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Are dads neglected during labour?

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By James Sinclair

James is from Oklahoma but now resides in Upstate New York. He is a veteran of the Navy, where he served as a Hospital Corpsman with the Marine Corps. He and his wife are older parents, having their first child when they were in their 40's. He is an outspoken critic of officiating in sports (read "he yells at the TV during football") and is master of the art of grilling (only according to everyone who has eaten at his house). A former Bouncer and Bartender, he now pays the bills as a Security Manager for a commercial agriculture company. He and his wife Danielle are the proud parents of a single daughter who is the light of his life.

Published on 23/03/2018

Here is a fact many of you may not know. Dads get screwed in the whole birthing process. I don’t mean cheated out of something, no. I mean we are treated terribly.

Not as a rule, of course. But its more often than not. And before you get all up in arms about how “we don’t go through what the woman goes through”, I need to tell you something. You are absolutely right. We don’t go through what Mum goes through. But what we do go through can be terrible. And unlike Mom, it’s completely unnecessary.

From the moment we arrive with Mum to begin the process of bringing our child into the world, we are an anathema. We are ignored, shunted to the side, belittled, berated, and knowingly cut out of one of (if not the) most important events in our lives.
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And the justification used by nurses, doctors, and family members is “It’s not about you. It’s about her. And you don’t know what this poor woman is going through. AND YOU NEVER WILL!”

You’re right. We will never know what labour pains are like. We will never feel a contraction, or a baby kick us in the ribs from the inside or the feeling of a C-section incision. We Dads will never know any of these things.

But we do know other things. Like the fear of the unknown. The pain of watching our partners whom we have dedicated our lives to hurt for hours and hours on end. The absolute soul-shattering fear of the baby being hurt. The hours and hours of frustration. We know the fear of having to go through all of that alone, with no staff to assist us, being relegated to the corner, told to stay out of the way, and being completely helpless to do anything to help our family. And we know the terror of enduring minutes that pass like eons, not knowing if our partner and child are even going to survive.

We know the fear of losing our best friend. And we know the fear of losing our best friend we have yet to meet. We know what it is to look into a possible future of being alone. We know what it is to face the fact we may be losing a child we have never even had a chance to hold or trying to raise that child without their Mother.

So while we don’t know what a contraction feels like, don’t any of you tell any Dad out there that we don’t understand or can’t imagine the pain. Trust me, we can imagine it. And more. And we do. Constantly. Don’t patronize us and make jokes like “Your job was done 9 months ago.”, “Just pace and hand out the cigars, Dad.”, or (my absolute favourite) “You ordered it, but SHE has to deliver it.” Saying crap like that just goes to show that you refuse to see what this person is going through. And apparently, YOU NEVER WILL.

Or will you? You can, it’s not hard.

Health care providers: the next time you are walking down the hall of the Maternity wing and you see the soon to be Dad staring blankly at the coffee pot because he’s asleep on his feet with bags under his eyes, pat him on the shoulder. Reassure him. Tell him it’s going to be ok. He may not look like it, but he needs that encouragement.

Family: Mum is the priority, absolutely. But don’t forget Dad. Don’t leave him out on an island to fend for himself.
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Talk to him. Ask him if he needs anything. Be there for him, too.

We Dads don’t get the contractions. We don’t get the episiotomy. We don’t get the C-section.

We also don’t get the help some of us may desperately need. So please remember…

Dads need support too.

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  1. Mark

    This is a great article – one that articulates there’s still a much needed shift in cultural thinking when it comes to the dad experience (in healthcare AND in daily dad-life). When taking my son to the store and someone says, “Oh you must have an amazing wife at home…” Nope. Just my husband…two dudes raising a kid together. The look on their face is enough satisfaction without going down THAT rabbit-hole. The role of “dad” has shifted and men are taking a much more “hands-on approach” in parenting (this website is proof enough) without much recognition from society. Unfortunately, old habits die hard and people still think it’s OK to downplay / disregard the man’s experience. We were fortunate enough to have an amazing hospital team when our son was born, but, I guess, not everyone is that lucky. We have to keep on fighting until society finally catches up to what we know – today’s dads are fu*#ing awesome.

  2. Chris S.

    Yea I didn’t get any of that sort of treatment for any of my 3 kids. And I just had my 3rd one 2 weeks ago. Course all 3 kids were had at the same hospital and they were fantastic. No, I was not the center of attention, but anytime the nurses came in during each of our 3-5 day stays, they’d always ask if I was ok or needed anything. Never once did I feel like I was belittled or neglected or shunned or anything else that was mentioned.

  3. Graham

    This is an amazing article and the sole reason as a dad and a proud member of the dadsnet tribe I work alongside our local maternity ward, MVP and better births to change this and give dads a voice in maternity. Its possible we can change this. We just have to want it!

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