You wouldn’t expect labour and delivery rooms in hospitals to be places of great romance, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Much has been written about the love between mothers and their newborns. Sometimes it’s a quiet, gentle love, and sometimes it’s an overwhelming, life changing love. But the kind I’m talking about right now is the love between the mom and the dad in labour.
The media has solidified an image of the interaction between moms and dads in the delivery room revolving around the mom swearing profanities at the dad, and the dad being mostly clueless and bumbling. I honestly don’t know how representative that is of most labours because I don’t see most labours. I only see the ones I’m doulaing for. And what I see is the deeply moving culmination of the romance and bond of the two people who have worked so hard and put so much of themselves into bringing forth a new life.
I see men who love and care for their wives and newborn children with so much strength and intensity. I am profoundly touched every time I see a dad wrapping his arms around his wife’s shoulders, putting his forehead against hers, supporting her through contractions, loving her with every fibre of his being. Every time a dad goes hours, tirelessly massaging his wife’s back to take the edge of each contraction, or holds her under the shoulders to support her weight if she’s more comfortable in an upright position but is too tired to support her own weight.
I see the look in their eyes as they look at their wives with awe of her strength and beauty through the whole amazing process of birth. The worry and concern they have if their wife is having a hard time. I see women holding on to their partners for solace, or resting their heads against their partners chest to help them relax. I see dad watch mom’s every move, anticipating when she might need a sip of water or a cold cloth to wipe her brow. The sweet whisperings of encouragement and love. I see the tears of joy or beams of radiance when dads hold their newborns for the first time. It’s such a well deserved high for both the mom and dad who’ve worked so hard together.
I see men who will be forever changed by the experience of being so helpful and supportive of their wives through labour. It deeply strengthens their relationship and connection to their partners and their children.
I don’t know what dads are like at births I’ve not been at. I imagine some men are naturally great at supporting their partners in labour, and some are not because they are feeling unsure, overwhelmed or disconnected. I know some parents-to-be, when considering if they want to have a doula with them at their birth, are concerned that the doula will take over the dads role. I can understand that concern, but actually, it’s quite the opposite.
I don’t ever take over the dad’s role. That is the primary relationship that the doula can never replace. The dad is so helpful in the delivery room just by being there and loving his partner. I always recognize and support their relationship. I’m just there for a short period of their lives, but they are the ones who are going to be raising their child together for years, so I try to enhance their connection during this intense experience of labour and birth.
For the men who are unsure about what to do in the delivery room, they quickly gain more confidence by watching what I’m doing and figuring out how they can support their wives. Quite often dad and I tag team to provide massage, counter pressure or hip squeezes to mom for hours on end. If dad has any concerns, I am immediately there to answer all his questions as best I can. The dads never feel overwhelmed that too much responsibility is on their shoulders.
Occasionally I meet a dad at the prenatal visit who really does not want to be in the delivery room. If the mom doesn’t want him there, then it’s fine. But if she does, then I want to make sure I address his fears and make it clear that he can participate as much as he’s comfortable with since I will be there too. If he’s still not convinced, I talk to him about something extremely difficult he’s experienced or witnessed in his life. Then I get him to imagine the difference between having people to support him through it versus doing it totally alone. That’s always enough to flip the switch and motivate the dad to commit to being there no matter what.
Sometimes a dad will have a strong emotional reaction and it helps to have someone there to share it with instead of keeping it to themselves. One dad was really worried for his wife when she became sick with an infection in labour. He felt relieved after talking to me about his fears. Another dad took me aside after the birth to talk to me. The intensity of the experience brought up memories of their previous child who was stillborn. He recounted his last experience and said that him and his wife had no one to support them through that. They felt so alone. In contrast, this time, they felt so supported. He thanked me for, “caring for his wife better than her mother could have.” I was so moved by this man’s love for his wife, the strength of their bond through their shared experiences and the deep healing of the past hurt.
I am confident that these couples will go on with their lives with more love and connection than before their birth experience. I know the dads will continue to express their profound love beyond the delivery room in practical ways – caring for their newborn, waking up in the middle of the night to rock a crying baby or change a diaper, working extra hours to provide for their families.
Romance in the delivery room is such a special thing and I am so grateful to be able to witness it. What are your thoughts and experiences? Leave your comments below.