Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go camping together, they put up a tent and then go to enjoy a tranquil rest near the fire. In the middle of the night, Sherlock turns to Dr. Watson and says, “So what are you thinking about now”?
Watson responds: “Sherlock! This is awesome. I’m gazing at the celestial stars hovering above us. I’m overwhelmed by the romantic splendor of the night, and I’m engulfed by the picturesque view of the double decker.”
“And what are you thinking about”? Asks Watson.
“That someone stole our tent,” Sherlock replies.
For many American couples, it’s important — and expected — for the man to be fully present throughout the birth. However, it has not always been like this in the past. And it is not always like this in the present. Let me explain. Up until a few decades ago, American women gave birth at home with the help of female relatives, friends and midwives. Then, in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, when Dr. Robert Bradley confirmed that a father’s presence helped the mother to relax, dads started to get involved. Nowadays, there’s societal expectation that mom’s partner will be in the delivery room.
However, the presence of fathers in the delivery room has detractors. The French obstetrician Dr. Michel Odent is of the opinion that men should not be in the delivery room because it limits a woman’s production of oxytocin. He argues that the “masculinization of the birth environment” (as he calls the presence of men during their partner’s labor) slows labor and increases the likelihood of a cesarean delivery. The evidence supporting that claim is scant at best, and most birthing experts disagree.
The Welsh midwife Grace Thomas studied expectant fathers’ attitudes towards pregnancy. Her research found that new fathers may undergo emotional turmoil before and after their child’s birth as they adjust. A recent survey by investigators at Oxford University showed that men were “deeply affected” by difficult births, with some experiencing subsequent depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Perhaps, that explains the results of a poll that show that one in 20 fathers avoids being in the delivery room when their partner gives birth. The singer Robbie Williams described witnessing his loved one as she labored, pushed and crowned as like “watching my favorite pub burning down.”
But many women wish their partners’ presence during the births of their children. They state that “it feels good to know that he is there, helping you, reassuring you, comforting you, coaching you through the hard work of labor.” To these women, birth is very much a team effort. Some partners even participate in specialized childbirth classes, such as Lamaze or the Bradley method of natural childbirth.
So, should the father be present at the baby’s the birth? There is no right or wrong answer – ideally, the solution is one that you will both be comfortable with. If you and your partner have a loving, supportive relationship independent of the pregnancy, then it should go without saying that the feelings and opinions of each other matter. If you cannot agree on that then, ultimately, the final choice rests with the mother, since it is her body. His paternal “rights” don’t really begin until that baby is physically independent from the mother.
For a little bit of humor related to this topic, watch this: