Rules of the Game

Childbirth is the ultimate team sport. Let's go through the lineup.

rules of the game article_0.jpg

The playing field might be a hut or a hospital. Training is encouraged but won’t guarantee better performance. The rules change fast. It’s usually a marathon, and you have to go the distance even if you’re exhausted. Childbirth is the ultimate team sport. Let’s go through the lineup so everyone is clear about his or her position.

Baby = captain First-round draft pick, quarterback, shortstop, point guard and trophy all rolled into one. Babies aren’t team players: They call the shots, appear only at the finish line and cry whether they win or lose.

Mom = star athlete She does all the work but gets half the glory when the game’s over. When her backfield’s in motion, she can’t control the game clock, drop back or send in a replacement. She might not even use her own playbook. But even if she’s a rookie, mom gets the trophy.

Dad = head cheerleader/sports broadcaster He’ll take anything for the team but was done being the ball handler nine months earlier. Labor is a blind pass, and all he can do is assist. If mom decides labor is a different sport than she expected, he can pull out his training techniques but shouldn’t play umpire; this is her game. Fans depend on him for play-by-play action, but tweeting, texting and video equipment can distract from the game. And hey, no crotch shots without permission.

Doctor or midwife = coach/wide receiver He or she will see mom and dad through training, help draft strategy and meet the new parents at the finish line.

Nurses = pit crew, referees, score keepers and snack vendors They assist with forward motion, keep the team safe and comfortable and document everything for sports history or in case the game is disputed. They’re team managers, not water boys, though they’re generous with concessions (especially if they’re treated nicely).

Rowdy fans = delivery room guests They should support their player from the sidelines and remember that these aren’t their glory days: They should never force their way onto the team or shove dad off-sides.

Playbooks = birth plans They’re strategies and wish lists, not contracts. Babies don’t read birth plans; they wing it. So stay open and be flexible. Second-time parents rarely write them because they know the ball is not in their court.