I spent the better part of my pregnancy preparing for labor and delivery. I knew that what I wanted to experience, and the end result, would require an immense amount of other-world energy, the likes of which my body had never seen. What I didn't realize, however, is that my partner was preparing, too. Sure, he wasn't going to physically go through childbirth, but our son coming into the world was going to affect him also. He's not alone, I realized, when I asked parenting partners to describe what it's like to watch their partner have a baby. I learned that while it's exciting and scary and exhausting and empowering for women going through the physical rigors of labor and delivery, it's also exciting and scary and exhausting and empowering for the partners of these laboring women, too.
The birth of my son changed me in a way that's pretty difficult to describe. I didn't feel an instant shift in my world, but I knew things were never going to be the same. I was also so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, that what happened to me the moment my son came out of my body and was placed in my arms didn't really hit me until days, or even a week, later. My partner, however, had a different experience. He was changed instantaneously (he tells me) and while we were both in the same room, we were both feeling very different things.
Of course, dads aren't the only ones who have the privilege of watching their baby (or babies) come into the world. Partners in same-sex couples also have that ability, as do adoptive parents. However, it's interesting to hear a father's perspective, especially because — culturally — they're often considered to be an afterthought in the labor and delivery process. So, with that in mind, here's what seven proud fathers had to say about watching the birth of their babies.
"While I was scared for her, I was equally impressed by her strength. I also was empowered watching her do it because if she could do that then I can at least do something half that impressive, and half that impressive is still pretty impressive. Honestly, I think I lucked out being with somebody that is already so involved in the birth community, because if she hadn't been prepared I know I wouldn't have been prepared.
I think the best part, though, was that I fell in love with her all over again five different times during the process. I was lucky enough to be part of the home birth so I had the opportunity to reach into the pool and catch my daughter. I was the first person on this entire planet to hold my daughter, which I thought was kind of cool. Of course, I immediately handed her over to [my wife] but that moment wouldn't have been possible if [she] hadn't known her stuff and prepared and been the strong woman that she was. Another thing I think I should mention is the extreme lack of fear and wealth of confidence I saw in her. It removed my won fears, eventually, and filled me with confidence in her."
"I was in awe of what her body could do and the strength she showed. I was nervous, scared and happy all at once. When our child finally arrived I fell in love all over again with my wife and completely in love with the baby. I felt vulnerable as I held our little girl; that such a small person could make me feel a million emotions all at once."
"It was, of course, a very intense mix of excitement, fear and anxiety that was tempered by the constant awareness that whatever I was going through it was magnitudes more intense for her. Even though she had an epidural and the pain itself was negligible, it was still pretty easy to see how terrifying it was from her perspective. That being said, I also saw how brave and composed she was in the face of it. There's the stereotype of a woman screaming at her husband, like "You did this to me! You bastard!" but she never said an unkind word and focused all of her energy to the task at hand, letting me support her in the limited way I could.
It all came to a head (so-to-speak) when [my daughter] emerged and I could see her face. My anxieties and fears quickly changed to pure excitement and joy and even though [my wife] couldn't see what was happening, she could see everything was OK due to the change in my demeanor."
"My girlfriend made me promise I wouldn't watch our son being born. She was afraid I wouldn't find her sexy after seeing something squeeze its massive head out of a place I usually want to get into. While she was pushing and doing all she could to bring our son into the world, I found myself watching. I saw a small patch of jet black hair pushing its way out. Nothing about it was gross or terrifying. When that tiny little person was being wiped off and handed to her, all I felt was this immense joy and wonder at what we had created together. I saw her reach for him with tears in her eyes and a smile. She was never more beautiful or powerful. I was so happy to be a father to this little man we waited so long to meet. I was so happy that it was this woman that shared that experience with me."
"Five days of back labor and finally a c-section. I almost rather not remember, except for that magical moment I held that baby as soon as she was out. It's definitely hard keeping such fond memories intact of an amazing event with someone you can't even stand to look at anymore."
"For my first (both kids were done by c-section) I was actually the first to hold her after she was cleaned and I will tell you, it was the most magical thing. When [my daughter] was finally cleared to come in the room with us, seeing my wife hold her; it just melted my heart."