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An Expectant Dad's Guide to Pregnancy

You got her pregnant, but are you ready for the nine month roller coaster? Consider this your expectant father’s survival guide.

The Grand Finale continued...

Because there are so many different ways for labor and delivery to play out, it's difficult to describe a typical experience for a father-to-be in much detail. Saying that any part of it will go one way or another involves a bunch of assumptions that may not be true for everyone.

Nevertheless, it's fair to assume that you'll deliver in a hospital, which is where 99% of all births in the United States occur. That means there will be doctors and nurses around, with medical support available as needed. If you plan on going to a certain hospital, you may benefit from visiting the maternity unit (what this is called differs from hospital to hospital) well in advance of the due date to get a real sense of what the place is like. Anticipate spending at least 48 hours there for the delivery.

There's no way you can predict it, but on average, for a woman having her first baby, labor lasts 12-24 hours from her first contractions to delivery. Your partner may be in the early phase of labor for many hours before the hospital will admit her. If at all possible, spend this time together and help to keep her feeling at ease. When it's time, proceed calmly to the hospital.

As labor progresses, it gets increasingly painful. Even with pain control measures, it hurts a lot. To you, it might seem like not much is happening as the hours pass. Stay focused on her. "Getting ice chips, cold cloths, foot rubs, back rubs -- suck it up, guys, it's only for a while," Woods says. "She is experiencing pain like we can't imagine."

In the worst throes of labor, she might tell you to get the bleep out of there. "Don't walk out," says Boulanger. "Be there from beginning to end."

The birth of your child is a big event that will change your life. But no matter how deeply you care, and regardless of how supportive you are, labor and delivery is not your show. Your name is in small type at the bottom of the show bill. Even mom is in a supporting role because, really, the baby is the star.

Reviewed on February 05, 2009

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