Guys in the Delivery Room

Guys in the Delivery Room

An excerpt from "The Guys Guide to the Delivery Room"

Not so long ago, the man’s place during child birth used to be in a smoke-filled waiting room holding a box of cigars awaiting the arrival of his child. Now the opposite is true. What brought about this change?

It seems books might have had a role to play in this transformation. In 1974, Dr. Robert Bradley wrote the book “Husband-Coached Childbirth,” in which he basically empowered men to take as crucial a role in the birthing process as their partner (albeit not physically, of course!). At the time, Bradley was both hailed as a champion for men's rights in the delivery room and criticized as someone who was trying to advocate controlling the woman. Despite, or perhaps because of the controversy, the book 'gave birth' to the 'Bradley method' and a series of classes, still running today, in the USA.

Putting husbands in the delivery room not only coincided with feminism but was intimately wrapped up with the natural childbirth movement and its effort to see the modern body in a more holistic fashion.

The change also could have been brought about with cultural developments. Back in the 50's and 60's, it was an unspoken rule that men just didn't go into the delivery room. In the 70's and 80's, men began questioning the medical status quo and took a more hands-on approach to child rearing and their right to be present during their child's birth.

The dissolution of the nuclear family also contributed to the change, with fewer women around to take care of the expectant mother's needs during childbirth. This naturally led to the man taking on that responsibility.

Changing attitudes about pregnancy in general also brought more men into the delivery room. With more and more people having children without being married as well as the rise in teen pregnancy rates, the man in the delivery isn't always the baby's father.

Today, it is almost expected that the father be present for the birth of his child. It is increasingly uncommon for the man not to participate and help out in labor and delivery. Not all men embrace this, however. Some would prefer to go back to the waiting room.

Some fathers, particularly first-time dads, feel apprehensive about seeing the woman they love in pain. Top concerns amongst expectant dads are embarrassing faux pas in the delivery room - fainting, feeling sick and squeamish and basically not knowing how to best support their partner through a potentially long and painful process.

These doubts should be considered and respected by both you and momma-to-be. It's important to think about and discuss whether you want to be present and how you see your role during the pregnancy. It can be much more complicated than it first looks.

You may both want to be together for the birth and feel very certain that this is the right thing for you as a couple. You may be concerned about whether you can cope with being at the birth as well as the intensity of labor.

You should also consider the possibility that your partner might not want you present throughout labor and birth because she doesn’t want you to see her in childbirth. She may feel that she wants to be free to focus only on herself and her needs. You might quite like the idea of being her ‘coach’, only to find she does not want you telling her what to do.

Talking through these issues during the pregnancy can go a long way to avoid problems once labor begins. If you, yourself are unsure, talk with other guys about their experiences in the delivery room and decide that way. Just keep in mind that everyone is different and one guy's experience may not be the same as yours. Plus, if she wants you there with her, that may be your biggest deciding factor.

If you absolutely CANNOT see yourself being present for the delivery of the baby, consider a couple of alternatives. You can arrange to have another labor partner present so that if it all gets to be too much, you can leave the room either for a short time or until after the baby is born. You can choose to be present just for the labor or conversely just for the birth. You can also come in directly after the baby is born to celebrate the new life.

On the other hand is the quite clichéd but probably true problem that witnessing the physical side of the birth might not be so great for a couple's love life. This apparently happened after Elvis Presley became a dad for the first time. It reportedly took him months to get into the swing of things again with wife Priscilla and, shortly afterwards, their love life was allegedly non-existent. Many men can be negatively affected by what they see during delivery making it much more difficult for them after the baby arrives.

The decision about whether or not to attend the birth of your child is a personal one that should be made well prior to the onset of labor pains. Men should discuss thoroughly their feelings with their partner and both should select the option that will best suit each other.

Do not ever forget that your sole purpose in being in the birthing room is to provide strength and support to your wife. She will suffer considerable anxiety over the delivery, especially if it is her first time. She may have taken birthing classes and she may have been told what it is going to be like by a dozen different people, but until she actually experiences delivering a baby she will be apprehensive.

What a woman needs most when she’s in labor is to feel safe and secure. As unprepared as men might feel, mothers can feel the same way – especially with the first baby. Support is essential, and if you won’t be able to provide that, it’s probably best to have someone else in the delivery room.

Some women now choose to have more than one birth partner, especially if the father might not be present. The mother should choose the person who is going to give her the support she needs. Of course, her choice must also agree to be there. Think very long and hard before you turn her down.

There's no shame in choosing the hallway or waiting room. The biggest job will come once the baby arrives, so even if you're not there from the first moment your child breathes his or her first breath, there will be plenty of time and opportunity to provide your support.

There are many birthing options these days. Not all births take place in a hospital with a doctor. Very rarely, however, will a woman be able to deliver a baby without the help of someone. We will refer to this person throughout this book as the birth attendant - whether that is a doctor, a nurse, a midwife, or a doula.

Much of the hesitation men have about being in the delivery room has more to do with lack of preparation about what to expect and training as to what they can do to help.

Taken from The Guy's Guide to the Delivery Room, an ebook available at the TNH Shop.


Anhata's picture

He attended most of the OB visits with me, the breastfeeding and childbirth classes, and was totally involved from the begining. I have to say, though, when his dad asked him why on earth he was going to the breastfeeding class, DH said, "I get to see breasts--why wouldn't I go?" He was mostly joking.

During labor DH intuitively knew how to deal with me and stood next to me almost the whole twelve hours. The nurses kept commenting on how great he was and that he was doing their job for them--taking me through the breath work and such.

When DD was born he saw the whole thing. He was trembling from head to toe right afterwards, but managed to take some pictures for us of DD on my belly seconds after birth. Our communication was crystal clear for weeks after the baby was born, it was like the three of us had a mental link after the experience. It was very cool.

That being said, I totally get that some people cannot handle the stress of attending a birthing or cannot seem to coach or comfort the mother the way she needs, whether they're male or female. I thought my mom would be just fine, why wouldn't she be?, but when she spelled DH for food breaks and such she kept touching me and talking to me which I couldn't bear while laboring. I kept shushing her. She said she thought I was going to bite her head off. I don't remember being nasty about it, but I must have been.

I think it's wonderful that it's come around to men being accepted and welcomed in the delivery room to support their partner. In my cousin's case it saved her life. Her baby was breach, she was in full labor and starting to have serious complications. The hospital staff weren't taking it seriously and were taking their sweet time about getting her to the operating room for a cesarean. Her husband took charge--he grabbed the guerney she was on and started rolling it down the hall to surgery himself yelling for the doctor. He probably saved her and their boy's life.

Good advice in this article. There are no "shoulds" or "have tos" in regards to the spouse or partner attending the birth or not, it's such an individual thing. Whatever provides the mother- and father-to-be with the most support and consideration is the best.

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jennye's picture

My husband was there for every minute of all four of our children's births. There was no question of whether he would be there or not, just a given. He went to every dr. appt. with the first child and birthing classes with her as well (I didn't go to the classes with the others). Though he didn't go to all the dr. visits with the other kids, he didn't miss an ultrasound. He was wonderful! I'm sure it baffles his father (who went deer hunting days after SIL was born).

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