Delivery Room Style – What To Wear When Your Baby Is Being Born
Ok, I admit that title kind of sucks. I was trying to work out some sort of “labor” / “workwear” word play but it just sounded stupid. Anyway, this is an article about what you should wear at the hospital as your little peanut makes his or her way into the world.
Let’s get one thing clear from the start. What you’re wearing matters very little in the grand scheme of what’s actually happening. Your role in this whole process is support. You are there to make things easier on some level for the person (wife, girlfriend, partner) who is doing all the work. With that in mind, the suggestions I make all feed that singular purpose. “Function/Comfort” is the name of the game here.
Shoes – Your shoes need to be comfortable, as you may be on your feet for extended stretches of time. When my first son was born I was able to slide a stool up next to the bed while I held my wife’s hand when things really started happening. With my second son, there wasn’t an extra seat in the room so I had to stand. I surely was not going to bug the hospital staff for an extra chair at that point.
I also recommend your shoes be slip-on. You don’t know how long everything will take. You may need to lie down and rest for a bit if the labor is stretching through the night, but then be up and about at a moment’s notice. Case in point: With our first son, my wife developed a fever in the middle of the night while I was sleeping on the nearby couch (we had been at the hospital all day and all night at that point). She called out, the nurse was there, and I was at her side instantly as things got underway.
Lastly, and I know this might seem gross, but make sure your shoes are easily washable. There will be blood and it might get on you. So make sure you can rinse off your shoes if you need to.
The shoes I wore when both my sons were born was my well-worn pair of Sperry Gold Cup boat shoes that I bought for about $80 many years ago. Both my sons were summer babies and I get that boat shoes might not be totally practical if your kid is born in the dead of winter, but any comfortable, slip-on foot covering will do be they boots or even a rubber soled slipper. You could even wear the boat shoes in the winter if you pair them with some heavy socks.
Pants – Your pants need to be comfortable enough to sleep and move around in. Your stiff raw denim jeans might not be the best choice here. Also, some hospitals are quite cold so shorts aren’t a good bet either. Just a regular pair of jeans will serve you well. At one point I needed to sit on the cold floor outside the delivery room and wait while my wife got an epidural. I was happy I was wearing full-length pants.
Shirt – This is really the only time where my suggestion veers away from the core purpose of “Function/Comfort”. Yes, you need to be comfortable so that your entire focus can be on your partner’s needs. But remember that when that child is born there will be pictures taken. Those pictures will be splashed across social media and adorn your child’s nursery walls for years. Please wear something normal that doesn’t make you cringe every time you see those pictures.
For Son #1 I wore a casual light blue linen shirt. For Son #2 I had on a blue and black striped long sleeve t-shirt. All you want is something that will fade into the background of the picture so everyone looks at your little bundle of joy and not your stupid graphic t-shirt.
Layers – I cannot stress enough the importance of layers when you’re at the hospital. My body temperature tends to run hot but I was thanking my lucky stars that I had packed multiple layers when Son #2 was born.
In the backpack I brought to the hospital I had packed an extra zip-up fleece as well as a light rain jacket (one of those non-descript, black, athleisure zip jackets) since it had been threatening rain that day. The fleece was ostensibly for my wife. When we arrived we both needed to take Covid tests to ensure A: I could stay and B: My wife wouldn’t have to be quarantined from the baby for 2 weeks after birth. Talk about stress on top of stress. Then we waited around for a bit for the doctor to tell us it was likely a false alarm and that we will probably be going home. Then the doctor came back in and said nope, you’re having a baby tonight…let’s wheel you into the other room and get this party started (not verbatim). The emotional roller-coaster, on top of the fact that the room was very cold, and given that we hadn’t eaten anything (arrived at 6pm and it was now past 11pm) caused my body to start shaking uncontrollably. It was primarily an emotional response to all that was happening and it was totally unexpected. After all, this was baby #2. I had been in this situation before. It wasn’t new.
I offered my wife the fleece but she declined, as she was feeling warm since she was, you know, in labor. I pulled on the fleece AND the jacket (indoors, in the summer). Mercifully, the nurse snuck me some food from the cafeteria since I explained we hadn’t eaten and we were likely going to be there all night (she wasn’t permitted to give my wife anything). After a little while I warmed up and was able to shed the extra layers but I am incredibly thankful I had those pieces on hand to blunt my little emotional spasm. More than anything, I am glad I was able to handle my own anxious response without drawing attention to it and possibly stressing out my wife. I was better able to be there for her and not get distracted by my own discomfort. It might not have been so easy if I didn’t have the extra layers on hand.
Talking Points – This isn’t something to wear, obviously, but when I was talking to my wife about writing this article she said I should include it. Think of a handful of random topics (happy ones) to talk about to get her mind off things.
When my wife was having her contractions with both our sons, she found it helpful for me to talk to her. It didn’t have to be about anything specific. “Just talk”, she said. She just found it helpful to focus her mind on something other than the contractions themselves. Beyond the normal encouraging words (“You can do this”, “You’re doing a great job”, “Do you need anything”, etc) I talked about the pictures on the walls, something funny Son #1 did earlier that day, even my shoes. Yes, I am that much of a weirdo that I talked to my wife about my own shoes while she was in labor. But that spiel about my shoes morphed into me talking about our trip to Paris (I had worn the shoes on that trip) and how wonderful and magical it was.
Even though it seemed small at the time, she says it really helped. And it makes me glad I was able to do that for her.
What To Pack – As far as what to have on hand in your bag when you go to the hospital, all you really need, clothing-wise, is a simply change of clothes. Maybe some extra socks and underwear if you’re there longer than expected. We have found that the hospital staff was remarkably accommodating both times. You sometimes even get little goodie-bags with grippy socks and stuff. Bottom line is that as long as your partner is comfortable (and the hospital staff will ensure she is) then everything is fine.
Think of the whole experience like camping. For a couple days at most you have the clothes on your back and a handful of other essentials and that’s all you need. You aren’t going to get too worked up about it. You have bigger fish to fry anyway.