Let’s dispense once and for all with the myth of fathers being absent, absent-minded, or absolutely clueless when it comes to childbirth.
Nothing rivals witnessing the birth of your child, and while experiencing a newborn’s entry into the world is naturally different for mothers and fathers, it is, from an emotional perspective, equally intense. The love, the wonder, the joy that these 9 dads felt on seeing their babies born is … well, why don’t we let them speak for themselves.
Tom, Ideas4Dads, shares on his blog how he unexpectedly delivered his third daughter: I think it took 4 or 5 pushes for baby to come out. Thankfully she began crying immediately and I was able to free the cord from around her neck and plonk her on Mum’s tum. Talk about seat of the underpants stuff …. The midwife on the phone had the birth at 10.27am. The first of the two midwives en route arrived at 10.45am and proceeded to deal with cord, check baby, deliver placenta …. A little part of me can’t help but think in 5 minutes I have stolen High Command’s 9-months of glory. Oh, and apparently I shouldn’t have used the white towels.
Mike Cruse, Papa Does Preach: I will always remember the day my son was born. To this day my wife still says that everything that happened during labor was a blur to her, and she remembers little, but not me; I remember every detail and will cherish them forever. When my wife went into labor I felt so scatter-brained and nervous …. My wife asked me to be right there with her through everything, assisting the doctor as if I was the one with the years upon years of medical training. The feeling I had seeing my son enter the world can barely be put into words, but I do know one thing, it was the most amazing experience I have ever been a part of, and I will forever draw on those memories as a source of pride and joy.
Aaron Gouviea , The Daddy Files, shares the stories of both of his children:
Will, 4/3/2008: I was working as a newspaper reporter when my first son was born, and his birth was very close to becoming front page material. Due to a fatal accident on the one road that gets us to the hospital quickly, we came way too close to having the baby in the car. I had my editors on alert for the “baby born in the car” story you read about a few times a year. Thankfully, we made it to the hospital and things moved very quickly .… It was extra special because we didn’t find out the sex ahead of time, so I got to tell my wife we had a boy.
I remember being grateful for the wall behind me, because my knees were more than a little weak. I’m not doing it justice because no words can describe what it’s like watching a life enter the world for the first time, as a part of you is literally brought to life and handed to you. Let’s just say there were tears.
Sam, 7/31/2013: We suffered four miscarriages, one medically necessary abortion, and one harrowing round of IVF to complete our family. Truthfully, I gave up hope that it would happen. When you’re burned that many times, you tend to expect the worst. But when my second son entered my life, the floodgates opened. All the pain, worry, cautious optimism, and hope came pouring out. I kissed my wife and whispered “We did it,” as we both cried unabashedly. But it was only an hour later, when my oldest met his little brother for the first time, that I truly realized how happy a person can be. Telling our (then) 4-year-old the baby in mommy’s tummy had died was one of the most horrendous experiences of our lives, topped only by the sheer joy of brother holding brother as our oldest whispered “I’ll take care of you, Sam.” It will forever be my happy thought.
Nick, Statesville, NC: My daughter is now two and a half years old, but I remember her birth like it happened this morning. The OB had scheduled an induction, and so on that morning we went and checked in, got put up in a room, they gave her the medicine to get the show on the road, and an arduous 12-hour journey began.
That’s because it was 12 hours before they realized that her cervix wasn’t going to open up any further, and then my little girl’s heart rate dropped by half, and the doctor was called in (he arrived in a flash) and we were told that it was time for plan B. My wife burst into tears; a c-section had been her biggest fear. That cold, mechanical room terrified her. But I held her, and reminded her that our little girl would be in our arms in less than an hour. They carted her out, gave me some scrubs, and told me to wait in the hallway until they came for me. To say I was nervous is a bit cliché. I could have snap-kicked a hole in the wall if I’d been startled; I was so keyed up. They brought me into the OR and allowed me to stand next to my wife and watch. They even allowed me to film the proceedings with my phone, which my wife and I are now very, very glad that I did.
Being a father has its challenges, but the privilege of being HER father far exceeds all of it.
Tom Santone, Hammonton, NJ: Just before 6am one Saturday morning, the day before Father’s Day, my pregnant wife woke up in a pool of blood. Quickly, we had to send my older daughter, age 3, to my in-laws’ house less than a mile away.
I had to rush my wife to the hospital, driving carefully, and quickly as possible. We arrived and had to undergo an emergency C-section against my wife’s wishes .… A few moments later, my beautiful daughter was born. After everything was over and the baby was healthy, the doctor informed us that she could have suffocated in the placenta if we didn’t get to the hospital so quickly. Being a beautiful baby girl born the day before Father’s Day, we appropriately named her Abigail, meaning “Father rejoiced.” Six years later, my little peanut is still giving me joy.
Tom Briggs, Diary of the Dad: I like to think that I played an important part in the births of both my sons, and my wife has told me on many occasions that she couldn’t have done it without me there .… I was upset that I wasn’t allowed to stay when my older son was born. He arrived at around 2am so I was asked to leave as soon as he and my wife were moved to a ward. This was apparently because it was outside visiting hours and, as far as the hospital was concerned, I was only a visitor. This is sadly quite common and really doesn’t give dads the best opportunity to support their partners and bond with their newborn babies. It also supports the ridiculous notion that dads are second-class parents.
Brent Almond, Designer Daddy: We weren’t actually there for the birth of our son, though we had planned on it. We were living on the other side of the country when his birth mother went into labor a month early. He was born early in the morning, we hopped on a plane and got there late that night. The hospital had set up a room for just the 3 of us—me, my husband and our son—so we could spend his very first night together. We’ve been together ever since.
While I get that stereotypes exist for a reason, and that joking about them can be funny at times, across-the-board dismissal of dads as being absent, bumbling, or useless during childbirth are not only insulting, they are played out and just plain unfunny. We are a two dad family, yet the only immature, unprepared person in our story was the birth mom—and there was nothing funny about it.
Charlie O’Hay, Work from home dad, Philadelphia: We were high-risk and had already experienced the loss of twin boys at 22 weeks gestation due to severe early-onset preeclampsia only 20 months earlier. Since then we were all about vigilance. Grief is a strict teacher.
A few days before the scheduled induction, my wife awoke bleeding. Not just bleeding, but hemorrhaging .… They rushed my wife to surgery. I paced in the waiting area, repeating the same promise to myself: “I am NOT standing over a grave after this.” My wife’s best friend arrived and stayed with me.
Only minutes later, a nurse emerged from the OR to say my wife had experienced a placental abruption, and that three-fourths of the placenta had torn away from the uterine wall. All I wanted to know was that my wife and daughter were alright. The nurse said the doctor had to perform an emergency C-section, but that both my wife and daughter were fine. A few minutes later, as I was absorbing this news, a nurse wheeled an isolette into the waiting area. “Would you like to meet your daughter?” she said. She placed the tiny bundle (6 pounds 4 ounces) in my arms. She was light and warm as a loaf of bread. I bent over her, and whispered “Welcome to the world,” and kissed her gently on the forehead.
This June, Tori (as she likes to be called) turned eight. She is a vibrant, fierce, intelligent, beautiful girl. She loves to swim and has recently taken up junior roller derby. She is both my star and my compass, and I am proud to be her father.
Alexander Yarde, The Good Men Project: The birth of our children wasn’t about me. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to support my partner. I got to be there, wife and children survived and thrived. I’m blessed with fond memories and warm feelings I’ll take to my grave. What does it matter what anyone says about my role during the birth of our children?
Perhaps because it was such a miraculous process I’m left with not only indelible pictures but also a wealth of visceral memories. The sensations of guilt and distress for my role in putting the woman I love in pain, wishing I could somehow take the pain for her simultaneously with the love I already had for my children not even named and the joy of the prospect of being a dad. You’ll never root for anyone more than the woman giving birth to your children, I remember her grasping my hand as labor hit her. She grit her teeth, I kissed her, encourage her, and cut it out when the cheerleading became too much. I remember keeping the shards of ice coming. Labor is a thirsty business for a woman. How beautiful and badass she was. I felt the pride swell in my heart totally in awe of what my wife was going through. The way time froze holding my breath as they weighed, tested, and measured with precision. Sitting up smiling, feeding them post op.
One detail always cheers me up, no matter my disposition, like a single serving of warm love. The sensation cradling each of my children minutes old, suckling my little finger as I introduced myself. Truly the happiest and scariest days of my life so far.
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Photo: Jon DeJong/Flickr