Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Should dads attend the births of their children?

The Royal College of Midwives is urging fathers to be more involved in maternity care.

But is it really us fathers that need to change?

In my experience birth partners are seen as an unnecessary inconvenience for maternity ward staff, I am sure many would prefer heavily pregnant women to arrive solo, partners dispensed with, much like in the golden age of yesteryear where everyone knew their place and even the thought of questioning a gender role would have been squashed before seeing the light of day.

Those folks need to move with the times.

For the birth of OUR son we arrived at hospital at around 3am.

I had arguments with the senior house officer (SHO) and the car park stewards both within a few minutes of arrival.

Instead of adopting my usual tactic of ignoring everyone this time I put my more combative self into action.

Now, you may argue that I was putting more stress on the birthing situation, but that simply wasn’t true. My intentions were the exact opposite, to take the stress of these necessary arguments away from my soon-to-give-birth wife.

The only stress I was adding was perhaps to myself, and to these employees who institutionally seemed reluctant to treat me as an equal. If they had just listened, read the birth plan notes, my forceful demeanour would not have been necessary, mind they probably wouldn’t have been enamoured with my aloof-self either.

After getting threw these battles I set about removing any stresses I could, making the birthing environment as calm as was possible.

I asked questions, I held my wife as she had an epidural, operated my little fan and spray on my wife’s temperature in tandem. And I encouraged light-hearted banter with the midwives.

I may also have offered a little grin/grimace/smile/wince when the contraction monitoring machine indicated one was on its little - or big - way.

Now I’m not claiming to be a hero, Max’s mom was the one going through the real pain, but I played my part, and if she could tell you, she would say that his birth would not have been the relative pleasant experience it was without my calm and controlled input.

Okay, on the inside I was in a proper panic, but none of that came out and I was delighted to make a meaningful contribution.

It something all dads should try to experience.

It saddens me when women insist their partners stay away from their births. Labelling men as useless that would make the experience worse for their attendance.

This really is very sad, and if you tell someone they are useless often enough they will eventually believe it, except me of course, I’m self-assured enough to know you are talking nonsense.

And why would you want to have a baby with a ‘useless’ dad? Men need to be empowered. Feel involved. Trust me, everyone benefits, especially the children.

I was gutted when I was sent home after my child’s birth.

“Visiting hours are over Mr Newbold.”

My sadness was not helped when I returned in the morning to discover there were things I could have helped with in the evening and to what inconvenience if I’d been slouched in a ward chair?

It pleases me to see that the latest recommendations of the RCM are to consider allowing men to stay overnight on maternity wards.

But my favourite maternity ward unwelcomeness moment was when we were gearing up to leave.

It was Christmas Eve, the ward of about ten or twelve beds had two families in them. Us and one other.

The tea trolley came round and my wife was offered a cup of tea. She didn’t want one.

I however did fancy a cuppa, but on grounds of ‘health and safety’ I was refused one. Yes, on Christmas Eve, on a near empty ward, I was refused a cup of tea.

Fortunately for me my wife had a change of heart, but by mistake ordered tea with sugar. She kindly gave it to me – much to the disdain of ward staff.

And to rub sodium into their metaphoric wounds, the same member of staff had to chase us out of the hospital to let us know we’d won the ward's Christmas raffle.

As we’d already hit the jackpot a day or so earlier, we really couldn’t care less, but it was a moment we both savoured.


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