciate the sound of your snoring. This is one of them.
Do your preparation
Birth partners are usually called upon to make critical decisions if things don't go according to the birth plan, so make sure you understand the options for pain relief and other possible procedures, and know your partner's preferences. You haven't really known crippling indecision until you find yourself responsible for a woman screaming for an epidural who has previously opined about her preference for natural birth without pain relief. To avoid being in that position, agree in advance what you'll do if the mother-to-be diverts from the birth plan. And how to tell whether or not she really means it.
Remember the car seat
It's an urban myth that midwives won't let you leave hospital with baby unless you have an appropriate infant car seat in your vehicle. I've no idea whether there's any truth in that, but now is not the time to find out.
Know your place
I'm referring to the fact that all birthing partners have a decision to make about where they'll be positioned during the grand finale of a birth experience. Many couples feel squeamish about the prospect of the baby's father being at the 'business' end during delivery. But I have it on good authority from a father-of-three that to shy away from where the action is in a bid to preserve marital dignity is to risk missing out on one of life's most profound and moving experiences. Apparently everything else pales into insignificance in the light of that.
Use social media carefully
Ayda Field apparently had no objection to Robbie's prolific use of social media during the arrival of their second child, but not all expectant mums will appreciate being filmed or photographed during labour. Your Facebook followers might enjoy all the juicy details - gas and air can bring out a woman's inner stand-up comic, so I'm told - but giving birth is quite like the movie Fight Club in many ways. What happens in the delivery room stays in the delivery room.
Robbie Williams got a hard rap for making himself the centre of attention during Ayda's labour, but he was clearly just being himself. Since you're the father of someone's child there's a good chance that someone thinks pretty highly of you. So just be you. It's who she chose, after all.
It's natural to feel a bit intimidated by midwives and medical staff, especially if there are complications, but they're not just there for the benefit of the labouring woman. So don't be afraid to ask questions about various procedures, what you can expect, and how you can be most helpful.
Trust your instincts
A father's instinct is every bit as powerful and important as a mother's, in my book, and the delivery room is a great place to put them to use. We'll soon tell you if stroking our back like that makes us want to kill you. . .