The midpoint of pregnancy is a weird place to be. On the one hand, you've just got over the news that you're not going to be a fun loving free spirit unencumbered by parenthood for the rest of your life. In fact, it's quite nice to bask in the congratulations from your mates; you've proved you've got what it takes.
On the other hand, there's an undercurrent of foreboding. This state isn't going to last for ever, and in about 4 months you can pretty much guarantee everything will be different. Now is not the time to stick your head under the bed clothes and go "nananana... not going to happen" with your fingers in your ears.
The biggest question is home or hospital birth. Or midwife led unit birth? Here's the first pitfall: midwives don't really exist in the good ol' USA- and most of the information on the net is very US based. You'll meet a lot of widwives whatever you decide to do, and in fact the NHS is really very good in its midwifery support.
The fact is that for a low risk pregnancy there is very little difference in successful outcomes between hospital, home and midwife unit births. So do what feels best. If you're going to feel reassured by white coats and machines that go ping, then go hospital. If you want to keep it natural or you have an entirely justifiable fear of hospitals, consider homebirth. If you're somewhere between the two, a midwife unit might be the place to go. Visit the local hospital and midwife unit and chat to the staff. They're used to placating crazy fathers to be.
You'll also notice that the UK has moved away from the medical on-the-back-feet-in-stirrups (aka lithotomy) postition you see on the telly. Having a baby is a bit like having a pooh (yup - get used to it), so there's much more emphasis on moving about, squatting, on all fours etc. Think sweaty morning after a dicey curry. There's also a big water birth movement (usually in more ways than one...). Water tends to relax the mother, make it all less uncomfortable and so make the whole process easier.
This is a good moment to talk about relatation. Like all mammals, your baby is extruded as the uterus (womb) contracts, and this is under the influence of a hormone called oxytocin. You'll also see it referred to as Syntocin (an artificial drug analogue), and the "love hormone", the latter usually on slightly groovy websites. And just like the rest of mammals, its release is inhibited by stress. So the more relaxed your loved one is, then the easier Daddy Jnr will progress into the world. Be careful of anyone who wants to "hurry things along". If mother and baby are fine, then it can take time to work properly. The pattern to avoid (but happens all too often) is:
- mother turns wide eyed to father and says "I think I've started"
- father turns a bit green, panics inwardly but says "not a problem darling", and with shaking hand drives mother to hospital
- in hospital, mother is examined, pronounced as being in early labour and sent back home
- mother and father sit at home, their stress levels slowly rising as they realise what is about to happen
- mother returns to hospital, but due to having sat at home next to panicking father is now stressed. She also starts to remember all the horror stories her so-called friends have been gleefully regaling her with. Fear kills oxytocin release stone dead. Labour as a result hasn't progressed
- to "speed things up a bit", the amniotic membrane containing the fluid that surrounds the baby is ruptured. Suddenly the pressure on the mother's cervix isn't from a soft bubble of warm fluid, it's a very definite pressure from the top of the baby's head. Ouch. More stress
- since mum is now in an alien environment and very definitely uncomfortable: more stress. Remember, more stress= less oxytocin. So a helpful member of staff rigs up an IV drip of the stuff
- uterus contracts hard, pushing a hard head onto a cervix that isn't ready. Really, very ouch.
- next step epidural. Mum loses all ability to coordinate contractions
- baby eventually extracted by one means of another
... and all could have been avoided by knowing your stuff, staying cool and letting nature take its course. Of course, if your pregnancy is higher risk, there may be some very definite recommendations you'd be daft to ignore.
So get on the net, and read up on home hire of water pools, hypnobirthing, NCT, 3rd stage management and midwives. There's loads to consider, so get cracking. Now.