Dads in the delivery room? Sounds like a good idea to me.

“You can see the head is coming,” remarked the midwife. As she spoke, she stepped out the way and indicated with her head that I should take a closer look.

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Should dads be in the delivery room? Unless there’s a very good reason for them not to be there, I say they should.

I sat perfectly still. Not, you understand, because I was squeamish or had no interest in seeing my firstborn enter the world.

The reverse was true. I am not at all squeamish and I wanted to see everything.

I simply felt there was enough going on below my wife’s waist. A consultant and a junior doctor were hard at work and there was a midwife on either side of my wife’s legs. I appreciate the midwife meant well, but I didn’t think any of the medical professionals in attendance needed my curious, medically untrained head popping up in the middle of a hard, forceps delivery.

Why am I reminiscing about Helen’s birth, an event that happened nine years ago? Earlier this week I was asked by an acquaintance if I felt men had a place in the delivery room. It’s a question that comes up from time to time so thought the time had come to address it.

I’ve always held an uncompromising stance on this. You helped create the child. You should, therefore, be present for your offspring’s birth.

Yes, I know, some people have extreme medical phobias and would be unable to handle the experience. I also get that some women want to protect their privacy or have particularly strong views about men being present.

At heart I am a libertarian. If someone has really strong opinions about giving birth or the dad really couldn’t handle it, it’s probably best he isn’t there.  For most couples, however, I think the man would be missing out on a unique experience.

Based on my experience, it was hugely educational seeing both Helen and Izzy’s birth. Both births were totally different. Helen’s was a hard birth requiring surgical intervention after a long, long labour while Izzy was born with Mrs Adams having nothing more than gas and air after a short labour.

Seeing the births gave me a much greater understanding of what a woman goes through. Following Helen’s arrival, I recounted the experience to my then boss, whose wife was in the final trimester of her first pregnancy.  I remember telling him the experience had given me huge respect for women because of what they go through during birth.

Let’s just clarify that statement. Naturally I did and always have respected women. That respect, however, only increases when you’ve seen someone go through nine months of pregnancy, 36 hours of labour and a forceps delivery.

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Oh the sight of a bare delivery room brings back some memories! Pic credit: Martha Dominguez on Unsplash.

Birth is also an experience a man cannot have. If you can’t go through it, I can’t help feeling you have an obligation to be present for it.

Before stepping foot inside the delivery room, I think men should do the research so they understand what can and will happen on the other side of that door. If you don’t read up in advance, you may not be prepared.

For a while Mrs Adams and I were hooked to the TV show One Born Every Minute. I recall in one episode, a mum having some difficulties during the birth and her (understandably) nervous partner, unsure what to do, simply sat in the chair next to her proclaiming his love for his other half while two midwifes busied themselves in the room.

Maybe it’s just the fact I have a Glaswegian wife and public displays of affection are simply not the done thing in West Scotland, but I don’t recommend following his course of action. A woman in that position probably wants to know that an epidural, anesthetist and a consultant midwife are about to burst through the door, not that you love them.

On a serious note, you need to know that the baby may be rushed to an incubator or that the baby may be held upside and slapped on the back to clear its airways. You need to know that things could get complicated and that you will be asked to leave the room, that your other half is going to scream and shout and could say all manner of horrible things about you that she doesn’t mean.

You may also see things that you don’t wish to see. Birth is messy, especially if medical intervention is required. I am not going to invade my wife’s privacy and tell you about some of the sights I witnessed. Let me just say that I witnessed plenty and leave it there.

Unless there’s a very good reason for you not to be there, dad, you should be in that room. You helped make that child, you should be there to welcome him or her into the world. Just remember to shed a tear when it happens and, er, maybe leave the declarations of love until afterwards.

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5 Comments

  1. Sarah Bedwell
    March 29, 2018 / 11:32 am

    Great post John,

    My husband was in the delivery for both our children’s birth and they were two totally different births. While my son’s was 22 long, but not so painful hours of labour, my daughter was 11 hours of sheer hell.

    When I began labour with my son, the midwife asked if we would like to be part of the HOOP study (a Study into the positioning / hand position of a midwife during birth. Do they need to ‘touch’ the private parts of the Mum?) – standing for hands on, or poised. Naturally we said yes, and my husband proceeded to ‘draw a card’ on that card were the letters ‘OP’ this meant the midwife would be poised and not hands on for the birth of my child. Instead, my birthing partner (my husband, who was then only my fiance) had to deliver our son. Not having a clue what to do, he was guided by our poised midwife through the whole event. He brought his own firstborn into the world. This is one experience, he would never have got the chance to be a part of had he not been in the delivery suite.

    For the second, more traumatic birth of our daughter – which had followed two years of fertility treatment. My husband didn’t have the choice to deliver her or not, Instead he was right there, holding me on the bed while I went through a very traumatic experience. My hip was even dislocated during the birth. Afterwards, he said ‘No human should ever have to go through that sort of pain, and certainly not alone. He was part of the creation of that little girl and he should experience every part of her arrival into the world.’

    My husband wouldn’t have had it any other way and there was never a discussion about him not being there. I hope all dad’s have the chance.

    • John Adams
      Author
      April 3, 2018 / 5:03 am

      That you ever so much for leaving such a personal comment Sarah. The first birth sounds truly amazing. To actually deliver the your own child must be amazing. It’s certainly a story you would tell time and again. I don’t mind admitting though, hip dislocation sounds extreme! I’ve never heard of that before so I can only imagine what that birth experience must have been like!

      Regardless, however, probably best your other half was there to see it. It will have given a much better idea of what aftercare you needed. I can certainly say that was my experience after seeing Helen’s birth. While birth is amazing, it is also tough and while the guy can’t give birth dad should ideally be a part of that experience, the rough and the smooth.

  2. March 29, 2018 / 5:41 pm

    Hi John, well said. Dads don’t get to experience the growth of their baby, so to witness it take its first breath is a special experience and they should be given that choice. My husband was in the room when my son was born, but not my daughter, he couldn’t do it twice (like I had a choice). I didn’t mind though, I had enough to worry about without having to worry about him too.

    xx

    • John Adams
      Author
      April 3, 2018 / 4:54 am

      Ah, I take it your other half really couldn’t cope with the experience? If he is going to add stress to the situation then the couple need to make a choice because mum and baby’s well-being have to be paramount. I also hadn’t thought of the first breath thing. You’re quite right though, it is magical and something you should see as the dad if at all possible.

  3. June 28, 2018 / 10:26 am

    I find it hard to understand why a Dad would be so disinterested in the birth of his child that he wouldn’t do everything he could to be there, unless for the reasons you mention. The twins were born by non-elective C-section, and it was a very difficult procedure so I was kept on the other side of the curtain. That was probably just as well: I am somwwhat squeamish but I would would have just been in the way. You’re so right though: it is incredible what women have to go through and a man simply has to be around in order to be appreciate that. After the birth the chief surgeon said “She is a mighty woman!”. I agreed with him then and I still do, despite our separation. Whatever else there has been between us she will always have my respect for that.