There’s nothing quite like the reality of hitting the third trimester and how REAL your approaching due date is. Of course the reality of birth (and maybe some anxiety and worry) has likely been looming somewhere in your mind, but something about the third trimester moves it to the front. With that worry and “realness” comes, “Well, what can I do about this?” and “How can I really make sure we’re prepared for birth?”

The typical plan? Take a birth class, and hit up Google.

Here’s the thing…don’t make the mistake I did.

You see, I took a childbirth class at our local hospital with my husband. And yes, we both had some takeaways when it was done. But in reality, we were both exhausted during the class, and he didn’t even make it to one of the four classes. It only focused on the progression of events and it was boring to boot!

The result: my husband felt pretty clueless when it came to supporting me during my ~24 hour labor.

The one thing he remembered from our class? That he should remind me to take sips of water and give me chapstick. So you better believe my lips didn’t get dry. ;-)

But in all seriousness. If only I had known about the Supporting Her class when we were preparing for my first birth. It would have taken so much guesswork out of the equation for my husband, and I would have been more at ease and better supported.

5 Ways My Husband Could Have Been Better Prepared for Labor and Delivery

1. Knowing what to say

I wouldn’t say emotional support and cheerleading is a strength of my husband’s. During birth, he definitely understood that he needed to be encouraging me, but truly didn’t know what else to say except, “You’re doing a great job.”

I’m pretty sure he even said some of the things you definitely shouldn’t say in labor, like, “I feel so bad. I wish there was something I could do.” He didn’t mean to be insensitive, and I truly believed he wished he could do something, but saying it just made me angry and irritated.

The point? Being taught exactly what to say, and what not to say, would have totally benefited my husband, and by proxy, me!

Specific affirmations, brainstorming tricks and advice on this topic, like the Supporting Her class includes, would have been golden.

2. Really understanding the marathon that is birth

I mentioned above that my husband and I did take an in-person childbirth class. We learned about the stages of labor and the instructor wrote the expected lengths of each stage on the whiteboard. But being given that information, in that format, just really didn’t stick for my husband (or myself, either, to be honest). He was definitely NOT ready for the marathon of birth and had trouble keeping up.

What could have made the difference? Talking to, or hearing from more real dads that have been through it!

My partner is a total connector, and video-learning kind of guy. Hearing other dads tell birth stories and give advice from their perspectives would have driven home the reality so much better.

3. How to provide indirect support

Aside from not knowing what to say in our labor and delivery room, my husband felt pretty awkward and was unsure of his role. I wish he’d have known what a huge indirect support he could have been by simply being more assertive with the nurses, asking questions I was thinking of, and more.

I love that Supporting Her gives really great advice on how dad can be super helpful in the hospital and take care of the things the birthing mama can’t.

4. Packed a better bag for himself

After our baby was born, my husband filled me in on a detail of our birth story I find most hilarious, as it is a part I wasn’t there for.

We arrived at the hospital around 3am. We rushed in to get checked in and settled, and then my husband went back out to move the car and get our bags.

I guess reality was setting in that he was going to need to be up and trying to support me, so he rushed to the nearest vending machine to get some sugar and caffeine, stat. Cut to him, standing in front the hospital’s new “healthy” vending machines with not a candy bar or Coca-Cola in sight.

The lesson? My husband should have taken packing his own hospital bag a lot more seriously! He threw together the essentials, but next time around, I know he’ll be packing a variety of snacks and caffeine options so that he can stay alert for the marathon of birth.

5. Understood what his role was going to be after birth

Getting through birth is no joke. But understanding his role after birth and what the first few days and weeks looked like really took my husband by surprise. He (and I) didn’t realize just how much time was spent breastfeeding a newborn. In reality, I think we both could have benefitted from an online breastfeeding class in addition to other birth preparations.

He felt there was so little he could do for our newborn because I was feeding her all the time. He also didn’t realize how much supporting me during this time was how he was providing for our new baby.

Learning specifics and being able to envision what his role would be after birth would have prepared him better. Knowing the signs to look out for in terms of my mental health, learning how to provide breastfeeding support, and his role around the house would have made the difference.

Learn from us, don’t skip preparing the dad-to-be.

Why is it that all of the preparations surrounding birth focus solely on the mama? During one of the biggest events of your life, you want to approach the event knowing that your partner is feeling confident, prepared and READY to handle anything birth throws your way.

Don’t leave it to chance. Enroll in Supporting Her. Prepare your teammate and know that he’ll be completely ready to support you.

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Alli is a wife, mom, online teacher and writer. You can read more of her writing for expecting and new mamas over at Mom Smart Not Hard.