People won't want to talk to you much these days. They want to talk to your missus and your role seems to be standing there, nodding along and smiling ruefully as you try to look like you're interested, involved and not like other men. People also say really stupid and sometimes hurtful things to pregnant women, especially where multiples are concerned. Smile and nod and move your lady on as quickly as possible before she cries.
She'll cry quite a lot and it's really not (usually) about you or something you've done. My husband went out of his way to make me tasty meals to tempt me out of my morning sickness hell, and was understandably tad miffed when I would burst into tears at the table. It wasn't about him; it was hormones and wanting beans on toast, rather than seared tuna on a bed of wilted spinach with a soy jus.
Be nice about how she looks, but always be honest. You are more valuable than a mirror for her as you can see all the angles. If something she's wearing is too short for goodness sakes TELL HER. She'll probably cry, but thank you later.
You need to educate yourself enough about this process to ensure that you're not having to ask her questions while she's in the throes of it all. This is a balance though - no woman in labour likes a know-it-all telling her she can't really be in that much pain as she's only 2cms and she's still got 8cms more to go. I've been there: trust me, it hurts.
Your main responsibilities will be:
- making sure you know the way to the hospital and whether certain entrances will be closed at night
- ensuring you have change for the car park if needed
- packing a bag for yourself, including a spare t-shirt, boxers and socks, ipod (or something quiet to do), phone and charger, camera and charger, a non-perishable picnic (she will get fed, you won't)
- keeping an eye on the time and updating the midwife when she asks (e.g. how far apart the contractions are, how long she's been biting on your lapel)
- entertaining and distracting your wife in the early stages
- fetching water
- getting a midwife when she screams at you to do so
- making sure if she wants to sit in the chair that you are not asleep in it
- keeping quiet if you stub your toe/trap your finger/pull a nose hair out. No one is interested in your pain
- disregarding insults thrown your way (or total lack of communication. I didn't even manage to make eye contact with my husband for 24 hours)
- maintaining a calm and composed exterior even if you feel like legging it
Make sure that you get some sleep as soon as you possibly can. You need to be on your game over the next few days and you can't do that if you've been up all night tweeting about your new baby. Time to be sensible. On the subject of social media - by all means post pictures of the baby, but check first before posting any that include its mum. The last thing she needs after giving birth is a bedraggled photo featuring her boob to go viral.
If you get any time at home before they are discharged get the house ready. Open boxes of nappies and wipes, take tags off babygros, get the heating/hot water on, have a general tidy up, put the moses basket in the living room. Make sure there is tea, coffee, milk and bread. If there aren't any ready meals in the freezer get some.
You will get loads of visitors in the first few days. Your job is gatekeeper and they first have to get past you. You may need to be firm with well-meaning family and friends who want to come over at an inconvenient time, or (my personal favourite) the ones who just won't go. Be strong and say no. Even to your own mother.
If your wife is breastfeeding this is the part where you can feel quite left out as it's pretty much a full-time job, but there's so much that you can do to help. Even something as simple as getting your wife something to eat or drink every time she feeds. Just a glass of water if that's all she wants (breastfeeding makes you really thirsty). This will ensure that she eats and drinks consistently throughout the day, which is absolutely essential for a decent milk supply. You can also put a DVD on for her to watch, get her mobile so she can chat with a friend, or just sit and have a cuddle with both (or all 3!) of them. If she is worried about feeding or finds it difficult it's your job to make sure she talks to someone (midwife, health visitor, breastfeeding expert, her mum).
Overall; don't worry and don't piss her off.