Preparing for the birth of a baby requires advanced strategic planning and meticulous preparation. It’s made harder because, for many of us, our experience of the Labour Ward and delivery rooms is entirely alien. Sensible parents-to-be are able to book a tour of the Labour Ward before the big day. Note, I was not one of the sensible ones!

There’s a long list of items you and your partner will need for your stay in hospital. My wife packed everything for the birth of our son and I honestly couldn’t tell you what was in the bags, except it felt like we were going on a week’s holiday.

I believe there were a few essential tech items that made our birth experience go more smoothly.

Here’s a quick run-down:

Smart phone.

Let’s start with the obvious one. Everyone has a smart phone these days. This essential bit of kit can transform the birth experience. But first thing’s first, you don’t want to be using it to call anyone. In fact, turn the phone function off. The birth process is something that both of you need to focus on completely. Shut out the outside world and don’t think of anyone outside the walls of the delivery room. So what do you use it for? Photos mostly. And entertainment.

Tablet.

It’s good to have a tablet to hand. I didn’t use ours much, but when labour slowed down or got painful it was useful to put on BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon, etc. We also compiled a playlist of songs for the birth using Spotify. Streaming music is a great invention and you can download playlists to your device. Not got an account with Spotify, Amazon, or Deezer? You can sign up for a month free trial and, if you time it around the due date, you can easily get your month’s worth of music and then cancel your plan.

Bluetooth speaker.

These are fantastic inventions that have become much more affordable. For the birth of our first baby in 2012 all I brought along with me was an old digital radio tuned to Smooth Radio. And then the batteries ran out half way through the birth! A Bluetooth speaker, like a UE Boom or the JBL Flip 3 (which I bought) can play up to 15 hours of music. I had mine linked up to Spotify on the iPad. The sound is pretty impressive with good bass. There were moments during our son’s birth that we brought out the hard house music to get us through. Invest in one of these speakers if you can!

Noise-cancelling headphones.

Alternatively, your partner might like to shut everything out. The delivery room can be a pretty overwhelming space, with midwives coming in and out, and monitors beeping. You can shut all this out with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Basic models give you a good seal around your ears. More expensive options actively block out outside stimuli using some sort of advanced technology or magic spell. Find out more on Trusted Reviews.

LED candles and diffuser.

The delivery room can be a cold and unfamiliar place. A dad-to-be’s job is to make it as relaxing as possible. You can cover up the medical equipment, cover up the clock (because who wants to count the minutes?) and light some candles, right? No hospital would be happy with a room full of real candles and naked flames, but there are better alternatives. Why not take along some LED candles. Some even have an accompanying scent. Or take along a portable electronic diffuser for those soothing scents of lavender.

VR goggles.

Ok, so we didn’t use these and I’m not sure if anyone ever has! But VR goggles fit over your eyes and hold a phone that displays virtual environments on apps such as Google Cardboard. Let’s say your partner doubled these up with the noise cancelling headphones, she could be transported to a faraway island or the top of a mountain. Whatever helps to calm her. Because ultimately a calm state of mind releases the hormone oxytocin which helps with the birth process. Stress creates adrenaline which slows things down. So, as silly as this idea might be, perhaps someone should try it sometime!

 

If you’re taking tech along to the delivery room you better be sure it works. You’ve only got one shot at this and you won’t be able to pop home to get something you’ve forgotten. Two final considerations:

Power.

Most hospitals are officially against charging your own equipment in their power sockets. There may not even be any suitable sockets around. So it’s important to charge all your devices fully. Take along a portable charger if you can. You never know how long you’re going to be there.

Internet access.

Most hospitals will have a good wifi network. Look into this before you go, especially if you’re planning on streaming music. If the wifi access is poor make sure you’ve downloaded any music onto your devices. Or if you have 4G you’re winning.

Let me know your thoughts, what are you planning on taking? What did you take? What worked and what didn’t?

 

In the final few weeks of pregnancy women can either bask in the continuing glow and enjoyment of nourishing a new life or wish for any possible remedy to get their alien invader out of their bodies. Usually their feelings fluctuate between the two.

Dads have limited options but to sit and wait, being as supportive as possible, and listening for reports of any twinge, Braxton Hicks, or other signs that something is going to happen. It’s a long waiting game and doesn’t seem to be any clearer between the first, second or further pregnancies.

Discussions inevitably turn to how we can encourage the little one to make an appearance.

The internet and grannies seem to have all manner of suggestions about how to bring on labour when the time is right. I have no idea if any of them work. I’ve certainly tried some of these but I can’t point to any one thing that brought on the birth of our first daughter. And I don’t know if anything is working for the current baby we’re waiting for.

Walking

While it might seem counter to all feelings of pain and aching in the body, walking around may actually help to prepare the body for labour. If the baby if sitting in an awkward position, then walking may help to turn it the right way and get its head down in preparation for short journey down the birth canal.

Dad tip: Go for long walks with your partner but plan a route that has the possibility of frequent toilet stops. It’s not good to let your pregnant partner squat at the side of the road!

Curry

A hot and spicy food, typically a Vindaloo or Madras curry if feeling brave, may help to bring on labour. I’ve heard many different reasons why. Basically it seems that by throwing your intestines a curve ball with the extra spice, it may irritate them enough to spasm and cause the uterus to cramp. I used to wonder how cultures with lots of spicy food didn’t have babies early. I suppose if women’s bodies are used to hot food, it’s less likely to have an effect.

Dad tip: Don’t give spicy food to your partner if she never usually has it. And don’t give too much. The body usually evacuates its bowels as it prepares for labour, but this process is made less pleasant (especially in the birth room) if a lady has a upset tummy, i.e. the s**ts.

Sex

If you look at the medical induction of labour, most of the techniques mimic the act of sex. A pessary is given to mimic the effect of sperm, which contains prostaglandins which prepares and softens the cervix. Medical staff may also do a “sweep” of the cervix to try to loosen the “plug”. Again, this mimics the act of sex. And finally women may be given an oxytocin drip encourages hormones usually associated with making love.

Dad tip: This isn’t a sex blog and I’m not going to offer any tips here. If your partner’s pregnant I’m sure you know what to do. You can either do it yourself or let the hospital do it. It’s probably worth a try.

Other suggestions include acupuncture, acupressure, raspberry leaf tea, and hypnobirthing.

Ultimately it’s all about focusing on being calm.

All mammals instinctively want to give birth in a quiet and calm place. So the ultimate dad tip is to try and make the final few days as soothing and simple as possible as your partners prepares to do this amazing thing.

“I’ve never found anyone who didn’t want to help me if I asked them” – Steve Jobs.

As children we are taught to be polite, to always say please and thank you, and to wait patiently for our turn. It’s the oil that lubricates the wheels of our society. We simply cannot function as a group if everyone acts only for themselves. As parents, we try to instil those same fundamental values of decency in our children.

The best way we can teach our children common manners is to embody them ourselves.

Kids watch everything we do and soak it up like a sponge. The other day I found myself in the unusual situation of being in my daughter’s nursery without her. It was parents evening. An opportunity to catch up for ten minutes with the teachers on her progress. I’d missed the first one last term and was looking forward to learning about another side to my daughter when I wasn’t around. This time we organised a friend to sit with our daughter in the car outside while we went in.

On arrival we waited patiently in the main area. Unfortunately, due to an error another couple were sent in ahead of us. And then the couple due after us turned up, but they were late for another meeting and somehow managed to get in ahead of us, leaving us to speak to the teaching assistant instead. We came away late feeling like we’d wasted our time.

I was cross with everyone that evening. Most of all I was cross with myself for not being assertive enough in getting what I wanted. Especially as it affected my daughter who had to wait outside in the car for nearly an hour.

The thing I realised is that I can’t control everyone else’s behaviour but I can control mine.

The big thing that I should have done differently is be more assertive. I needed to make sure the staff knew we’d arrived and highlighted that it was our turn for our appointment. Instead, I acted too politely putting other people’s needs above mine.

Parents are responsible for educating children in their image. They will learn the example that we set them. I wonder if some of us are too deferential to others that we don’t get what we want, and that we might pass that on to our children.

The most important thing we can do to be happy and get the best for our children is to be assertive, to ask for what we want with purpose and clarity.

Too many of us, especially in reserved English society, are concerned with making others happy and taking a step back. We are often taught this from an early age and are passing this attitude on to our children. The problem is we will always be at the back of the queue. Some of us are the opposite and go after what they want even if it means stepping over others. This is just as bad. It’s a fine line between assertiveness and arrogance.

All parents should learn about and practise the art of assertiveness. We should teach ourselves to have self-value and clarity of what we want. And then we should ask for those things. If people ask for what they want they are much more likely to be fulfilled. Take a look at this short video interview of Steve Jobs who talks about how he asked the Chairman of Hewlett Packard for help when he was a kid, which then got him into computers.

Sadly, there are too few of us who act with true assertiveness. This results in frustration, lack of fulfilment, and confusion from other people who can’t read our minds and don’t understand what we want. Thankfully there are a number of resources we can go to as well as courses online.

As a father of a daughter I feel this even more keenly. I know that women are traditionally more self-deprecating that men. Women don’t always speak up. They either won’t, or they can’t, or they just don’t, but we’re living in a world that raises women to feel like they don’t deserve everything they want. That has to change.

So every day I try to be more assertive, for my daughter’s sake, to get what I want. I will make sure that I am at the front of the queue when I know I deserve to be. I will ask for what I want confidently and treat others with respect.  

Assertiveness is not about trying to overcome shyness, rather it’s about learning how to be ourselves around others. And I can’t think of a better gift we can give to our children.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer and You…”

          Dr Seuss

I’ve been part of the parent blogging scene for a few months now. What I like about it is the sense of community and how helpful people are. What turns me off is when I see people who are obviously acting fake. Which leads me to the one realisation that I’ve had taking up the reins of blogging.

You can’t pretend to be anyone other than you.

It’s still taking time to find my blogging style. Do I share intimate details about my family life and pictures of my children? Do I focus on writing reviews of great products? Should I focus solely on contributing to other blogs rather than build up my own profile, as are already so many other fantastic bloggers out there?

The main reason of starting a blog was to help focus my mind on writing a book, but that book hasn’t yet come together! Instead I found so many fantastic resources amongst this parent blogging community. I started reading and writing my own material.

So what attracts me to blogs that I like? I really like to read from people who are honest about their struggles and tell us about how difficult it can be as a parent. I also like to be entertained and to read humorous reviews and updates on Twitter and YouTube. I like serious writers and I like cheeky chaps who just do it for a bit of fun.

As a consumer of a lot of parent blog posts I’ve noticed the one trait that attracts me most is authenticity.

If someone is authentic I feel a connection with them and want to read even more of their material. If someone is helpful and engages with me in a meaningful way, writing about things that matter in my day-to-day life, then I am interested. It surprises me how easily I am able to spot bullshit in blogs. I can tell who is writing purely to promote themselves as fast as possible. I can see the person who follows hundreds of people and then and then unfollows them just to boost their social media standing. I can even tell the obviously staged photographs of parents with their families, exploiting them just for promotional purposes.

To be genuine and authentic means to be yourself.

When it comes to my own writing I can try to put on a particular persona and I can try to cultivate brand-savvy images on Instagram. But at the end of the day it just doesn’t feel right and I’m sure it doesn’t work.

I’m not quite there yet with my writing style, but I know what I like to write about and I like connecting with people. I’m not entirely comfortable with sharing loads of pictures of myself or my daughter, and I can’t live up to the pressure of trying to be funny all the time. Some people do this tremendously well. I am not one of them. There are a few people out there who are versatile and can be funny, serious, entertaining and informative while also being genuine and authentic. I’m not one of them yet, so I’m going to focus on what I enjoy and see how things go.

Sometimes I can be funny and sometimes informative, but I know that everything I write is usually a true reflection of me as a person. I believe this is the main way that bloggers can connect with people. It is the one trait that all truly successful parent bloggers possess. My advice to you (and me) is to keep your head in the real world. Don’t try to be someone you are not. You will get found out.

The best way to be successful is to be you.

 

Sometimes it feels like there is so much going on in the world and we cannot do anything to keep up. Sometimes things seem to overwhelm us and there is no opportunity to do those things we most enjoy, most of all being with our children. We’ve all been there. The dreaded week from hell.

The reality is that it’s unlikely we face severe stresses all of the time, but we do at least experience these things some of the time.

It’s not healthy if you’re in a constant state of stress; you will get completely run down and eventually won’t be able to function. But every now and then the majority of us feel like we’re having a week from hell, or everything’s coming at once. It’s particularly difficult as a parent, especially millennials, as we can’t just take time out like in our pre-children days.

When times are tough but you’ve just got to keep going on, perhaps these six small tips will help.

Draw a line and say no to everything else

The first thing to do is draw a line in the sand. Just stop. However important new tasks or requests may seem, say no to them. If you’ve recognised that things are tough there’s no point for you (or others) to take on even more at this stage. Once you stop you can take stock.

Write absolutely everything down.

The best budgeting advice tells us to have a clear idea of our outgoing expenses. This should be the same in our personal lives. When it comes to commitments, we should write down everything we have done over the past two weeks. Find out how you got to this position. What exactly has been sapping your emotional and physical energy? It is only then that we build a true picture of what we need to do.

Capture every to-do.

There may seem like a tonne of things to do and it’s all overwhelming. Having lots of stuff to get done is one thing, and there may not be much we can do about it, but we can try to help our brains to cope by making it as easy as possible to sort information. Therefore, write everything that needs to be done on a piece of paper, or your computer, or your phone. You will only get a true sense of the tasks ahead of you if you can see them plainly. Trying to hold all this information in our minds just sets us up for failure. The stress of trying to hold on to all that information can overwhelm us more than the tasks themselves. Every task, no matter how big or small, should be scheduled to allow an opportunity for its completion.

Schedule everything on a calendar.

When it comes to actioning all your tasks there’s no better place than to schedule them on your calendar. We’re used to scheduling events, so why not actions? They’re events in themselves anyway. If an action is on the calendar then it will get done. For example, if you need to pick up dry cleaning, why just have that on a to-do list when it can go on the calendar for a specific time. You then have the powerful influence of a deadline to motivate you to complete that action. The human mind will always respond to a deadline!

Delegate willingly.

Don’t think you can do it all by yourself. It may seem like you’re the only person who can do something, but there are family and friends who may be better suited to the task. Think like a CEO and try to appoint people to specific roles. E.g. can your dad/father-in-law take on a DIY job to help relieve the pressure on you? Once you’ve successfully delegated some of your time-hungry tasks to the right people, then get out of their way and let them own the task. Doing this will take the pressure off you and help you realise there are people in your life who are able and willing to help.

Switch off/carve out moments of quiet.

Sometimes the shit hits the fan and everything comes at once. We may feel overwhelmed by what’s in front of us and things may seem like they will never get done. A constant state of heightened stress isn’t good for us and eventually our bodies will stop functioning, the fight or flight instinct will kick in and our minds will focus on protecting us. A little bit of stress every now and then is a good motivator. But it’s important to listen to our bodies. Amid all of the mayhem, make sure you schedule some quiet time for yourself. Be that reading a book, watching a movie, going for a run, or just a walk. Don’t feel guilty about taking some time out. And when you do it, know that there are others around who are keeping things going. A President or Prime Minister cannot be always on the go; they take regular holidays to recharge and so should you!

Stress and anxiety is part of life. We all experience it and it’s completely natural. Little techniques like the above can help us to manage these things.

They are increasingly important in a world where we are always “on” and the demands of modern millennial parenting keep getting bigger.