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Friday, November 11, 2011

Tips for Surviving Childbirth

These are a few notes that I hope are helpful for those dads-to-be who plan to be involved with the childbirth process. There are plenty of resources focused on moms-to-be, and to be honest, moms have the much tougher job, but there are a few things that dads can do, mostly because they'll actually not be exhausted from 24 hours of labor (plus possibly a c section).

The biggest tip I got and was very grateful for was to stay flexible. Yes, you can write up a birth plan. Yes, you can say "I support breast feeding and my wife is into it 100%." But when your wife comes out of the delivery room pumped full of anesthetics and is too exhausted to breast feed, it is absolutely not a crime to feed baby from a bottle. You can generally tell the kid's hungry if you're holding him and he's arcing his neck and head going for your breasts. That's a pretty good sign of desperation and hunger, especially if he just came off from mom's breasts, for instance. (Incidentally, one dad told me he got a bottle of formula into the baby while mom was sleeping just so that everyone could sleep)

The second tip I have is to make sure you have a camera handy. That means that if you're toting a super-duper SLR, make sure you also have a point and shoot. Here's why: if there's an emergency c section, and you have to put scrubs on, then that SLR probably isn't going into the operating room with you, but the point and shoot can and should. That means that all your batteries should also be charged prior to the big day.

Keep an eye on both the health of the baby and mom! Baby needs to be watched for signs of hydration. One of XiaoQin's friends left the hospital with a dehydrated child because she listened to the "breast-only" nazis and they told her that baby doesn't need that much food for the first few days. Well, the problem is that if you don't feed baby anything, he's not getting food or water. In my case, XiaoQin complained of an itching feeling near her c section wound. When a nurse and doctor checked her, it turned out to be an infection that required a couple of weeks of pretty strong anti-biotics, and regular draining and cleansing. Yes, it was gross.

Expect to be the person changing diapers for at least the first 24 hours. Mom will be out of it (and if she has any energy it should be spent resting/sleeping, breast feeding and feeding herself). Track all activities like pooping, feeding, urine, etc. That'll be very useful for giving you an idea of what's normal and what's not in the future. Pummel visiting doctors with questions, and feel free to ask for help with all basic issues like breast feeding, swaddling, etc. Most folks at the hospital have done everything tons of times, and now's your chance to learn all the little time saving tips.

If you can, have other people come in and help. We had 3 grandparents visiting and 2 helping. This let me run out to get food, catch up with sleep, and other things. If you don't have other family around, pay someone to take care of mom and baby for at least 4 hours every day so you have time to sleep and eat.

Finally, don't panic. Everyone keeps telling you how much work the initial experience is. It's a lot of work, but it's not worse than digging trenches in the army.

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