What REALLY Happens in the Delivery Room

She Sounds Like She’s Possessed!

One of the biggest shocks for men can be the moans, groans, and full-throttle screams that emerge from their oncereserved wives. “The dads can get really anxious,” says Lane, “and think we need to do something about it.” Lane recently told one such husband, “Think about how much noise you’d make if you had to push a piano across a room by yourself.” He got it and calmed down, which helped his wife relax.

Where Is the Love?

We all know the fantasy: a drug-free, minimally painful labor followed by blissful nursing and bonding. But Mother Nature often has another scenario in mind. Sometimes complications in the mother or baby’s condition require that they be cared for separately. And sometimes the mother is just too exhausted to bond. “I tell couples that they will automatically feel like protecting their baby and taking care of it,” says Hanrahan. “But falling in love is not instant—it’s a process.” Lane adds, “That first hour of bonding is just icing on the cake. It’s nice if it happens, but it’s fine if it doesn’t—you’ll be bonding with your child for years to come.”

On the other hand, some women fear that they’ll have trouble bonding; for them the surprise can be how powerful their new love is. Claire Glidden, for instance, had her first child at 37 and worried during pregnancy that she might not cope well with the lifestyle change. “All that was so irrelevant after Fordie was born,” she says. “I was surprised at how truly elated I was.”

The Baby Blues?

The tremendous rush of hormones accompanying labor and delivery can trigger intense sadness that may take a usually upbeat woman by surprise. “It’s called the baby blues, and it’s quite normal,” says Pearson. “Besides the hormones, you suddenly have a squalling tyrant running your life.” The blues typically fade in a few days, when hormones settle down. Persisting sadness can signify postpartum depression, which is much more serious. Sometimes mothers deny they are experiencing it, and “it gets dangerous if it’s not tended to,” says Pearson. “We alert fathers to watch for it, and we watch for it, too.”

Expect a Surprise

Some deliveries are textbook classics—no complications, manageable pain, immediate nursing. But every one is different, and surprises are the norm. “My goal in delivery is not to minimize surprises, but to normalize them,” says Lane. “We can’t prepare for every eventuality, so what’s important is to reassure the mother and father that whatever is happening is normal.”

After 30 years of delivering babies, Pearson feels that the best way you can normalize surprises is to develop a close relationship with your childbirth educator and obstetrician, doula, or midwife. “If you don’t connect with one, get another,” he says. “We’re professionals. We know we can’t be everything to everybody.”

Colleen Dunn Bates is a writer and mother of two in Pasadena, California.