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 TheForum@Fatherly.com.
Do fathers really need to be in the delivery room during the birth of their children?
Our son was born at the beginning of 2016. He was due for birth by way of a scheduled C-section, because my wife was a gestational diabetic and he was considered too large for the likelihood of a successful conventional birth.
Three days before that scheduled date, my wife had an appointment for an NST — a non-stress test — which is something that diabetic women have to do every few days to ensure that the fetus is healthy. They monitor the vitals of the mother and the fetus. She had been to dozens of these tests, twice a week for several months, which is a 45-minute one-way trip to the doctor’s office.
After so many tests and always getting a healthy result, it starts to feel like it isn’t worth the trouble. She wasn’t feeling well that day from the moment she woke up, but she went to work anyway. She called me mid-morning and said that her boss was letting her go home because she didn’t look well, and she was wondering if she should just skip the NST appointment later that afternoon. I insisted that she needed to go, or at least to call the OB/GYN about it, because my thought was if she wasn’t feeling well, they would be even more insistent that she come for the test. She said she would just go and get it over with.
Unfortunately, I was right.
At about 4 PM, as I was starting to wrap up things at work, I got a phone call, from the obstetrician. She said that my wife had had an abnormal NST result, and she was going across the street to the hospital. I should get there as soon as I could.
My wife was absolutely terrified, mostly that she would have to go through this alone.
I rushed into the maternity ward where a nurse was waiting with a surgical gown, and they ushered me immediately into the operating room just as the doctor was about to put the scalpel to my wife’s abdomen. She was strapped down on a table, with a drape just below her breasts so we couldn’t see what was going on. She was absolutely terrified.
What I wasn’t completely aware of was that the “abnormal NST” had shown that the fetal heart rate was sky-high. So high that it just registered as a straight line across the top of the chart. They weren’t sure what could be causing that kind of distress, but it was clear that if they didn’t get the baby out soon, things would be grim.
My wife was absolutely terrified, mostly that she would have to go through this alone, because my office is about an hour away from the hospital where she was delivering.
Our son was stillborn, having aspirated a large amount of meconium (the first real poop a baby takes). As I held my wife’s hand and kissed her forehead and said reassuring things while the doctors on the other side of that sheet worked on her, I was becoming more and more aware of the fact that, although they had clearly removed the baby some time ago, we hadn’t heard a single noise. I was outwardly calm, trying to keep my wife relaxed, but inside I was rapidly coming to a point where I did not see anything in the future but a funeral with a tiny little casket.
After what seemed like forever (but was really just a hair under 5 minutes later), there was the distinctive cry of a baby, followed by cheers from a crowd of doctors and nurses in the room. They had suctioned his lungs and resuscitated him. His initial APGAR score was zero, but now his 5-minute APGAR was 7 (normal). He spent a week in NICU, and my wife didn’t even get to see him for the first 3 days of his life.
It’s not a “feminist” thing — it’s a human thing.
She went through all that pain and fear and trauma, and didn’t even get the payoff of holding her son for even a moment before they wheeled him off to intensive care. On top of the side-effects of the spinal block and the pain from the pain meds wearing off, she was utterly despondent, not just because she hadn’t even seen our son, but also blaming herself because she had considered not going to the NST appointment.
So yes, it’s crucial that you be there in that room for your wife. You don’t have to watch anything. You aren’t expected to do anything to assist in the actual birthing. But with nothing being certain, the least you should do is be there to support your wife. It’s not a “feminist” thing — it’s a human thing. Giving birth (naturally or surgically) is a traumatic, frightening, stressful thing, and a woman just wants to know that her partner is there for support, if for no other reason.
Tim Drozinski is a writer. Read more from Quora below:
- Are there any lies that your parents told you as a kid that you believed for longer than you’d like to admit?