When I was pregnant with my first child, I agonised over birthing-day details the way only a primagravida
can. Where would dad-to-be Sean stand? Would I grip his hand and break his fingers during contractions
? Would I shout abuse at him? Would he know exactly what magic phrases of encouragement and support to whisper into my moist brow at exactly the right times? Would he exude the appropriate pure wonder at my amazing inner-strength and marvel at my leonine power?
A phone call at the pub?
When Sean was allowed a glimpse into my fantasy world (and let’s face it, I wanted to talk of little other than Baby’s Arrival), he would inevitably crack the same old tired joke. “I think we should have a traditionally British birth,” he would announce. “When the baby is born, I’ll get a phone call at the pub and buy everyone drinks and cigars!” Ha, ha. Not. My smile grew strained. My hormones vibrated angrily. Was I – sniff - really supposed to do this on my own?
Sean of course had no intention of disappearing on Delivery Day. He was in the delivery room, business end, nogal, and he even, though we had not planned this, delivered our son
. The thought that Felix was born into his father’s waiting hands is a very special one to me.
We were lucky that the birth of our son was a positive experience for all three of us. Sean and Felix’s bonding was the instant beginning of a life-long love affair. But I will admit that it did help that Sean is a doctor: he was reassured rather than frightened by the array of medical equipment in the room. Blood and pain are just a ho-hum part of his daily grind. He had previously even delivered some babies as part of his training! Being in the delivery room should have been easier for him than most men (unless you contest that ignorance is bliss, and that knowing exactly what awaited him was even more reason for him to flee to the nearest bar!) How times have changed...
But dads don’t get much choice these days. Fifty years ago it was unheard-of for a man to attend his child’s birth; nowadays it is unheard-of not to
And that’s fine if your babydaddy is not particularly squeamish, or unlikely to faint at the sight of blood, or able to contain his panic when seeing the woman he loves in pain. But if being in the delivery room feels culturally alien or simply too frightening to him, are there enough other good reasons for society to demand he stay?
To be honest, and without detracting from the ministrations of my wonderful husband, during those last few hours of labour I could have been giving birth on Mars with aliens attending me and I would have been none the wiser. I was insistent that he be there, back then, but I’m less fervent about the issue in retrospect. There’s more than one option
Many people can make good birthing partners: a mother, sister or best friend might even be some women’s first choice over her partner.
I say if he – and you - want him to hover in the waiting room rather than in the birthing bath, let him! You can choose to focus on the one day that permanently changes your status to “parent”. Or you can focus on the lifetime of parenting that follows. I know which one I choose...
Would you insist that dad-to-be is present during baby’s delivery?
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.