The saying ‘stay at the head end’ may well ring true as latest reports suggest that it may be better off for your relationship to keep your partner away from the birth.
For much of history, and up until about 40 years ago, the husband was expected to not be present in the delivery room. Depicted in many films as the father anxiously waits in the waiting room until he hears the cries of his newborn, he sighs a sigh of relief. Now however, we see the darling daddies encouraging their wives through the process from start to finish, head end and all and it’s not even a consideration at childbirthing classes that the father wouldn’t be present. In many developing countries however, it is still common practice to have your mother or a close female friend at the birth rather than your partner.
Many woman find it comforting to have their mothers their as opposed to their partners. In fact, new research has shown as many as a quarter of pregnant women would prefer to have their mother instead of their husband or boyfriend as a birth partner.
Caron Giles, 32 from North West London, agrees with the reports as she blames her husbands’ presence at the birth, ultimately, for the breakup of her marriage.
“John didn’t really want to be at the birth of our son Finlay, but I insisted he be there, all my friends’ husbands were marvellous at their births. I had a gruelling 18 hour labour with lots of shouting and screaming and finally when I was pushing Finlay out I pretty much lost all inhibitions and just wanted him out. John even cut the cord so I thought all was ok..”
Unfortunately, things really weren’t ok, and Caron and John needed relationship counselling eleven months after Finlay was born to get their relationship back on track. In one of the sessions, John revealed the problems in their relationship started after he had seen his wife give birth.
“John said it affected our sex life- he said he didn’t see me in ‘that way’ anymore after watching Finlay’s birth” says Caron, who is now left to bring up Finlay as a single parent.
The NCT website encourages partners to be aware at the birth and “accept her pain. Seeing somebody you love in pain is very difficult and it is very natural to want to stop the pain. Try to understand that in labour this response is not necessarily appropriate or even possible”. There is no question on whether fathers should be there or not. 40 years on, it seems there is no opt out option.
In Dr Keith Ablow M.D’s article A Perilous Journey from Delivery Room to Bedroom he cites that many men find themselves with this predicament.
“In the age of the "new man," very little consideration is given to the potentially negative side effects of togetherness in the delivery room. Every man I have spoken with over the past few years knows he is expected to be with his wife when his child comes into the world”
“They seem to have trouble seeing them as sexual beings after seeing them make babies, trouble reverting to a mind-set in which their wives' sexual anatomy is just that - not associated with images of new life emerging through the birth canal”
For a relationship to break down as a direct response to watching childbirth seems incredulous but also obvious. Seeing the person you love go through hours of pain, helpless in the knowledge that really, you can’t help, and possibly finding the experience gory and unsettling, can make some men see the female biology in a different light, destroying intimacy between a man and woman.
Some women, however, find the support and encouragement of their partners a huge help whilst giving birth. Lauren Sands, 27, from Sussex says “I really couldn’t have done it without him. He was amazing. I don’t really care that he saw me like that- it’s tough, we made this baby together so he has to be there for me all the way” Lauren’s husband James Sands, also 27 says of the birth “it was the most amazing experience ever seeing Ava come into the world. It was pretty tense at times and I really didn’t know what to do to help Lauren half the time, but it was worth every second”
Whether you want your partner, mother, close friend or even a doula at the birth, it appears now it needs to be a consideration for pregnant woman and their partners to think about the choice they have rather than the expectations of the modern man. In a recent gurgle poll it was revealed that 80% of our members considered their ideal birth partner to be the dad-to-be, 11% would choose their mum, 3% favoured a best friend, 2% would like a sibling to attend their baby's birth and 3% would just like the midwife to be there.
If your partner decides that he really doesn't want to attend the birth, this is of course his decision but you must let him know your feelings. Is it really important to you that he is there? If the answer is yes, then you must be honest with him as otherwise you will feel bitter and resentful towards him. Furthermore, it's not a decision to be taken lightly - your partner must give the matter a great deal of thought, as it's important that he doesn't have any regrets later. If the reason that he doesn't want to be at the birth is because he feels queasy around blood, then you should also both bear in mind that he may be able to overcome his fear - don't give up at the first hurdle! During pregnancy, attend as many antenatal classes and doctor's appointments together as you can; not only will this help your partner to feel involved but he will also know more about what to expect from labour and birth.
If you feel that having your partner at the birth has affected your relationship, or that your partner was the perfect birthing partner, please comment below.
Read our article on How to Choose the Right Birthing Partner.