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June 01, 2010


Oh, the humanity!

Men who attend the birth of their children could end up feeling like failures and damage any paternal bond they may have, an expert has controversially claimed.

Fathers-to-be may think they will have an intimate and proactive role as their child is born, only to find their sole purpose is to provide passive support for their partner.

This can lead to emotional shutdown for new fathers, according to Dr Jonathan Ives, head of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Birmingham.

He said: 'Having begun the fathering role already feeling a failure may destroy his confidence.

'It can then be very difficult for him to regain faith in himself once the baby is born and move from that passive state to being a proactive father.

'He effectively becomes de-skilled as a parent and this can lead to problems bonding with the child.'

Instead, Dr Ives said, men should not worry about attending antenatal classes and wait outside the delivery room.

This is one of those times where I really feel for guys. I think it's much harder to stand by while someone you love is in pain than it is to be in pain yourself. Not that childbirth is a horrific experience - if it were, there wouldn't be so many women who opt for natural childbirth. But it's a scary process nonetheless.

I remember being very surprised to find that The Unit worried a lot before our first was born. I was more scared with our second, possibly because I was in labor an awfully long time with the first one, but also because I had two very big babies.

At the time I realized he had no particular desire to witness the 'miracle of birth' and I would have understood it if he'd opted out. That said, I've never forgotten how grateful I was that he decided to be there when I needed him. I doubt the experience was much fun, but for me it was one of those moments that define your marriage.

At any rate, this is one of those Extremely Important Societal Questions that can only be resolved by an anonymous poll:

(Note: the poll is now closed. Thanks for voting!)

Posted by Cassandra at June 1, 2010 04:12 PM

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If you think conception is messy, you ain't seen nothing yet. It is nothing like in the movies. Seriously. First, no one is asked to get a bunch of towels. Second, no one has any towels either. Sure, they may have a few blankets, but that don't even pretend to cover it. Towels? Try a heavy duty mop. And those babies they show you right out of the womb on TV and hand to the momma? Not a chance. They look like that pink cutie pie only after about 15 minutes of detailing by the nursing crew under bright lights across the room. You can hear sucking sounds and squeegies and crying. Then they let you hold it. And for good reason - I saw it come out and I didn't play with goo like that when I was a toddler.

But it was a miracle to witness, and I was glad to be there with my wife, even if my role was primarily to massage that low back and act as an advoctate when she wanted the drugs - NOW DAMNIT!!

Posted by: Average Looking Male Fully Clothed For Your Benefit at June 1, 2010 04:48 PM

I should add no one brought a bucket of hot water to the delivery either. I did not mean to mention towels twice.

Posted by: Average Looking Male Fully Clothed For Your Benefit at June 1, 2010 04:50 PM

The days that my sons were born were the best three days of my life. Bar none -- even my wedding day and my graduation days, and those were high points, too. And I was glad to be there with my wife as each child arrived.

Posted by: Mark L at June 1, 2010 04:52 PM

I was glad to be there with my wife, even if my role was primarily to massage that low back and act as an advoctate when she wanted the drugs - NOW DAMNIT!!

OK, that was funny :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 1, 2010 04:53 PM

From my perspective, it was harder in a way to have my husband there b/c I felt like I couldn't show any signs of discomfort.

Still, I can't even begin to describe how much it meant to me to have him there. I didn't even care whether he did anything - I just wanted to be able to look over and see his face.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 1, 2010 04:57 PM

Not to overplay my importance, I was like Jack Bauer there. In addition to providing multiple seasons of Rescue Me and Sex In The City on DVD for my lovely bride to watch, I was like:
"Doctor, my wife needs the drugs. When can you have the drugs here?"
"That doctor is down the hall with another patient. It shouldn't be more than 10 minutes."
"Which patient?"
"I'm not sure."
"Damnit Doctor! We don't have 10 minutes. Get Chloe O'Brian on the phone. She can link into the hospital to get the room number. We need those drugs here NOW!"

Posted by: Average Looking Male Fully Clothed For Your Benefit at June 1, 2010 05:16 PM

Wait a minute, there's a choice?

Posted by: Allen at June 1, 2010 05:21 PM

Not to overplay my importance, I was like Jack Bauer there.

The Forearm of Justice strikes again :p

Wait a minute, there's a choice?

Well, if you don't mind sleeping on the sofa for the next 20,000 years....

*running away*

Posted by: Cassandra at June 1, 2010 05:25 PM

Our two children were born in '68 and '71. All pre LaMaze, pre "having Daddy in the delivery room". Which was okay by me; I didn't feel inadequate one way or the other. Even managed a little snooze on the waiting room couch. So shoot me!

But I will tell you what did hurt; watching my wife hold her mother's hand and try to communicate with her mother for three long days as her mother lay dying in a hospice. Seeing your wife of nearly 45 years in real pain; and knowing that there's nothing that she, or you, can do about it is hard.

But babies are a great thing--even if you were around only at the beginning, rather than the end of the process. Holding your first baby daughter in your arms when Mom and daughter come home from the hospital is a real treat. You only get that feeling once in your life. (Okay, maybe twice. We had a second daughter and she's special too.)

Posted by: Mike Myers at June 1, 2010 05:25 PM

..I will tell you what did hurt; watching my wife hold her mother's hand and try to communicate with her mother for three long days as her mother lay dying in a hospice. Seeing your wife of nearly 45 years in real pain; and knowing that there's nothing that she, or you, can do about it is hard.

Oh Mike. I am so sorry. FWIW, my Dad wasn't in the room when I was born and that didn't keep him from being the best Dad a daughter could ask for.

I get the biggest kick out of these studies (except of course when they make me feel uber smart by confirming what I already think :p).

Posted by: Cassandra at June 1, 2010 05:29 PM

I was there for both of my kids, but my wife was scheduled for c-sections both times. Mainly, I sat at the head of the bed and held her hand - and peaked over the curtain a few times...

"Oh, look honey, I think that's your spleen!"

My favorite part was when they were sewing her back up and my wife mentioned to the anesthesiologist that she had a headache. He punched a couple of buttons on his panel...
"How's that?"

"Ooooh, I love you."

I didn't even get jealous, I knew it was the morphine talking.

Posted by: Schroedinger's Cat at June 1, 2010 05:34 PM

Ever since a certain incident in HS (something incomprehensible about baby deer and fish and streams - too embarrassing to repeat here) I'd be terrified of morphine :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 1, 2010 05:43 PM

No kids of my own, so didn't vote. "Helped" at one birth on an ambulance run, yea baby! Mom-to-be did all the work, all I did (ambulance driver) was relay instructions and catch (and hide my fears from Mom-to-be.) Husband was busy being saved by the medics and survived the accident, but was unconscious throughout. Didn't make me feel inadequate at all, once it was over.

I can see how it -might- give rise to feelings of incompetence, which in males sometimes leads to inadequacy. If that happened and it bothers you, take an advanced first-aid class.

I -hate- drunk drivers. He lived, too.

Posted by: htom at June 1, 2010 05:49 PM

I was there for both of my kids, but my wife was scheduled for c-sections both times. Mainly, I sat at the head of the bed and held her hand - and peaked over the curtain a few times...

Mini-Yag was a c-section and so will #2. But I definitely know which side of that curtain is the correct one. Everything else about the LG is lovely, I can just take it on faith that her spleen is too, thankyouverymuch.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 1, 2010 06:12 PM

I love those kinds of choices.

You can pay me now or you can pay me forever.

Posted by: Allen at June 1, 2010 06:22 PM

Honestly, I don't know how I would have reacted if my husband had said he didn't want to be there.

I think part of it would have depended on his reasons. If he'd said, "You know, I understand that it's really important to you to have me there but I just can't do it because... x,y,z...", that would have been one thing.

I won't say that I would have been happy about it, but I would have tried my best to understand.

If he'd said something more like, "It's my job to plant the kid, it's yours to push him out", I think I would have clocked him :p But then if he were that kind of man, I wouldn't even dated him (let alone marrying him).

The difference is respect.

In any long term relationship, odds are your partner will do things that make your head explode. There has to be some faith and trust, but that faith and trust needs to be grounded in something more substantial than a strong desire to think the best no matter what.

If one builds up that faith and trust on a day to day basis (even with the tiniest of acts), there's more likely to be something left in the old bank account for those times when it's really needed.

Or at least that's what I'm told :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 1, 2010 06:36 PM

My plan for the day was, "I'll drop you at the hospital on my way to the bar; have someone come by and let me know when it's time to meet the boy."

Her response: "Oh, no, you won't!"

As a consequence, I ended up being there. It was a good thing, too, because she had a bad reaction to the drugs and they needed me to hold her down. The whole rest of the hospital staff in that little, rural Georgia hospital ran to about three people, two of whom were little bitty nurses and the third of whom was the doctor who needed to be busy delivering the child.

So actually, as it turned, out, I did have "an intimate and proactive role" in the birth! Plus, I got to see the boy's big barrel chest, and cut the cord. So hey, it was a good day all around.

Posted by: Grim at June 1, 2010 06:39 PM

I was there for all 4 of mine and also one of my grandsons... We thought my daughter had already had him. when we got to the room the nurse stuck her head out and asked who we were. After our answer she looked back into the room and asked if it was ok for us to come in. My daughter said sure why the H-ll not and so it was I got to be there. We were close and still are. It meant a lot to me to participate even the little bit I did for all of the births. I think Yo-Yo with the research is messed up more than me.

Posted by: jim at June 1, 2010 07:53 PM

I've never forgotten the moment either of my boys were first laid in my arms.

The first was frustrating because they were messing with him and I had to wait for what seemed like forever. I never did want to let him out of my sight after that.

The second time was just magical - they laid him in my arms and he stopped crying and tried so hard to open his little eyes. It was awfully bright in there - he needed sunglasses! :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 1, 2010 08:08 PM

I was there for both my sons, cut the cord, kidded with OB (I know him pretty well by now), the nurses were pretty charming both times.

My sons were both born at a pretty big hospital where my wife's OB practices. He makes a sport of working in his office until the last minute and then making a dash to the room to make the delivery. The OB nurse actually does all the work, IMHO. :) (except for my wife, that is)

Probably the best two days of my life.
Even though some times I'd like to strangle them both.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 1, 2010 09:56 PM

Once they're all grown up, it's hard to imagine they were once so small and helpless. It's even weirder when they have children of their own.

But so wonderful. I got to hold my second grandson again recently (3 months old and 15 pounds!). There is nothing so wonderful in the whole world as seeing your baby grandson break out in a big old smile.

Except, maybe, when your 2 1/2 year old grandson runs up and lays a big kiss right on you, unasked.

Posted by: Cass at June 1, 2010 10:18 PM

Caught three of my four. Will take to the grave the fact that I did not catch the fourth. That being said the only word that I have for the experience is "Miracle". I don't think I'm damaged goods because of it......

William sends

Posted by: William at June 1, 2010 11:01 PM

"The second time was just magical - they laid him in my arms and he stopped crying"
I had one of those moments immediately after the birth of my second child.

She still had the Smurf/Avatar blue hue and was squalling like a, well, a newborn who was rightly irritated by being so rudely yanked from the warm, comfy confines of her own personal hot tub. Yet when the nurse handed her to me, she stopped crying and seemed to smile at me.

To this day I can not imagine a moment in my life that has been more perfect, before or since.

All seriousness aside, a few minutes later, the nurse took the baby from me and placed her under the french fry warming lamps.

I spent the next little while talking with and thanking Walkin' Boss as the doc and nurses preped her out of the delivery room. Then, as Walkin' Boss was transported to her room, I went outside, into the crisp spring morning. There I reflected on the being in the room with the wife for the birth of both our first and second child. During this quite time the wisdom that Carole Burnett shared with Bill Cosby on child birth flashed in the point of my little skull. Her voice said, "Take your bottom lip and pull it over your head." And so once again, I thanked the Deities that I drew the male card at the gender selection decision bubble during my conception and fired up a Macanudo. =;^}

Posted by: bthun at June 1, 2010 11:45 PM

I wish I had something useful to contribute to this conversation. Just sitting here, getting increasingly bummed about my situation: no family of my own and no "real" job, and more positions closed without so much as a "we'd like you to come interview"...and the realization that I've likely wasted a good part of the last 5 years of my life (the point at which I went back to school to get my teaching degree which doesn't seem to be worth a whole lot to anyone right now, least of all me...).

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 2, 2010 01:05 AM

No kids here and nor will there likely be. But, that said I can see both sides. Having my wife in excruciating pain and literally being able to do nothing about it must rank up there with the most emasculating things imaginable. Not to mention, it's not even like you can really help the doctors (they don't actually NEED you to cut the cord, I think that's something the docs cooked up to give us men something to do to "help" even if it IS only symbolic), Grim's case aside. So (I imagine) you're standing there trying to be comforting which doesn't really help make the pain stop, providing emotional support (again, not the most "manly" of roles, but a role for a man nonetheless), and generally feeling helpless. Yeah, I can see that being a problem.

And yet, I know SO many fathers who treasure that moment immensely, and I can't really compare having never been through it. And I can also certainly understand my wife needing and wanting me there for support. As horrible as it is, the only thing I can really compare that to is holding my seventeen year old dog as the vet put him down. It was terrible and awful and every other negative adjective you care to use, but I would be DAMNED if I wasn't there to comfort him at that time. And I'm honestly not even sure I'm speaking metaphorically there either.

So yeah, in general, I guess I'm coming down on the side of, "it makes you feel helpless and impotent, but dammit man... suck it up and be there for your wife if nothing else."

Posted by: MikeD at June 2, 2010 01:10 PM

If my husband had told me one more time to "just breathe", I was going to deck him.

But honestly, there really wasn't anything else for him to do, other than hover and probably feel somewhat helpless. I know how frustrated *I* feel when I'm helpless so I can somewhat comprehend how he felt, though not really. He was great about sneaking me munchies (they wouldn't let me eat) or juice (again, they wouldn't let me eat...18 hours of labor and I couldn't EAT!!!) and about keeping me distracted which was wonderful. And once the epidural kicked in (I don't do pain if I don't have to!) life was grand! I sent him home to take a nap and rest up.

But yeah...18 hours. For EACH of them. Little stinkers. All's well that ends well though.

Oh, and the comment about them not coming out all pink...nope, they don't. The Girl had mecomium in the fluid and was he goopiest thing I had ever seen. I had a hard time believing that had come out of my body! The Boy had his arm crossed across his chest and took FOR.EV.ER. to descend. Stinker. He was not as goopy as his sister but he sure wasn't pink, by any stretch of the imagination.

It took them forever to put The Girl in my arms and, even then, it was only briefly - she had to go to the NICU for meds (due to the mecomium...they thought she had aspirated some). But when they placed The Boy in my arms, I swear I heard angels singing :)

Posted by: HomefrontSix at June 2, 2010 02:41 PM

My first labor was over 36 hours, which kind of bit the big one.

The second was so much faster - 7 hours and I think I only had to push two or three times (again, beats pushing for over 2 hours). 15 minutes from the time they finally got off their butts and wheeled me into the delivery room.

It's kind of sad when you have to interrupt the coffee break to say, "Ahem... I think I am having the baby. Could someone please check me?"

[Doctor] "Oh, she's not going anywhere.... OMG! Get a gurney!"

Pure comedy gold.

Posted by: Cass at June 2, 2010 02:53 PM

No experience here, but my Dad planned to sit the whole thing out until the brand-new intern (note: do not get born on the day when all the newbies start. Just don't) poked his head out of the delivery room and said "Um, Doc, you got a minute?" I was trying to come into the world bass-ackwards (thus starting as I continue).
Apparently there was a moment of mild interest when I appeared reluctant to start the whole breathing thing.

My brother's arrival was blessedly normal, aside from his weighing ten pounds. Mom forgave him, eventually.

Posted by: LittleRed1 at June 2, 2010 03:30 PM

The humor of thos whole thing is the worrying about the Dad's feeeeeeelings! :)

I was there. I was there because my wife wanted me to be there. I stayed over an arms length away, and performed my assigned role to the best of my ability.

I wasn't traumatized, I was competent.

I'd have preferred to stay in the waiting room, and meet my new daughter clean and sleeping rather than bloody and screaming. Then I could pass premium cigars out to the new dads. :)

Posted by: Tony at June 2, 2010 04:07 PM

I'd have preferred to stay in the waiting room, and meet my new daughter clean and sleeping rather than bloody and screaming. Then I could pass premium cigars out to the new dads. :)

I suspect my husband felt the same way.

We were kind of lucky in that, for whatever reason, the boys both looked pretty normal when they were born (not a lot of cleanup involved). Maybe that is because they were both so big and were both late? Neither one ever really looked like a newborn.

The only thing was my youngest had a very swollen face for the first few days. He looked like a mildly annoyed pink Shar-pei :p

I found the hospital photos a few days ago and they were too funny.

Posted by: Cass at June 2, 2010 04:18 PM

It's traumatizing and emasculating for a guy to be forced into the role of passive support? Seriously? C'mon, it doesn't seem like that much to ask, on occasion. Grim lucked out, I guess, getting a he-manly heroic role out of it unexpectedly! Just like him.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 2, 2010 05:39 PM

Well, now, remember I was happy to be passive. I had planned to do my passive support from the tavern, is all.

Posted by: Grim at June 2, 2010 06:08 PM

I would have preferred to have done my part passively from the tavern as well, Grim. 2+ hours pushing is not fun, even WITH an epidural.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at June 2, 2010 06:16 PM

See, that's just what I'm saying. Do unto others as they would like to be doing themselves.

Posted by: Grim at June 2, 2010 06:41 PM

I think it was Rita Rudner who had the routine about her husband, who when told he was expected to be present in the birthing room, said that it would have to be a very big room, and it would have to have a bar at one end.

No question, Grim, you were ready to do your passive stint, good man. I'm just saying it was your good luck that you got handed a role better suited to your instincts, once you were there.

It's hard to watch someone in pain and not be able to give material help, but if you've ever been there, you know how important it can be to the person in pain not to be left alone.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 2, 2010 07:14 PM

What was my good luck was that, serious complications having appeared, we got out of the thing with a healthy boy and a living wife. I've made light of it, but the truth is that it was a dangerous passage. Even as lucky as we were, there were serious and mournful consequences to the trauma my wife suffered that I have not spoken of here, but which I regret to this day.

Yet we have a fine, strong son, and she is still here with me to enjoy him. That's not nothing. If I was lucky, that was my luck.

Posted by: Grim at June 2, 2010 07:39 PM

Well if that isn't the darnedest thing... Walking Boss was bedridden for the last 4 months of her first pregnancy and we were warned against under taking a second. We waited around 8 years after the first to take the plunge one mo time. We did not think that a second was even possible, but Walkin' Boss decided that she would make that determination... With my assistance of course. The things I do for love... =8^}

Now I surely did not feel less of a man for standing with Walkin' Boss through it all. Matter of fact, the thought of whether it's manly to be with the wife while she births your child never crossed my mind until I started hearing of some of the psycho-analytical-buy-my-book folks who pontificate on such things.

But then I rarely listen to others opinions on such matters anywho.

Posted by: bthun at June 2, 2010 08:18 PM

We waited around 8 years after the first to take the plunge one mo time. We did not think that a second was even possible, but Walkin' Boss...

God send me some of that luck, my friend.

Posted by: Grim at June 2, 2010 09:21 PM

For those of you who have children, but thankful you have them. Some of us may never know that joy.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 2, 2010 10:29 PM

Sorry to hear that, Grim, and I didn't mean to make light of your experience in that way. Just joshing you about passivity.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 3, 2010 07:54 AM

I wish you and your lady all the good fortune my hopes can muster Grim. Fortune being children, the most precious of all treasure.

Posted by: bthun at June 3, 2010 08:41 AM

There's no need to apologize, T99. I was making fun too. :) And it's the best thing to do, really. As ML reminds us, even once a father is a fine thing to be.

Posted by: Grim at June 3, 2010 09:49 AM

Being there when he was born, and everything since; Is still, by far, the most amazing and coolest thing that I have ever been involved in. My wife, his mother, makes my part, so very easy on top of it all.

Posted by: Edward Lunny at June 4, 2010 01:24 PM

It is traumatizing if a man thinks the only thing he is good for is the use of his muscles in actively fighting off threats.

It all depends on exactly what is going on through a person's head. But if even they don't know, then it's doubly hard for an observer to check.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 01:48 PM

Haha, at my daughter's birth, my husband passed out. Not because of the birth, mind you, but because he was over-dressed for the hospital ambient temperature and, what with all the excitement, he got overheated ... so there I was pushing for all I was worth and the nurses were rushing over to succor HIM. Sheesh.

Posted by: lethargic at June 7, 2010 03:12 PM