Gone are the days of the men pacing nervously in the waiting room – long gone.
Childbirth classes, books, and sites these days are often geared toward partners, with the father or another special someone assuming the role of support-person during the labor and birth, sometimes alongside a doula or other professional helper.
I think it’s fitting.
Who do you trust more than anyone? Who knows, these days, about the details of your health, what makes you calm, what freaks you out, and how to bring you back to a place of confidence and contentment?
If you’re like me, you may have answered none other than your loving partner, the father of your child.
Although moms are the ones carrying the babies for all of those months, and the ones to actually deliver them out and into this wondrous world, it takes two to tango, or, well, create another human being. So to me, it’s quite fitting that so many dads choose to be present and participate to some degree when the big day finally comes.
As a woman who has been through two labors and births so far, myself, I find many of the stories I’ve collected for this article quite educational and even surprising.
I loved marveling at the different types of details that dads focus on as compared to the moms themselves. They’re astounded immediately by how much their little ones look like them. They remember clearly the sights, sounds, and yes, even smells.
"The birth of our first child smelled like beef jerky," shared a father named Jordan, 32, according to Cosmopolitan.com!
From routine births to surprise procedures to planned C-sections and more, they’ve seen it all.
Here it is from dad’s point of view: 20 men talk about seeing their wives’ labors.
20 Facing Curveballs Such As Assisted Extraction
Father Buzz Bishop wrote about his experience doing his best to be an involved part of his wife’s birth. The writer and broadcaster shared his story of the birth at Babble.com.
“When my first son was born in May 2007, I was merely scenery. A simple part of the chorus on stage where the spotlight was on my wife or, more accurately, her vag-. This was her monologue, not mine,” he shared.
The dad shared how he felt frustrated, in a sense, to be a “cheerleader” watching from the sidelines, and things certainly didn’t go exactly as the couple had planned.
They waited for hours in the hospital, and labor stalled. Bishop says that although he doesn’t remember the exact details of what the doctors said, it all came down to the fact that his son wasn’t in the correct position for birth.
Doctors decided that a vacuum would need to be used, and also asked to perform an episiotomy.
“We never expected it would take nearly 48 hours to give birth. We never expected the epidural my wife was given would cause her to exhaust herself from pushing while numb, we never thought the anesthetic would wear off just before my son was born, we never expected that denying an episiotomy would mean she would still need stitches because inserting a vacuum to remove a baby is no easy task,” Bishop writes. “Still, with all those curveballs, my son was born.”
The new father “sobbed uncontrollably. It was over. It was just beginning. I was relieved. I was elated.”
19 She Was Very Vocal About it
“There's a head sticking out of my best friend. This is insane. Anybody who says this moment is the most precious wonderful thing in the world is delusional. This isn't a miracle, it's assault. I'd call 911 but we're already in a hospital,” writes Elisha Cooper of American Baby, whose story was published at Parents.com.
Two feelings were called out to get across some of the ways he felt during his experience of his child’s birth: “overwhelmed” and “amazed.”
After a fairly mellow start to the labor, once his wife’s contractions started to get intense, the nurse attending to the expectant mother was unhappy with the unborn baby’s heartbeat. Cooper says that his wife was given an IV as well as oxygen and painkillers.
“The mood in the room became desperate. Or, I felt desperate,” he says. “As Elise curled on her side and closed her eyes I felt her slipping from me. My favorite person in the world lay there humming to herself and I could not reach her. I could only hold her hand and be alone with my worry…”
He held his wife’s leg as she pushed hard.
“Elise was yelling like a wounded animal,” he writes. “I saw the head… Then out it came, a gangly thing covered in blood. The thing was turned to me and it looked into my eyes with the hugest most startled eyes I have ever seen and our eyes locked. I thought I know you.”
The baby was swaddled and brought to the mother.
The father writes, “And in that instant… there was a sense that all the pain … was already being repaired, the night of tension disappearing in a soothing wash of forgetfulness, memory stitched together so that we could inaccurately look back on this experience with fondness. Indeed, a miracle.”
18 Seeing Her Second Surgery
When a father of one became a father of three – because his wife was having twins during her second labor – it was, well, actually pretty mellow according to Rick, the father himself.
“We’d had an emergency cesarean with our first child, so it was pretty much a no-brainer that the twins were going to be a C-section,”
he said, according to RaisingChildren.net.au. “To compound that, one of them was breech so it would have been quite an effort for my partner to make everything happen naturally.”
He claims, “l was just up there comforting my wife. It was pretty cruisy. The staff walks you through what’s going to happen, and you’re not at the business end. You don’t see the blood and everything, and you just need to be there to comfort your partner.”
And so perhaps this might help other expectant fathers out there to prepare. Whether or not the C-section that ends up occurring is planned or has to be performed as an emergency operation, at least one dad out there says that it’s totally doable – and that the main deal for fathers is just to be there as a support person for the mom.
In a way, perhaps it’s not all that different from supporting a mother through a natural delivery, then.
17 In Awe Of Wifey, Despite It All
"I wasn't sure what to expect, but I wouldn't change a thing,” shared father Hemant, age 33, according to Cosmopolitan.com. “I saw my daughter's first breath, I watched an event I managed to avoid during high school health class (It wasn't that bad!), and I witnessed a kind of strength and resilience in my wife that left me in awe of what she could do.”
And then, although he has shared this quite poetic praise of his partner and all that she accomplished, he still goes ahead and gets real with it.
What was it really like to witness an actual birth?
“I can't imagine not being there,” he continues. “Were there times I was tempted to look away? Sure. But I'm glad I didn't. That experience made the bond between us even stronger. Also: Placenta. Ewwww."
Although he wasn’t stoked on the sight of the afterbirth, and it wasn’t always easy to watch, in the end, it sounds like this proud papa sure was happy that he witnessed it all: the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly.
And if you ask me, what a fitting time for a partner to feel closer to his love than ever – right as they are about to embark on the weird, wild journey of raising a child together.
16 Days Between Water Breaking And Meeting Baby
John Thynne writes about the birth of his son, Daniel, at BabyCentre.co.uk.
It was a time filled with shock for the father, whose wife had still not gone into labor three days after her due date.
His wife, Jane’s, pregnancy had been pretty standard and uncomplicated up until then.
The only thing was that the doctor has been worried about the size of the baby.
An exam revealed that his wife was already 3 cm dilated.
He didn’t know at the time whether he would be having a son or a daughter, and couldn’t wait to find out and meet him or her!
He felt that “Jane had already formed a very close bond with him or her. I'm convinced that it's much harder for men to get used to the idea of parenthood until their baby actually arrives.”
Later, at home, his wife experienced some bleeding, and was advised to go to the hospital, where she was kept overnight.
“As for me, I spent a restless night at home waiting for that phone call to say she’d gone into ‘proper’ labour. But it didn't come, so it was back to my post next to Jane on Friday morning, fully expecting the baby to be induced,” the dad writes.
It was a busy time at the hospital, so the couple had to wait longer, even, than expected. The mother’s water ended up breaking while she was waiting for induction.
“I've never seen anything like it. I couldn't believe that Jane had managed to keep what appeared to be two or three large bucketfuls of liquid inside her for so long,” Thynne writes.
After not even an hour of pushing, the baby was born.
“To my immense relief, he started to cry almost immediately,” the father shares. “I had just watched our son emerge into the world. It was a fantastic, frightening, exhilarating experience, which I feel privileged to have witnessed.”
15 Sad To Be Sidelined
Matthew Salesses wrote a 2011 piece for GoodMenProject.com about his wife’s labor.
His wife’s water broke, and they wrapped up loose ends at home and finally got a taxi to the hospital.
He observed, “The doctor will stick a pill inside my wife to soften her cervix. The nurse gives her some mesh underwear like the lining of a man’s bathing suit, and they comment on comfort and the size of the pad to catch the water. This will be a long morning.”
He found the birthing suite to be as comfortable as a luxury hotel, though, and the couple passed time looking at the iPad until the cervical exam. His wife ends up being given Pitocin to stimulate contractions.
They wait around, and “Then the contractions start hammering,” the dad shared.
"We try all the things we learned in childbirth class—the birthing ball, hands and knees, back rubs. Finally, I feel like we are doing something. I press Cathreen’s pressure points during contractions and feed her water between. We fall into a rhythm.”
The pain is so intense that they decide to use IV anesthesia. Progress is slow, and she’s still just barely dilated. Both parents drift off to sleep.
Then the dad is awoken at 3 a.m. by a nurse who says that he needs to leave the room — his wife has been in terrible pain and decided to get an epidural.
“I stumble into the hall half-asleep, before realizing I have just been kicked out. I don’t know why I cannot be with my wife while she gets a paralysis-risking injection. I stare at the door with rage and wonder what is happening. … I feel like I am no longer part of labor. It is just Cathreen and [meds]. … I know these emotions are insane, but I can’t stop them.”
The dad stands by as the baby is born. “It will seem impossible that for anyone else the world is still the same,” he writes.
14 From Six Feet Under And Back
I think, after having gone through two labors and births to bring my own two young children into the world, it can be important to remember that it’s not always easy for a father to see his partner suffering.
Dads may also find it hard to understand exactly what a woman is going through. They may experience the different stages with a sense of confusion or even helplessness. Some women can seem to sort of withdraw into themselves and react very little to anyone in the outside world when coping with the worst of the pain, and so dear old dad can feel a bit scared, nervous, or even powerless – and therefore frustrated that he feels like he isn’t doing anything or can’t quite do anything effective to help his partner cope with this very intense pain.
Just being there can be what really matters, though, whether a woman demands a lot of specific help from the father or seems to be tackling it all on her own.
RaisingChildren.net.au includes a birth story from a father of two named Malcom. From his perspective, the mother of his children had just been through the absolute worst, and so there were varied emotions surrounding the whole experience for him.
“The birth was absolutely sensational,” the dad shared. “It was complicated because my partner had been through a very long labour and I had a strong sense of ‘Oh my god, my partner’s just gone through this absolute hell.’”
“But when the baby was sitting on her, quite happy and contented, I was just happy in my role of keeping an eye on my partner. All three of us were together, and it was working out,” he concluded.
13 A Father Of Five On The Birth Of His First
Here’s an example of a dad, when discussing witnessing the birth of his child, focusing on what many fathers can’t help but focus on: the reality of actually becoming a parent.
A labor may last a day or a few days, even, but it’s what comes next that brings a huge life change and an entire new set of responsibilities, both practical and emotional and beyond…
“When my first daughter was born, I was overwhelmed with emotions, but I can’t say every one of them was positive.
It was hard to know what to feel. There was excitement and joy, but there was also some worry and some fear about whether I would be a good and loving father,” Max, a father of five, wrote at RaisingChildren.net.au.
“What would happen if the ‘powerful, life-changing love’ everyone talked about didn’t happen for me? But I realised that for me it was a building, gradual thing. Over time I found my own way into the new role and everything was fine.”
In the weeks leading up to my own first labor, I know that it was easy to focus in quite extremely on what the experience would be like, or at least more specifically the biological process: How would it start? WHEN would it start? What would contractions really be like – and would I be able to use what I had learned in order to cope with them?
But after labor, and after birth, there’s real life…
12 The Role Of Protector For A Father Of Twins
A father of twins named John shared at RaisingChildren.net.au, “During my wife’s labour, my chief thinking was making sure that first, she didn’t die and second, my sons didn’t die. But she came first. I guess this fits the role I have always felt, being the first and last line of protection. For me, childbirth was one of those moments when I stood between my family and the universe, knowing I might be powerless to do anything, but ready just in case. This was my first thought and fear when my wife told me she was pregnant, and it stayed with me every day until the birth.”
He bravely took on his self-assigned role of family protector, and had a deeply profound experience witnessing the birth of his very own children.
“Despite this, I felt quite calm through the birth, although my wife was exhausted and lost a huge amount of blood. Her growing paleness was my number one thought,” the father shared.
“I enjoyed helping her push. I laughed inside at the looks she gave the doctor when he told her to push again and again.
Even now she resents him, I think, but I thought he was solid,” said the dad.
Dads can be key for observing interesting details such as this and being able to fill in the mom, who may be very curious about the life-changing events she’s just experienced, later.
“When my boys came out,” John said, “they both did the same thing, which I will always recall clearly. Twice the nurse held a boy up to me, and twice his eyes were open wider than I thought possible, looking straight into mine. They seemed very ready to take it all in, and I felt that we immediately knew each other in some kind of cosmic and primitive way."
11 No Doubt He’s My Boy
A father of two named Toby was able to share a very specific moment, upon meeting his son for the very first time in the delivery room as the doctor was helping him out of his mom.
It was a very intense and all-consuming sensation for this new dad, a moment in which he realized that this little person really and truly was a product of himself.
As included at the website RaisingChildren.net.au, Toby shared, “You always see guys’ faces beam when they talk about birth but I didn’t think I was really ready for meeting my son. I didn’t think it would open my heart as much as it did. When the obstetrician was pulling him out, his little face came up. I’ve got quite a big nose, and I looked at this little head and I said, ‘It’s definitely mine’ because this big nose was covering half his face.”
And this amazing resemblance was quite meaningful, it turned out, for the proud papa.
“It was unbelievable. The world stopped. There was absolutely nothing else that crossed my mind and absolutely nothing that I could think of other than how miraculous this was.”
No matter the hardship and pain along the way, two people have just made a whole new person together… Let that sink in.
10 Weird Clothes And Bright Lights
BellyBelly.com reported recently, on March 6, 2018, that after research considering 150 countries, it’s been found that there’s a worldwide C-section rate of 18.6 percent of all births that occur. That is almost 1 in 5 women overall.
The rate in the United States, Australia, and a group of some European countries is listed on the same site as between 30 to 45 percent.
Canada, the U.K., and some other European and Central and South American countries have a rate that is a bit lower, at 25 - 30 percent.
So it’s a reality that is very much out there, and it is indeed possible that the type of birth a father witnesses will be a surgical one, which is why we wanted to be sure to include a fair amount of stories from father’s witnessing this type of labor / birth, too.
Michael, a father of one, shared, “Incredible! Just absolutely incredible. You look down at this little person and see them in your life suddenly, and it’s … very emotional,” according to the website RaisingChildren.net.au.
“It’s a very odd thing because in a cesarean, you’re in an operating suite so there are bright lights and you’re wearing weird clothes, but it’s an extraordinary moment that you never forget. Just enjoy the moment.”
9 Watched Her Tear Apart
Sometimes, dads are stationed, well, safely up by the head, holding their partners’ hands.
During the birth of my first, my partner was helping to hold back one of my legs, as at least one other dad included in this article ended up doing, as well.
Sometimes, though, dads get a full view of exactly what is going on, whether because of the vantage point at which they are actually standing – or because their wife is looking into a strategically positioned mirror during pushing (which I found extremely helpful during the birth of my first baby, by the way).
"I watched my wife tear apart like tissue paper!” exclaimed Nano, age 30, according to Cosmopolitan.com.
“I didn't know skin could do that. The midwife moved the mirror real fast but I still saw it all."
And tearing is not uncommon. Parents.com reports that moms giving birth for the very first time have a 95 percent chance of experiencing a tear, well, down there, as part of the whole experience.
They are experienced in degrees, with some requiring a few simple stitches right there in the delivery room and others requiring more involved repairs postpartum.
To see a human body do something so different from anything it normally does must be quite a site!
8 Prepared To See It All
A dad named Stephen, age 32, is quite impressed by everything that women go through during childbirth – and he’s seen it all.
He has a handy list that might just help an expectant dad to better prepare for the potentially wild – and confusing – ride he’s in for if he is going to be there for his partner’s labor and the birth of his child.
I’m going to include his exact words here because I find them funny, entertaining, and educational, and I think you will, too:
"I'd heard several people say that they couldn't bear to watch their wives give birth,
so I had no idea what to expect. Blood? Poop? Blood and poop?” the dad begins, according to Cosmopolitan.com. “As I watched my first daughter come into the world though, I experienced the following emotions, in this order: (1) Tears. So many tears. I had never cried like that, and I don't think I've cried that hard since. (2) Why is my child blue? Is she supposed to be blue? Can we get a doctor in here who will acknowledge the fact that my daughter is blue? Is she OK? Oh, she's crying, OK, we're good. (3) Holy crap, my wife is a badass. She just pushed a human out of her body! Thank god men aren't the ones giving birth, because we'd have gone extinct millennia ago!"
7 So Hard To See Her Suffer So
This is the woman he loves more than anyone else in the world. He has devoted his life to her, and together, they will bring a child into the world and raise it the very best that they possibly can.
And this is the person whom he has to see suffer more than she ever has at any time in her life, as far as he can gather.
"I would rather go through that much pain and work myself than watch my wife go through it,” said a dad named Craig, age 30, according to Cosmopolitan.com.
“Watching the person you love be in that much pain and knowing it's partly your fault is horrible.”
I mean, I get it.
My husband and I had prepared – especially the second time around – for the fact that it may be difficult for him to see me apparently suffering so much, to hear the sounds I was making and to support me, still, through it all, in my choice to do the whole thing without the use of any pain-relieving measures or medical interventions.
But although he knew how painful it might seem (and be) after being there for my first labor, he also knew – after many involved discussions with me – how set I was on doing it all again and experiencing every second as fully as I possibly could.
So know that even if a man doesn’t understand how a woman can do it, she might find it so worthwhile that she wants very badly to do it all again!
6 Just. So. Tired.
It can be a long, long time without sleep – for everyone involved.
I remember my husband, quite clearly, so ready to curl up on the little bench cushion that would serve as his bed and catch a few winks that he so desperately needed, while I was so worked up from the whole experience that I wouldn’t get any real sleep at all until days later when I was comfortably at home.
And the physical work of being a labor support person can be real, too. Some people claim this is part of why it can be handy to hire a doula, to share in the burden of physically aiding a laboring mom.
At Cosmopolitan.com, a dad named Thomas, age 31, said, "Watching my wife give birth was exhausting, which isn't something you're really allowed to say when you're not the one pushing out a baby, but it's true.”
The dad shared the specifics of how tough it was to persevere through it all until finally meeting his child.
“For almost 24 hours,” he continued, “I had to push on my wife's back and let her squeeze my hand during contractions. Sometimes, I literally had to hold her up, and I was so tired I was literally falling asleep during contractions. When our baby finally arrived, I felt like I got hit by a truck. My wife got this crazy burst of energy from all the birth endorphins, but not me. I have never been so tired in all my life."
5 Shake It Off
"I was determined to not get freaked out during the delivery of our first child. I had heard the horror stories, taken the classes, and seen the videos. My mindset was basically: Get over it, dude. Your part is easy. If my wife can endure an all-natural childbirth in an eerily zen-like state, then I sure as heck better be able to hang for the grand finale. Our midwife asked if I wanted to catch the baby, and I couldn't have been more excited and nervous — 'What if I drop him?!' I thought,” shared a father named Nathan, age 37, according to Cosmopolitan.com.
“I shook off the fear, gloved up, and assumed my best (and first) babycatching stance. Once he started to crown, I remember thinking, 'That doesn't look so bad.' Then, my wife pushed again and I realized that what I thought was crowning was just the tip of the tip of the iceberg — total cannonball in a drinking straw situation. 'OHMYGODHOW?!?!' I thought. 'THERESNOFREAKINGWAY.' But come he did, as perfectly as anyone could wish for. I handed him to his mom, cut the cord, and was suddenly, officially, a dad. I learned several things that day, two of them being: My son inherited his mother's family's enormous head gene, and that liberal, diligent use of mineral oil might be the actual miracle of childbirth."
4 One Or Two Regrets Seeing A C-Section
Eugene, age 35, is one dad who actually isn’t all about being stoked that he saw everything that he ended up viewing that one fateful day – the day he met his child for the first time.
During the Cesarean operation that brought his baby into the world, he hung safely back behind a barrier at first, but then, it happened.
"I stayed behind the curtain during my wife's C-section. But after our son was ripped out of her abdomen, I went around to watch them weigh him. I accidentally looked at my wife and OHMYGOSH there is a gaping dark hole in my wife!!! Why did I look!?!" said the dad, according to Cosmopolitan.com.
In my own personal experience, this is one of the most extreme reactions I’ve ever heard from a mother or father about having witnessed a C-section. The way he describes the procedure as the baby being “ripped out” of his wife’s body seems quite dramatic, and perhaps more a reflection of his feelings about how the baby was born than the actual events that occurred. But then I’ve never personally witnessed or undergone a C-section.
I can’t imagine how bizarre, and even scary, it might be to see your loved one’s body cut open and lying there before you, even if for a routine obstetrical procedure.
3 Experienced Groan Gauger
He may have seen her do it more than once, but it doesn’t mean he can understand why she would choose to do it.
I identify somewhat with the situation described by a father of three named Andy, age 32, as included at Cosmopolitan.com, in that my own husband, too, I think has a similar stance of supporting me expertly and with attention to detail yet not quite understanding how I do what I do during childbirth.
Because men aren’t the ones actually experiencing it, I suppose it might be hard for them to fully understand the profundity of the experience and just how worthwhile all that pain can be in the end.
Andy shared, "Ever since I heard my wife give birth, all future pain is related to pregnancy, on an audible scale. I listen to my wife's groans of pain and know exactly how much it hurts her by the pitch, volume, and octave. After all, I have over 50 hours of experience after three births. I now know that my wife has a much higher pain tolerance than me. Signing up to do that three times? No thanks!"
And, BTW, the sound thing is so real: The noises I was making as I arrived at the hospital during my all-natural birth were a clear cue to the nurses that, um, yeah, I was definitely far enough along to be immediately admitted.
2 Holding The Baby For The First Time
It’s par for the course for a baby born naturally to be wrapped up and then placed directly onto his or her mother’s chest, where it may look around, root around for the nipple and even begin to breastfeed, or sleep contentedly.
What I hadn’t personally considered, being a mom to two naturally born babies, is that if a baby is born by C-section, a mom may not necessarily be the parent who gets to receive the child for the very first time.
“The thing about planned caesareans is that they are scheduled. You get told, ‘It’s all going to happen at 7 am,’ and all the mystery and suspense disappears. That’s a funny feeling,”
said Aaron, a father of one, according to RaisingChildren.net.au.
“With caesareans, you’ve gotta be prepared to hear some noises that are pretty extraordinary, like squelching noises that are horrifying when you think about what they really are. There are noises that make you go, ‘Wow!’”
Apparently, witnessing, at least by hearing, a surgery was quite an experience for this father, who then also shared, “The amazing thing about caesareans is that you get to hold your baby first because your partner is being stitched up.”
1 Something That Must Be Remembered
"Watching my wife bring our son into the world, and consequently, his birth, was one of the most stunning, ineffably beautiful things I've ever seen. I have a hard time understanding why men would look away or find it harmful to their romantic relationship later on,” shares Charlie, age 34, according to Cosmopolitan.com.
“Women are human transformers,” he continues, “and childbirth is without a doubt one of the best examples of this fact. I always tell people they can delete photos and footage, but they can never go back in time to recreate it. Trust me, now or later, you'll want that experience captured. It's the moment your whole life changed."
It is just so unique. It is just so important. It is just so amazing and so bizarre.
To miss the chance to experience it in all its realness and all of its glory was something I just couldn’t do in my own life, and so I identify completely with this husband’s insistence on the importance of being there to experience it as fully as he could in his role of “dad.”
There are only so many moments in life as big as this – as seeing the instant that your own child enters the world.
For some, it’s hard to watch. For many, it’s worth it. For all, it’s the moment life changed.