I can still remember almost every moment of my last labor. The best part, for me, was spending time with my husband. When things got intense, he was there to hold my hand, crack jokes, and steady the barf bag. At the time I was focused on myself and my baby, so I didn't really consider what it was like for him. I was curious, so I asked him and some other dads to share what it was like to hold their partner's hand during labor.
The "miracle" of birth can be intense, painful, scary, magical, peaceful, and amazing — usually all at the same time. For me, it was so important to have my husband there that day. While I probably could have done it without him, I wouldn't have been as confident, strong, or brave had he not been there with me. I am sure other moms feel the same. As for the dads, it turns out birth had powerful impact on them, too
The dads I heard from had vastly different experiences. From feelings of fear, helplessness, and not knowing what they were doing, to feelings of love and adoration for their badass baby-growing partners, they experienced a never-ending sea of emotions. Some of them felt really strongly about being involved in labor (at least as much as they could), administering massages, cutting cords, and even delivering their babies. Others (including my husband) wanted to leave baby-catching and cord cutting up to the professionals, and simply provided love, support, encouragement, and, of course, some necessary hand holding.
"I was glad for the chance to be there. I thought I knew what I was going to see, but instead I was pleasantly surprised by the opportunity for relationship growth. It was, surprisingly, profoundly beautiful. I thought I was just going to be there to rub her back, and fetch her ice packs, based on my prior experiences, but that was a different partner, and a different relationship. Our love for one another and for our family as a whole really shone through during what could have been a harrowing birth experience.
Due to an accidental injury late in the pregnancy, things weren't going according to plan. I was able to really appreciate who my partner is while she was laboring. She is strong, but also vulnerable, and it is a very intimate environment. I was ready to enforce loudly the aspects of the birth plan she wanted to follow if anyone tried to bully her into something else, but for the most part, she was willing and able to speak up for herself. Simply having my hand there to hold was more important than how I engaged. Mostly I just had to remind myself to keep my mouth shut sometimes. While it's really not about me, I did feel like my presence there was accepted and appreciated and it helped our love to grow rather than being an opportunity for frustration or conflict like it might be for some other couples."
[Writer's Note: This is my husband. He was amazing.]
"Yeah, I didn't know it was possible to be that scared and happy all at the same time. I didn't know what to do with my hands, and then [my son] was here, and I watched him come, and I was just in shock. I never knew I could be so proud of someone and so in love."
"My wife’s water broke at about 32 weeks, so it was a scary 24 hours before my son could be delivered via C-section. We spent most of the day and night before listening to his heartbeat on the monitor. I remember being concerned for my wife, because she is a Type I diabetic and had experienced a very difficult pregnancy. I was also worried about my son since we had no way of knowing for sure how developed his lungs would be when he was delivered.
Fortunately, everything went fine. My son was 5 pounds 8.5 ounces, and his lungs were fine. His mom did just fine as well. I was never so amazed or in awe as I was when I first got to look at my son. It was a mixture of joy, wonder, and fear, but mostly joy. That, and love. Love for my new son and deep love for my wife."
"I felt helpless. I felt like I could have been doing something better than holding her hand, but I guess it was what she needed at the time. It felt good in a way, too. I had an appreciation for the pain she was in, as she inflicted it on me."
"Most dads hold their partner's hand during labor. I was elbow deep in my partner's vagina, when I helped deliver our son. It was amazing."
"My wife had two C-sections (not by choice), and with our oldest, she was terrified because she'd never had any kind of surgery before. I couldn't use any of what we'd learned about birth, prior to that point, but I remember being there and looking her in the eyes so she had something to focus on instead of what the doctors were doing.
When each of our boys was delivered, checked, cleaned, wrapped up, and handed to me, I remember holding them each next to her so we could both get a first look and tell them how happy we were to have them in our family."
"It was a very intense, yet positive experience overall. Although I was tired and drained there was a beautiful surprise at the end that made the whole experience worth it."