Delivery Room Experience for Men01/09/2018
The pending arrival of a baby is a wonderful time! It doesn’t matter the circumstances, when a new baby comes into the world, it is a true miracle. As expected, much of the focus in the delivery room is on the woman. After all, she is the one who is enduring the pain of childbirth. What many people don’t consider is that the men in the delivery room have their own issues as well.
Years ago, men weren’t allowed in the delivery room. Men were relegated to the waiting room, left to pace up and down as they waited for their offspring to be born. Today, however, there has been an enormous shift in tradition, with a good number of would-be fathers now taking a hands-on approach in the birthing process.
The journey begins not only with conception but with choosing the nursery furniture, picking out names, and taking relevant classes. Even with the best of training, men may still feel out-of-place when attending the birth of a child. With the advent of birthing rooms taking the place of the sterile operating room, grandparents, uncles, friends, and even siblings are invited into the birth experience.
Obviously, you cannot know exactly what it feels like to carry and birth a new-born; however, you can learn as much as possible about all the stages of pregnancy, labour, delivery, and new-born bonding. Perhaps once you understand the prenatal class basics, you might start having doubts about how you will be able to handle it all. Try to set those uncomfortable thoughts aside. Studies show that men are more likely to get and stay involved in the care and nurturing of their children if they were present during the childbirth.
So what’s a man to do? If you’re the father to be, you have probably heard the horror stories. You’re called every name in the book. You’re blamed for everything from inflation to the price of gas to getting your woman in the situation she is in. It is normal. It’s probably going to happen. But how do you deal with it? That’s hard to say. But the birthing experience is still something a man can and should participate in. It all begins with the onset of labour. The pains begin. She screams with each contraction. What do you do? At this point, running to the store for a late night craving is out of the question. Right now, you’re expected to be the supportive one. But you’re confused and aren’t sure exactly what to do. It can be difficult watching someone you love in pain – and childbirth IS PAINFUL! It’s like a pain you, as a man, can never know.
Research shows that when a woman has a supportive birth partner, this reduces her need for pain-killing drugs and increases her satisfaction with the birth experience. This also can reduce her stress and worries about being a mother and make her more confident after the baby is born.
Having a familiar face can be very reassuring. There are many things you can do to help the mother-to-be along the way to becoming a full-fledged mother. You may be confused – especially when things start getting a little frantic. But with the help of “Men in the Labour Room”, you will be more prepared for the birthing experience. After reading it, you’ll be better prepared to help with back labour, understanding what happens in the birthing room, easing the pain of the mother, and dealing with your own feelings of helplessness. It can be a daunting and scary experience, but you CAN get through it – just like SHE can!
Changing Roles in the Delivery Room
As said earlier, the man’s place during child-birth used to be in a waiting room. 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, 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.
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. However, 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 rights to be present during their child’s birth.
The disappearance 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 teenage 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 labour and delivery. Not all men embrace this, however. Some would prefer to go back to the waiting room. Some fathers, particularly first-time would-be fathers, feel apprehensive about seeing the woman they love in pain. Top concerns among expectant fathers 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 mother-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 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 labour.
You should also consider the possibility that your partner might not want you present throughout labour 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 labour begins. If you, yourself are unsure, talk with other men about their experiences in the delivery room and decide that way. Just keep in mind that everyone is different and another man’s experience may not be the same as yours. However, 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 labour 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 labour 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, it is probably true 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 father 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 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 labour 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 at 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 is in labour 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 – whether that is a doctor, a nurse or a midwife. 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.
As we have said before, the decision whether or not to be present for the birth of your baby is a very personal one that must be made individually. We do not want to sway you one way or another.
There is a continuing debate on whether or not men should be allowed in the delivery room. Some feel that they cause more problems than they solve. It has even been said that over-anxious expectant fathers are the cause for the increase in caesarean sections because they cannot stand to see their partner in such pain.
On the other side of the coin, many men feel like they are useless in the delivery room. They really have little concept in understanding what the woman is going through, and simply stand by until someone tells them what to do. The miracle of watching a new life enter the world, while wonderful, can be equally startling and even disturbing for some men. While most fathers are able to eventually forget the more graphic images, not every man gets over it.
Even though you’re in the delivery room, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to have the same vantage point as the doctors and nurses if that is what you’re worried about. You can still be in the battle without being on the front lines! It is miraculous to see a baby’s head emerge, and it can also be shocking. It is riveting to see an umbilical cord connecting mother and baby, but it can also be very disturbing. It is exciting to be asked by a doctor to cut that umbilical cord, but also potentially very frightening, even for otherwise rather fearless men.
Don’t let fear hold you back from being there for your partner – and your child! Be proactive about this incredible event! Learn all you can about it! As you learn more, you will be more comfortable with your role in, during and with your partner’s experience during labour. In the end, you’ll both share a fantastic achievement – the birth of your baby! There are A LOT of things you can do!
When it comes down to it, you will only get one chance to welcome the new life you helped to conceive into the world, and that moment is the seconds after birth. The place is in the delivery room. As soon as you can hear, touch, and smell your new-born, you enter into a whole new world — the world of fatherhood. It will be full of challenges, but it will also be full of the most precious gifts in life!