Delivery dads: Readers share their stories

Paul and his wife with their baby in 1973
Image caption Paul and family in 1973

A recent Magazine article about fathers being present at the birth of their children prompted a big response from our readers.

The article examined how the role of fathers during childbirth has evolved from a time when they were largely absent at the birth, to now, when it is rare they don't attend.

Readers wrote in to share their own experiences and opinions. Here are a selection of their comments.

Paul Hunt, Solihull: I don't know where those pre-natal classes involving husbands in the late 1960s were. I remember in the late 1960s or early 1970s a midwife on television said she thought it was disgusting that a man would even want to be there. My children were born in 1973 and 1975 and I was not allowed to attend the birth. This was an RAF hospital, things were changing then, the sister did at least apologise when she said I would have to leave. Ironically I almost delivered our first myself, in hospital, as there only seemed to be two nurses to look after the newborns, mums about to give birth, and mums who had lost their babies (they were all kept in the same ward). The head was visible before anyone answered the call bell. I had to wheel my wife down to the delivery room and get her on the bed myself before the staff nurse came back with the doctor. I was then sent off to wait in a TV room, where there were at least a dozen medical staff watching the Eurovision song contest.

Michael Sheehan, Hornchurch, Essex: I have been at the birth of all four of my kids. Two natural births and two Caesarean sections. It's all pretty gory and not the most pleasant of things at all. Men nowadays feel pressured to be present but I personally think that the man should stay away until its over. Give the nurses time to clean up the child, and give time for the wife to tidy up and get some make-up on. Seeing your partner covered in blood and sweat or worse is not a good image. Stay away men and keep the glamorous images of your partner in your head and not those images that would be more reminiscent of a James Herriot moment.

Emmet, Hertford: I was there for the birth of both my daughters. I played it safe the first time around, looking my wife in the eye, and she sailed through the delivery. For our second, I awoke not feeling the best and took my wife to the hospital. It was a steaming hot August day and I was going downhill, only to vomit (this time at the bottom of the bed) in perfect timing with the birth. The Caribbean midwife chuckled away... "Aha ha, classic" were her choice of words. A little embarrassing.

Image caption Allan read Bridget Jones's Diary

Allan Brown, Gateshead: I was banished from the delivery room by my partner when she saw the terror on my face and sat quietly reading Bridget Jones's Diary at 4am in the waiting area of the maternity unit. She never blamed me, nor spoke of it again, and two years later I was present at the caesarean birth of a second daughter who sadly did not survive. When asked by women about the the birth of my first daughter, I would say most are appalled that I meekly followed orders and left the delivery room, and that I wasn't man enough to stay.

Jim Pitts, Northamptonshire: I did not attend my three children's birth for two reasons. One, I had no wish to do so and we both believed that my wife was a strong enough character to cope very well with just medical attendance. Two, we were running our own business, which was very demanding and we both judged that to be important. That was about 45 years ago, but I certainly would not change my views now.

Steven Hemsley, Salford: I attended the birth of our first child last year. What was frustrating for both my wife and I was that while I was allowed - indeed actively encouraged - to be in the delivery room, but before that point my wife had had to be induced. Therefore she was placed in a shared ward, where I simply was not allowed to stay. I had to leave my wife alone that night - which was also our second wedding anniversary - while the induction drugs took effect. Then I got called back into the hospital at 5.30am in the morning, once she was fully dilated and thus moved to her delivery room. As it happened, my wife's labour took much longer than expected, but if it had come on quickly - as happened to a friend of mine when she was induced - I might have missed the birth altogether. So in one part of the whole delivery process I was most welcome, but in another part I wasn't - and there was little evidence of joined-up thinking in this.

William, Northampton: I left the UK in 1949, got married overseas and my children were born abroad. I returned to the UK in 1973, and was amazed to find that fathers were attending the birth of their children. I was telephoned by the hospital at 4pm on the day that my son had been born and I said that I would come to the hospital as soon as the office closed. Things were more relaxed in my day, and I am not sure that my wife would have wanted me present. Fathers being present at the birth was something that neither of us, or our contemporaries, thought twice about.

Image caption Ken with his newborn

Ken, Powys: I attended the birth of all three of my children, I suppose because it is one of those things that are expected of men today. However, I think it's a thoroughly bad idea, by turns unpleasant, boring and very stressful, and for no better reason than political correctness. Yes, you are keeping the wife company, but for a lot of the time they're drugged up and concerned with the effort and pain of the whole process to the extent that the man might as well not be there. Oh, and woe betide you if you don't spend the whole time murmuring sympathetic words. Start reading a book or look out the window when there's a contraction, and you'll get it in the neck. And you'll hear about it for years afterwards. If you take my tip, you'll give the whole idea the elbow. It's just another example of today's wet nanny state attitudes. Give me "pacing up and down outside the door and cigars all round when it's over" any time.

Image caption Simon with his younger son Alex

Simon Carswell, Wellington, Shropshire: I was present at the birth of both my children and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I genuinely believe that fathers who are too squeamish are missing out on something amazing. The sight of a baby - no, a person - emerging from my wife is the most incredible thing I have ever seen, and I feel privileged to have seen it. When my first son was born, my wife said that it was looking at my face as our son came out that motivated her to keep going. She says I looked so excited and amazed that it spurred her on. Far from being sidelined, this made me feel like I played a role (however small) in the birth. It was a different story when my second son was born. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he had almost no heartbeat. Suffice to say the delivery was somewhat fraught. When he emerged, he was blue and not breathing. As the midwife and nurse desperately worked to get him breathing, I could do nothing but stand there repeating the words "Please, please, please...". Fortunately he coughed and started breathing and very quickly turned pink. Again, my wife says that the moment she saw the relief and joy on my face she knew everything was going to be OK. He's two now and very healthy. Despite this experience I'm glad I was there to witness it. One of, if not the, most emotionally draining moments of my life, and yet the elation and joy when I saw he was OK made it all worthwhile. Dads who don't want to experience this don't know what they're missing.

Image caption Hand-holding: James's important job

James Southward, New York, US: I was present at the birth of our twins. Due to complications (previously undiagnosed pre-eclampsia) my wife had an emergency caesarean section. She was pretty out of it most of the time, so in many ways I had it easy. For me the worst part was while they were prepping her. I was left outside the room dressed in scrubs on my own. Having prepared myself for a regular birth (as regular as twins get), this scary complication with no-one to talk to, or anything I could do, left me in more fear than anything up until then. I actually had to count bricks on the wall outside to keep myself sane. Once I was in the room I calmed down. At least I had something to do - hold her hand. As it was, all went well and my beautiful girls were born healthy and strong.

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