Thursday, July 09, 2015

Fathers & Childbirth

This blog post is a guest post from childbirth educator and author, Nancy Houser.

I remember having a conversation in the mid-80’s with my Dad.  He was an only child but was blessed to become father to five children.

A new father and his child
My parents experienced childbirth when the delivery room was deemed, “no man’s land”, and fathers were relegated to “Father’s Waiting Room”, mandatorialy remaining until notified of the birth of their child.  Contrary to what most believe, the Father’s Waiting Room consisted of a few chairs, perhaps the daily newspaper, and eventually a television that received 3 channels that were off the air at midnight!

Today, childbirth classes provide knowledge and support to expectant fathers, however classes were not available when my parents birthed.  I am a Bradley childbirth educator and was curious to know my Dad’s views on childbirth. Dad indicated he was nervous and excited each time they went to the hospital.  Nervous and concerned for mom’s well-being; excited and anxious to view their baby, and discover whether a boy or girl.

Dad stated the only childbirth info they ever received over the 14 years of birthing children was viewing drawings in a medical text with a nurse one time.  Aside from that, they just went to the hospital when they thought it was time.  I asked Dad to describe being in the Father’s Waiting Room.  He said it was difficult to remain calm; the “not-knowing” was difficult and frightening at times.  Each time a nurse opened the door, all eyes were upon her, hopeful…then disappointed when his name was not called.  Once, Dad was even told to “go home, sleep, come back tomorrow.”  Dad said, “I did go home, called your grandmother to update her, tried to sleep but could not.  I recall saying quite a few prayers for the woman I love and our baby.”

During one of my pregnancies, I invited Dad to an OB appointment to experience hearing his grandchild’s heartbeat.  At that moment, the look on his face will forever remain one of my favorite memories!  His expression was one of amazement, shock, and pure joy! His response was simply, “Wow!”

Dad never desired to be present at any of his grandchildens’ births.  However, he did hold almost all of them within hours of birth.  He indicated expectant fathers should learn all they can regarding childbirth, believing it is a privilege to experience the birth of your child with the woman you love, to hold him when just moments old vs. viewing him through the nursery window as he once did.

Dad did not witness the birth of his children, but by choice became an actively involved parent changing cloth diapers (with pins) and bathing his children during an era when that was unheard of!  Even when his vision was impaired by glaucoma, Dad still changed cloth diapers of his grandchildren.  His active involvement in our lives and those of his grandchildren and his unconditional love for each of us exemplifies the true meaning of being a father.  Dad wasn’t perfect, he did the best he could, and to you Dad, my heartfelt thanks and love!!

About the Author:
Nancy Houser is a Bradley Childbirth Educator, certified since 1982; Certified Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, and best of all, the mother to five amazing children and grandmother to two adorable granddaughters! Her heart is in Ohio, but her current home is in Northern Virginia!

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