Dear readers: My recent column addressing a question from an expectant father who was afraid to be in the delivery room because of "all the blood" generated a lot of response from readers. Here are a few of them, along with my response.
AE wrote: "All the blood? Really? I am a former NICU nurse and besides my own personal delivery experience, I attended hundreds of deliveries of babies. Fact: It isn't a particularly bloody event! Amniotic fluid is clear and clean and most babies come out slippery and a bit on the slimy side. There might be a little bit of blood on the baby's head from the mother's stretching, a tear, or episiotomy, but that is usually well controlled. Come on ... let's get our facts straight and answer the dad with a reality check first."
Good point, AE. In most cases, there isn't a lot of blood. No one seems to know how it started, but the impression a lot of people have that childbirth is a bloody event is generally wrong.
AE added the expectant dad is terrified of adulthood. "If he was there for the baby making, he needs to be there for the baby welcoming. His wife has to be there, after all, she has no choice in the matter. This guy needs to grow up." DT wrote something similar: "Give me a break! You want her to carry that baby and push it out of her v-jay-jay alone? You want her to put a bow on that kid too? How pathetic. Grow up."
Here, I have to disagree. Strongly. While the dad's worry about reacting to the blood may be exaggerated, the underlying fears are real. More importantly, those fears are in no way proof of a lack of maturity or a lack of support for his wife. One could say they're the exact opposite: The dad may be worried that if he passes out in the delivery room, the medical team's attention would shift from his wife to him. By removing himself from the situation, he hopes to keep the focus on his wife, which is where it needs to be.
LJ offered a possible solution: "The dad could sit at the non-business end (the mother's head) and be in the room to support the mother in her travail. He could look away when the baby is presented until it is wrapped up and more appealing," LJ wrote. "When my son was born, my husband was there for me, not necessarily to see the squalling creature emerge." JC agreed: "As long as future dad stays at his wife's head and provides encouragement to her, he is not going to see anything potentially frightening or bloody." She added that "kids fall down, get banged, bruised and/or cut. Getting them and you and your wife to 18 years from now is going to take a lot more than one box of Band-Aids!"
Both LJ and JC are right. The mom really needs her husband's support, and he can encourage and comfort her while limiting his exposure to blood and minimizing the possibility he'll draw the medical team's attention away from her.
The bottom line is if at all possible, the dad should be there for the birth of his child. Not only to support his wife, but because it's an absolutely incredible experience. As KR put it, "My husband was present for three births, and doesn't remember blood. He remembers the magic moment of the baby's birth and first cry. It would be too bad for the dad to miss sharing that moment with his wife. I hope he does talk to other dads, because I haven't heard of a single one saying he wished he wouldn't have been there."
Once in a while, I hear from a dad who regrets having seen his children being born. But those feelings are pretty rare.
(Read Armin Brott's blog at www.DadSoup.com, follow him on Twitter, @mrdad, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)