The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].
Do fathers really need to be in the delivery room during the birth of their children?
If you go, it won’t be because you are needed. And I don’t recommend that you go to “witness” the event. Go because you love your wife and want to be part of the most intense experience of life that she will ever have. You’ll do it because you will be in a unique position to help her. Having practiced many times, you’ll be able to sense when she is getting tense, and you’ll be able to relax her, better than anyone else, because you know her better and because your voice is the most soothing one she knows. You’ll feel her arm tensing and you’ll say, “relax your arm muscles” and she’ll do it and the painful experience she is having will suddenly get a little less painful.
Afterward, I told my wife that I was disappointed that she didn’t respond. She said I was crazy! She had found me very comforting!
If you go, it should not be just to “witness” the event. This can be the most personal experience you will ever share. And it is made even more wondrous by the fact that it is an obvious miracle. Walking on water, turning water into wine, nothing, child’s play, can be done by any competent magician. But bring a new life into the world? Together? (Okay, she has more duty than you do, but your role will still be deeply appreciated.) Yes! You’ve shared the miracle of love; now you can share the miracle of birth.
Worried about the mess? No, focus on your wife. She doesn’t “need you”, but it is a wonderful time to be there, to share, to experience together. She’ll understand if you don’t go. There are many unpleasant aspects to it. But if you can just help your wife a little bit, just a little, it is enormously worth doing.
And then there is the baby. Being there, I felt instantly bonded. This was part of me. It was living and squirming and crying — oh, how can I help it? No, it’s not an it, it’s a she! Wow. She is so light. She’s either weightless, or I have evolved to feel that the weight of a newborn is zero. After a few moments of rocking her back and forth, we were bonded for life. I counted her fingers. How did this happen? How could it happen?
I remember watching my baby learning how to sneeze. She sneezed, and it seemed it almost knocked her head off from the recoil. Then she and I could sense another sneeze coming, and she and I tensed. She held her arms tight and pointed her chin against her chest and sneezed again, but this time it was okay. She had learned to sneeze. She and I were both relieved. I had to watch her learn, all in the first 15 minutes of her life.
I recall the nurse asking me to hand the baby back to her. I looked at her and wondered if she was a good person for this. The baby was my baby, not hers. She seemed competent. She probably didn’t understand the baby as well as I did, but clearly, she had something she needed to do so — okay. Afterward, I pondered the difference in earlier years when the father was only allowed to look. He was made to feel like an outsider. The nurse would let him hold the baby, if only for a short time. Now things were reversed. This was MY baby! Handle her carefully, nurse!
You can miss all this, if you choose. You aren’t “needed.” But it is a wonderful opportunity that I strongly recommend you don’t miss.
Richard Muller is a professor of physics at UC Berkeley and the author of “Energy For Future Presidents.” You can read more from Quora here: