The Dish On Dads

A labor nurse's take on 8 species of fathers-to-be.


Labor nurses like me love dads-to-be who do whatever it takes to make the new mom and baby the stars of the day. Fortunately, that's most of you men out there. Once in a while, though, someone steals the spotlight with his less-than-stellar behavior.

It's not the fainters who bug us; we kind of like them for their endearing sensitivity. It's the stinkers (those who exhibit foul behavior as well as poor personal hygiene) and the whiners who get us down.

Here's the lowdown on some awesome dudes, a few duds and a couple of dads who can go either way in our book, depending on how nice they are to us!

Dads We Love

Doula Dad rubs mom's back while coaching five kinds of breathing techniques. He anticipates needs, soothes, and--our favorite--cries when his baby is born. Doula Dad actually reads the books and magazines and has the lingo nailed. He knows his epidurals from his epidermis and is savvy about what to expect when you're expecting. He's concerned but never rigid. He asks questions, takes suggestions and translates mom's needs without being presumptive. He'd never say "our labor," and recognizes that his role is all about support. He's a team player. If the game plan changes midplay, he's open.

Bite-the-Bullet Bob can't stand his wife's pain or the sight of blood, but he's determined to be there for her, even if he barfs or faints. His willingness to take it for the team is endearing. He avoids watching the delivery from ground zero, won't cut the cord and winces until the goo is gone, but he's right there, baby. Even if he can't stay conscious when the needles come out, he has the good sense to have lined up ancillary support: her sister, mother or a doula.

Doughnut Dad pampers the nursing staff with a daily dozen of Krispy Kremes. (Note: We're also fond of Chocolate Dad, Coffee Dad and Pizza Dad.)

Dads We Can Do Without

Dictator Dad thinks he's in charge of the whole show. He's Father Knows Best turned bossy, defensive and, sometimes, threatening. Dictator Dad bullies the staff, questioning their motives, techniques and expertise. He insists on "natural" childbirth when mom's begging for an epidural, or demands an epidural when she's not even in real labor yet. We understand he's actually worried and scared, but the labor room is no place for control freaks.

Couch Potato Carl sleeps, watches TV and crams the room with high school buddies. His best friend, Party Dad, "celebrates" way too early, and his cousin, Smoker Dad, disappears frequently for "fresh air." He's oblivious to mom's needs and won't forfeit the couch to anyone who's actually providing labor support. If he glances up from his Game Boy, we're shocked. Why is he there? To fulfill the minimum requirements of fatherhood (besides sperm donation) and brag that he was in the delivery room?

Pedantic Pete, aka Teacher Dad, wants to share with us everything he learned at his one and only prenatal class. Um, we do this every day.

Dads We're Iffy About

Father Nature massages mom's back when she gets in the Jacuzzi--excellent. But getting naked and hopping in with her--not. Neither is climbing in the bed with her to "stimulate" things (yes, we've seen that happen). We don't care how many body parts mom shows, but please keep yours covered. Even though a lot of hospitals have homelike labor suites, observe some decorum: We nurses are working here.

Techno-Dad juggles cameras (still and video), laptop and cellphone to secure himself a bit of insulation from the actual birth. The line between techno-geek and labor-geek is thin, though. Go ahead-e-mail that first photo, but keep in mind that experiencing birth firsthand is once in a lifetime.