Although fathers play a key role in the entire process of pregnancy, from conception to the labor room, we don't often hear birth stories from their perspective. But why not? Sure, Dad doesn't feel what's going on, but without the pain and tremendous effort of labor, he's the who sees what's going on. He certainly has the funniest perspective for the... err, crowning moment. Plus, he is often the one left to make the most shocking medical decisions. Besides, the perspectives of other fathers is a great way for new dads to get ready for their own wife's labor and the birth of their child.
Because so few birth stories are presented from the male perspective, even if you're a birth story junkie you'll be surprised at what dads think during the whole ordeal. A few of their thoughts are downright confessional: like how some of them would rather not cut the cord, or how Grandma's texting for updates gets frustrating quickly, or how it's lonely to hold your new baby while mom is still under anesthesia from an emergency C-Section. Just like with birth stories from the mother's perspective, each father's story is unique and full of emotions and experiences that every parent can relate to, laugh at, and learn from. So, let's talk about the some of the most common confessions from dad's side of the story.
15 Updating The Family Is Annoying
When your wife begins labor you're going to be busy. You'll use your last minutes at home making sure that the baby bag is together, the car seat is in the vehicle, and that you have enough gas! Then you're timing contractions, you're soothing your partner, you're driving to the hospital, and trying your best to be the glue that holds everything together while you're in the hospital. So frequent annoying texts from family members asking for status updates will be a big distraction.
Many dads give the advice to pick one family member to update and have them update everyone else. Set a strict rule that family members can't pester you, and/or set your phone on silent. If you have a sneaking suspicion that this is going to be a problem for your family, you can make a twitter account and tweet out what's going on when you get spare moments. Later, you can set the account to private if you don't want the record of your baby's birth to be public.
14 He Can See What's Going On Better Than She Can
Most of the pregnancy process revolves around the mother and her body. It's great when you can make joint decisions about the pregnancy together, but its her body so she knows best, right? Usually. One man felt strongly that he would just let his wife's experience dictate his behavior, until his wife went into complete denial about starting labor. He heard her water break on their bedroom floor and rushed in to see her shaking her head.
She insisted that she wasn't ready, it couldn't be happening! After some questions about contractions this husband knew his wife was in early labor, and calmly supported her without pushing the issue until it was time to get to the hospital. She wouldn't admit she was in labor, but went with him to the hospital to "check" where they found that she was five centimeters dilated! It's important for Dads to trust their instincts when they're supporting their wives.
13 His Blood Boils If A Nurse Disrespects His Wife
Your protective instincts are on high alert when you're in the delivery room with your wife. You know that she's relying on you to be her rock and you feel the pressure to take care of her more intensely than you ever have. So, if a nurse does something rude or dangerous, you'll step in quickly and find it hard to hold back your temper. After a nurse failed to stop checking one laboring mother's cervix when asked (because the mother was feeling pain), her husband pulled the nurse aside and very loudly told her that "stop" means "stop". The nurse was visibly upset and denied that she had done anything wrong.
This clever man then requested that the nurse bring him to her supervisor's office, so he could clear up situation and so his wife wouldn't have to hear the altercation. After he had secured a new nurse for his wife the man came back into the room and calmly explained to his wife that he had taken care of everything and that the new nurse would be assisting them. Even when something goes wrong, this man knew that keeping a calm atmosphere in the delivery room was still the best thing for his laboring wife.
12 He Feels Like He's The Only One Who Is Grossed Out
Everyone else, from doctors to doulas, have seen this whole mess before and are now disturbingly comfortable with it. It probably helps that all of this blood, amniotic fluid, and mucous isn't coming out the women they love. There's an odd kind of discomfort you feel as nurses wipe up after your wife. Most men who are not medical professionals themselves can't help but wonder exactly how anyone gets used to cleaning up the labor bed. You're not judging your wife, you love her. Your love just doesn't make it less gross. Besides, you know that your wife would agree with you if only she had the same view that you do.
Obviously you don't want to call her attention to the grossness of her body right now, so you keep quiet about the mess and subtly look away if it gets to be too much. Of course, once your child begins to crown most men want to look no matter how gross they've been finding the experience thus far. For some men they're too caught up in the experience at this point to be disgusted. For others, this moment is downright traumatic. We suggest you (and your wife, for that matter) watch some birth videos months before you have to witness this!
11 Applying Counter Pressure Is Exhausting
With all of the emphasis on your wife's physical pain, you may not realize that you're in for a strenuous time too, especially because you'll likely be going without sleep for as long as your wife is laboring. While applying counter-pressure to your wife's back or holding up her legs while she pushes are duties that you're happy to perform, it may get exhausting. One father admits that he pulled his back out trying to hold his wife's leg during her long labor. He had to switch off with a nurse and then he had to tough out the back pain when his wife asked for him to return to leg duties. Don't underestimate the strength its going to take even to just hold your wife's hand while she's in the middle of a big contraction.
10 He Has To Make Some Scary Decisions
Sometimes your wife will be too far gone in pain and/or focus to help you make big medical decisions. And these decisions can be terrifying. One man recounted how a doctor pulled him aside to tell him that he needed to convince his wife to agree to the C-Section, because both his wife and child were in danger trying to give vaginal birth. We can't imagine the stress that places on the father's shoulders, but he explained the situation to his distraught wife quite successfully.
Sometimes though, medical staff aren't quite as forthright. One man explained how the doctor told he and his wife some condescending line about how the baby's heart monitor indicated it "wasn't happy" and she was going to see how she could "make it happy". That man flew right off the handle and demanded a real explanation. The doctor told him that that baby's heart rate was a sign of distress and that she was going to use some forceps to aid the baby through the birth canal. The father had to advocate for his wife, convinced that she would prefer a C-Section over the use of forceps.
9 It's Hard To Keep Calm
One of the hardest parts about being a dad in the delivery room is putting on a brave and calm face no matter what crazy things are happening right in front of you. One man shared the story of trying to remain calm as his wife constantly changed her mind about what she wanted. She wanted him to rub her back one moment, refused his touch the next, then tried to stand, then needed his help sitting down. At some point during her wildly swinging desires you might realize that the woman you love has been turned into a crazy person by your baby and you still have to remain calm.
The man may not be going through the same physical symptoms but the he is definitely experience a lot of the emotional ones and during the delivery of your baby, those emotions run high and keeping cool, calm and collected is a challenge.
8 He Needs Support Too
When things get emotional, a nurse, midwife, or doula can be a big support for the husband too. One man wasn't sure he could keep watching his wife suffer through such extreme pain, but obviously he couldn't say that to her. A nurse saw that he was internally struggling and pulled him aside to ask what was wrong, He explained and she comforted him, asking: If you saw your wife struggling through a dead-lift, would you give her pain medication on cheer her on? This nurse gave this father the support he needed to get back in there with a brave face to encourage his wife.
Sometimes physical support is needed too. Dad-to-be might be helping mom-to-be with counter pressure and it can get tiring, so having some extra support from someone else, maybe even to switch out for a little while, can be super helpful for him.
7 He Might Pass Out
Some fathers pass out the moment their baby is born. It's not really surprising, considering the stress, sleep deprivation and excitement they must be feeling. One father who passed out shared a great word of warning: that you should never ever look over the blue curtain during a C-Section. He thought doctors simply made an incision into the womb-- but they don't. They actually have to take out some organs and set them aside.
Needless to say, this man will never forget the sight of some of his wife's organs sitting on a little tray next to her. A second father reports that during his child's natural birth he began to feel a little woozy when he saw that his child was blue. We suppose that no one had warned him that babies look quite blue until they begin to breathe. Lucky for him, hospital staff are prepared for a father to faint and a nurse was right behind him to steady him as he passed out.
6 Saying "No" To His Wife's Requests Is Heartbreaking
While many couples go into the labor room with a birth plan in mind things can quickly change. Almost every woman will, at some point during her pain, ask for an epidural and/or pain medication even if she's completely against using them and even if she's had a child before! As the father, you're told that your duty is to gently remind your wife of her birth plan and encourage her to see her wishes through.
But, this can be devastating for the man! You see your life partner is unimaginable pain, they beg you for pain relief, and you're supposed to say no? You know her wishes and you understand that her pain clouds her judgement, but still! This is why many father recommend couples decide on safe words that a woman can use to say "yes, I've seriously changed my mind about pain medication, I'm not just vocalizing that I'm in extreme pain or doing some wishful thinking". This reduce your worries and prevent you from wondering at what point you should consider that your wife has changed her mind.
5 He'll Struggle With Feelings Of Helplessness
While saying "no" can be pretty traumatic, at least you can help your wife get more pain relief. When things are going wrong and there's nothing you can do, that's when you'll feel helpless. One man shared the story of when his wife had to have an emergency C-Section two months early because his twins her showing signs of distress.
Like all parents, he knew that the likelihood if his wife dying during childbirth is extremely low in the United States, but he knew her risk had just rocketed up because of the twins' stressed state. Then he was worrying about the twins themselves, would they be okay? While worrying in a waiting room, many fathers have the thought that they would do anything to save their wife at this moment. But there's nothing they can do. Luckily for this man
4 He Can See the Difference A Mirror Makes
During the labor many men realize that they didn't just sign up to have a child, they also signed up to coach someone through the most difficult thing they will (probably) ever do. This is a challenge that some men are naturals at, while others will struggle with it. One father should probably be a motivational speaker, because his whole birth story was full of the phrases and techniques he'd learned to motivate his wife.
He talked with awe about the difference in his wife's motivation he saw after a mirror was put in front of her. He realized that with the mirror she could gauge when her pushes were being effective and when they weren't, making her pushing more efficient. Not all men can be such natural motivators. One father admitted sheepishly that he only had two motivational sayings planned. If you're worried that you're going to struggle being your wife's motivator, make sure you have a good doula and/or midwife who can take on the brunt of the work.
3 When He Meets His Baby
In all of the accounts of men's labor experiences that we've heard the first thing they tend to mention about the moments just after the baby was born is their wife's face. Suddenly she's incredibly relieved, smiling, and exhausted but radiant. After expressing this, most men turn their attention to detailing their first look at their child, which is where fears suddenly pop into many of their minds.
Some common responses include: "Am I ready for this?" "Oh my god that's actually a baby" and "Wait, I still have hobbies, how can I be a good Dad?" . This moment of panic is understandable and, thankfully, it will fade as the man gains confidence as a father. The first week of diaper changes and sleepless nights instill confidence in many, and it also provides a bond with their infant that quells any fears. Plus, once Dad realizes that he still needs to pursue his hobbies, if just to be a sane parent, the worry that he'll lose his whole self to parenting subsides too.
2 Not All Dads Cry
... but most do. Even if they don't cry, virtually all men talk about the huge wave of emotion they feel after seeing their child for the first time, or which hits them just after the stress of the labor dies down. Even though men don't have the same hormonal reaction that women do, this is still an emotional and overwhelmingly happy moment in their life, so crying is par for the course. As one father expressed, you should cry your hardest, because its one of the only socially sanctioned times that you can. While we think you should be able to cry whenever you want, we agree that you shouldn't hold back from feeling all the emotions that this magical moment has to offer.
1 No One Wants To Hear From Him Afterwards
After the baby has arrived and your love has recovered from giving birth, your family will stop pining after you for information and start fawning over the two of them. In some ways, it can be a relief to have the the attention shift over to the new baby. In other ways, it can be disappointing that no one wants to hear your side of the story.
Really, we should be asking after men's birth stories more often, as they have an interesting perspective, valuable contributions, and the family should want to bond with them over the story too! During the whole process of labor men's emotions are pushed aside, which is mostly understandable as they aren't the ones giving birth, but they are still a crucial part of the little life that's being born! Don't let anyone tell you that your perspectives and emotions on this most human of experiences isn't important!