After my emergency c-section to deliver our son, I was pleasantly surprised to the point of elation. After having read horror stories about terrible c-section experiences, I could hardly believe that I'd had such a good one. "It was just so incredible," I gushed. "What was it like for you to watch it happen?" I asked my partner. "I saw inside of you. Actually inside of you," he replied. Well, that's not a whole lot of insight. So now, five years later, I've decided to ask other dads to describe watching their partner have a c-section. I was pleased to find that the following fine gentlemen (sometimes) had more to say on the matter than my darling husband. (I love you, sweetheart, but when you can't help me I have to do some additional, outside research.)
When I talk to women who have had c-sections, reactions to having had the surgery run the gamut from delighted to despondent, bitter to grateful beyond words. In chatting with some of the men who have experienced this very common procedure second-hand, the responses are similarly varied. It almost goes to show that there's no one way to feel about c-sections (or, indeed, any kind of birth). Weird, right?
So, with that in mind, here's what it's actually like to watch your partner go through a c-section:
"I was really excited that I got to wear scrubs. I took a picture and sent it to my parents and said, 'Look! You finally got a son who's a doctor!' That's the only thing I remember clearly. After that I was sort of overwhelmed."
"I actually passed out. I'm not proud, and my girlfriend says it's OK, but I think she's secretly sort of pissed about it still. I didn't realize I was squeamish until I looked over the curtain they put up and next thing I knew I was the one getting medical attention."
It was really scary. She had to have an emergency c-section and everything happened really fast. My heart didn't stop racing until she was in the recovery room.
"I know she was numbed up and couldn't feel anything that was happening below her chest, or whatever, but I remember thinking she was a total badass. We were having a conversation while doctors were cutting her open. That's sort of cool. I feel like just the knowledge it was happening would have sent me into a panic, but she was totally chill."
"If you ever find yourself on the fence [as to] whether you want to see your wife getting surgery, just don't do it. Maybe some guys can handle it, and I wasn't, like, scarred or anything, but it wasn't 'beautiful' or 'magical.' I saw my wife's guts. It was really gory."
It was really fascinating. I was holding her hand the whole time, but I kept peering over the curtain to see what was going on. I watch surgeries on TV a lot, which sounds weird now that I'm saying it, but I do and ... the chance to see it in real life was too good to pass up.
"I cried. I was so happy to be a dad. Everything felt like sunshine. My wife looked so beautiful, even with the stupid hairnet thing on and even with her stomach literally cut open. Our daughter was amazing and I was the first person who got to really hold her."
"It was nothing like the movies where it's all high drama. The anesthesiologist and the doctor were talking about football. I was really surprised by how casual everyone was, but I guess it wasn't a big moment for anyone else. They do this all the time."
"I swear to God I saw all of my wife's intestines on a table. I've since read that that's not usually how it works, and I know that's true, but at the same time my brain is like, 'You know what you saw! They're all lying to you, Alan!'"
"I felt kind of useless. My wife is a doctor, an OB-GYN no less, and being the only person in the room without a medical degree of some kind made me feel like a little kid or something. My wife was discussing the procedure as it was happening, which was funny and very her (she doesn't mind when I call her a control freak). I felt like I was just sort of waiting for the smart people to do their thing so I could hold our baby."
"It was actually really traumatic for everyone involved. It's been a year and we still really don't talk about it."
Very different from when she had a vaginal birth, but no less wonderful.
"I cried. No shame, as I'm secure in my manliness. My girlfriend had a gentle c-section ... so there was no curtain and seeing the baby actually pulled out was surreal. It was really amazing."