Dads don't always say and do the right things—especially when their partner is in the delivery room, about to give birth. So if you’re expecting, do you both a favor: Forward them this delivery room etiquette crib-sheet, then discuss. (Dads don’t have to agree with the rules. They just need to accept them.) It’s chock full of frank advice from moms who’ve endured, while in labor, all sorts of indignities and their partner’s clueless bungles—including bad jokes, snoring and whining. The take home? By talking about what you expect from your partner on the big day well before the big day, you’ll be able to save yourself from a lot of exasperation—and focus all your energy on giving birth to baby.
1. Try Not to Totally Fall Asleep
My husband took a NAP...and to make matters worse, SNORED!!!!! —annam829
Yes, labor is an incredibly intense experience for both partners, and yes, it’s exhausting. But no, you cannot go into deep-snooze mode. If your partner isn’t sleeping, neither are you. That’s just the way it goes. You stayed up 48 hours straight in college, right? You can do it again now.
2. Hold All Calls
He was taking calls from work while I was pushing!!! —goillini823
If your partner is deep into labor, turn that ringer right off. Your boss, colleagues and friends will understand. If your partner agrees, send out a general update or two to the fam, but keep it to a minimum. Besides the hospital staff, the only person you should be listening to is your partner.
3. Quit the Whining
During pushing, he put my leg down and stretched, saying his arms were getting sore. Are you kidding me?! —Soter1
“He said I hurt his hand in the recovery room—I almost killed him for saying that.”—brandonswife07
This is one time where your lady has every right to claim all the pity. Chances are she’s been dealing with crazy-painful contractions and perhaps even pushing for hours. Now is not the time to complain that your back hurts from standing by her side or that your pulled muscle from working out yesterday is acting up. Just don’t go there, guys. You can deal.
4. No Screen Time
Before I started pushing, he was watching basketball on the TV in the labor room. When we had to switch rooms mid-labor, he freaked out because our new room was missing a remote. I was not amused. —AmyCC1980
Unless the two of you are watching some agreed-upon program to pass the time together, you’re not allowed to rule the remote and get sucked into something that the mom-to-be doesn’t want to watch. We don’t care if it’s the playoffs or a CNN newsflash. Ditto re: the small screen on your phone. What to do instead? Focus on your partner, of course! Childbirth educators stress the importance of support and touch in labor—it can even help things progress more quickly and smoothly. Pull up a chair, hold her hand and keep your eyes her, not the screen.
5. Refrain From Bad Jokes
“When Valarie came out, she was way bigger than we thought she’d be. My husband, being the ever-so-funny one, said, ‘That’s a huge b*tch!’ It was a *Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo reference, but the nurses were shocked.” —olivejuice127*
“When my son started crowning, the nurse commented that he was going to be a cone head. On my next push, my husband belted out, ‘We come from France!’ I would’ve kicked him in the head if I could feel my legs.” —mamamoos
Save the bad jokes—or, to be safe, any jokes—or a more appropriate time. The hospital staff may not share your sense of humor (and you don’t want them calling Child Protective Services on the first day). And even if your partner typically does appreciate your cracks, she may not appreciate it when she’s in excruciating pain. If what’s coming out of your mouth isn’t supportive, then zip it.
6. Watch Where You’re Going (and What You’re Doing)
“As [my husband] stepped around to get a front-row view, he [got] caught on my IV cord. He only ripped the tape from my arm, but a hush came over the room.”—Val&B0604
“As the doctor and nurse were prepping for the delivery by getting the tray of instruments ready, they accidentally knocked the bulb syringe on the floor. My husband, being a nice guy, picked it up and started to place it back on the sterile table. The nurse, doctor and even I hurriedly told him, ‘No, don’t put that back on there!’ Poor guy was clueless as to why we were yelling at him.”—ArmyQM
Don’t be that guy that gets in the way. Sure, the anxiety and anticipation can make you clumsy, shaky and stupid. Take deep breaths—the more you can control your nerves, the better off everyone will be. So, for the most part, keep unnecessary movements in that birthing room to a minimum.
7. Don’t Lose It
My husband turned white and the nurse had to stop helping me [so that she could] get him to a chair, and she took the oxygen off of me and gave it to him! —mel41g
“My husband was crying as I was going through pain. The doula kept bringing him tissues. I looked at him and said, ‘What are YOU crying for? I’m the one who’s in labor!’” —Sxia
“If your wife is getting a c-section and they tell you not to look over the blue curtain, don’t look over the blue curtain. I almost passed out.” —Frank (Bumpie maggs116’s husband)
Banish unpleasant surprises by signing up for a birthing class with your partner and keep your eyes open during the videos. Read up the stages of labor, what to expect during a c-section and get informed on the different types of medical equipment you might encounter. If you can seriously prepare, you’ll be far less likely to require smelling salts on the big day.
8. Keep Mum About Things You Find “Amazing”
“After the doctor placed her placenta in a bowl, in shock, I said to my wife: ‘It looked like you gave birth to your stomach.’” —Nick (husband of Bumpie NicknSteph)
“My husband kept telling me how much water was coming out of me. As he stared down there, he said: ‘I could fill up my Gatorade bottle with all that!’”—SarahTX5701
Your amazement of what your wife has just done can come across as a backhanded compliment, and she (as you may have noticed the last couple of months) is a bit sensitive right now. Also: Hold the “Eeeeeew!” when baby (who will be covered in fluids) comes out. Again, preparation can prevent these foot-in-mouth moments. The same no-jokes rule of thumb applies here: If it’s not helpful, then don’t say it.
9. Bring the Camera—and Know When to Use It
He left both cameras in the car. Our daughter’s first moments are recorded on his iPhone. —nark
Discuss paparazzi privileges with your partner in advance. Some women are cool with being photographed in labor, and others want only “after” pics. Either way, you’ll probably want to capture at least a good first family photo and fresh shots of your minutes-old baby. Obviously, selfies—with Dad all smiles and Mom laboring in pain in the background—are off-limits.
Updated December 2017
Plus, more from The Bump: