Everyone knows that birth is an intense experience that can be beautiful and weird--often at the same time. But unless the father of the child happens to be an obstetrician who’s seen it all before, it’s hard to know how a guy will react to seeing it in person. Some are horrified by the reality of the situation. But for the most part, men were filled with a new sense of love and admiration for the strong women giving birth.
Hopefully, reading these experiences will give everyone a better idea of what to expect--you wouldn’t believe how many men had never heard of an afterbirth! Hearing how other men handled things may also help a guy decide how involved he wants to be in the process: up close and personal, holding up a leg and cutting the cord; holding hands with the mother and telling her she’s doing a great job; or leaving the room at certain moments because he’s a bit too squeamish.
What’s right for one couple may be wrong for another--it’s less than ideal if the father faints during the process, distracting the doctors and nurses who already have a very important job to do! On the other hand, some guys are perfectly fine helping their wives deliver at home.
Knowledge is power! Guys, read on to hear about what you may be about to see… and ladies, read on to hear about how the father might react!
20 Weekend Plans And Small Talk: Chatty Doctors
Another surprising element of a birth can be the doctors’ demeanor. SmithBobo describes his dreamlike experience, “My wife had a c-section too...the doctors were so casual during the operation. My wife is there having a small human cut from her insides and they're talking about having to get a lawyer cause their pipes burst before settlement. It was surreal.”
Another user, notsowooly steps in to explain, “I'm a med student who just rotated in surgery, and yeah, things can get pretty casual. I've found that it's actually a good sign, if people are relaxed and conversing that usually means that everything in the surgery is going according to plan/pretty routine.”
I think this is good to know for anyone undergoing a medical procedure! My dentist is always chatting about the most random things while working on my teeth (and of course, I respond unintelligibly because my mouth is full of hands and tools). But if he were to pause in speaking, peer closer, and start working furiously, that would certainly be concerning.
Listening to the doctors and nurses chat can also be soothing, even if you as a parent are too stressed to join in. Just let the conversation wash over you like white noise while you focus on the birth!
19 Tears Of Joy
Reddit user LOWERCASEcaps tells the classic tale of a birth that goes from painful to watch to the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen:
“My girlfriend gave birth to our son in February. She was pushing for (what seemed like) the longest 2 hours of our lives, and it was completely nerve-racking. I absolutely hated seeing her screaming in pain, but I remember thinking to myself, 'There's literally nothing I can do for her right now, other than be positive.' I was just holding her hand, and trying to comfort and support her the best I could.
"She handled it like a boss and as soon as our son was out, I cut his umbilical cord. I really can't describe how beautiful of a moment it is when you see your child for the first time.
The doctor laid him down on her chest, and after staring at him in awe, we both looked at each other and started crying.
"It was the proudest moment of my life, hands down."
It can be rough for the father feeling like just a spectator at the birth, but the hand-holding and support that this new dad provided probably helped the mother more than he thought. All you can do is your best!
18 Alien Arrival
Everyone has a rough idea of what a natural delivery looks like, even if that image comes from unrealistic movie portrayals. But C-sections are less often depicted in the media, so many new fathers are shocked by the sights of it. A sheet or curtain is often used to block the view of the process, but that’s not a foolproof method. After all, a C-section is major surgery and it can get quite gory! A thin sheet sometimes loses to gravity which can change the whole perception of the birthing process.
Reddit user necropanser explains his experience: “My wife had a c-section and I was in the OR sitting up by her head holding her hand. I was saying all the nice reassuring things a husband is supposed to say but I was really just looking down the surgeons doing their thing.
There was a curtain blocking the bad bits to protect our delicate sensibilities but as I was looking in that direction, it fell down.
"I was treated to a view of my lovely wife's red belly and a tiny little arm sticking out of it. That is a vision that will stay with me til my last day."
17 Truly Loving Your Partner's Insides
Another user, who goes by natmi, keeps it short and sweet while still getting a very vivid image across: “ I also saw what I can only assume were her guts lying on the table.”
Dr. Ashley Hill from ObGyn.net explains, “The bladder, uterus, ovaries, tubes, and intestines are all visible and sometimes have to be moved out of the way before cutting into the uterus (womb).” This type of rearranging is often necessary for abdominal surgeries, since there are so many organs in the same region, and the doctors need clear access to one that could be blocked by the others. These organs are flexible and the process of moving them out of the way should not damage them at all, but it’s definitely a jarring image, especially when unexpected.
So if a C-section is in your plans (or even if it’s not--in emergencies, plans can quickly change) keep this in mind, so that the new father doesn’t see this and think the doctors are harming the mother! It may look like a horror movie scene, but it’s actually a pretty standard procedure. The human body is incredibly flexible and can withstand an unexpected amount of things.
16 Squeezing The Mobster's Hand
This story comes to us secondhand through Reddit user vertigounconscious:
“When my Aunt was giving birth to my cousin, she squeezed my uncle's hand so hard, for so long, that it ended up causing long-term nerve damage. His hand twitches and goes numb now from it.
"He complained after to the doctor (he is 6'2, was in the mob at the time, about 260) after she had finished giving birth and the doctor laughed at him and told him to ask his wife how [she] felt.”
While this story may be funny, it can also serve as a good warning. The mother may not have the best control while grabbing for your hand and could get a grip that’s uncomfortable, especially if she only has a couple of your fingers instead of your whole hand. Some people recommend offering her your forearm to squeeze instead of the hand, since the arm bones can stand up to a lot more pressure than the delicate bones of the hand.
Don’t be fooled if your wife usually has a weak handshake--she may still seem like the Hulk while giving birth!
The adrenaline running through her veins will give her lots of extra power, so be careful when offering her your hand as an outlet for that pain.
15 Horror Movie Gore
Another user, 1-adam-12 was also a bit horrified by the sight of a C-section, but he also points out the admiration he gained for his wife during the process. He says, “I wasn't allowed to enter the OR until juuuuuuust before they were about to pull my first born out. I walked in and saw my wife's stomach hanging by, essentially, hooks and got very woozy.”
“I realized in that moment that she was a million times stronger than I could ever be. All three of our kids were born via C section. I didn't kno[w] what to expect during the first birth, but the second two, I knew the basic sequence of events and it terrified me thinking of what was going to happen.
And yet, during all of the procedures, she remained absolutely focused on the state of the baby.
"I was amazed that even while she knew she was undergoing some pretty major surgery, she was oblivious to everything but the updates on the baby. Even in the minutes and hours that she spent in recovery, I was at first annoyed, and than understanding that she was less interested in the fact that I was worried about her well being and more interested in the updates on the tiny little person she had carried around for so long.
"In short, there were a whole spectrum of emotions that accompanied child birth, but I really gained a new sense of love and respect for her. Needless to say, I was in awe of her.”
14 Making It Through A Dangerous Delivery
When a birth takes a turn for the dangerous, some men may panic or faint, but Reddit user boolean_sledgehammer was up for the task, stepping up to comfort his wife, and then, care for their child while she was recovering. He even walks away with fond memories of the event-- at least, once he knew that both mother and child were healthy.
“When people ask about how the birth of my son went, I have to offer them a warning. It was rather strenuous, and both him and my wife nearly died in the process. Truth be told, a great deal of it is hard to remember. Labor lasted for nearly 32 hours before our obstetrician made the call for an emergency c-section. The little guy had gotten stuck, and complications had caused a great deal of internal bleeding. They had me put on a surgical gown and mask so I could be in there with her.
"I never really saw what went down behind the surgical curtain. It was more important for me to be up at eye level with my wife.
She was scared for both our son's safety and hers as well.
"A team of surgeons worked diligently to repair the damage and get our kid out safely, and I told her stories to keep her calm between bouts of unconsciousness.
"It was almost too much to process at the time. I was simultaneously on the brink of either meeting my firstborn son or losing my family before it even began. I'm not entirely sure how I managed to keep it together.
"Long story short, everything turned out OK. My wife and son required another week and a half in the hospital in order to recover. I spent most of those days caring for him. It was time well-spent. I wish I remembered more of it. I went a good 6 days without any real sleep, but I didn't care. I knew I was going to be able to go home with my family, and it felt good.”
13 Afterbirth, The Best Kept Delivery Secret
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember ever being explicitly taught what an afterbirth was. It has just always been in my brain as part of the birth process, and as something people talked about. However, men are less likely to grow up hearing their female relatives talk about these things, or have them covered in health class during that “special” day when the boys and girls are separated. Some men live their whole lives never knowing what an afterbirth is, at least, until encountering one in real life! Reddit user Dealthagar explains, “My wife was in labor for 54 hours and was determined to give birth to my son vaginally and as natural as her body could handle. Her BP never dropped and his never spiked, there was just a small complication with his position. A little extra drugs, some body positioning and a really awesome midwife, and out my son came. It was awesome, and bonding and wonderful and exhausting.
"And then 30 seconds afterwards, she pushed out the afterbirth, which landed with a squishy schloping PLOP into the stainless steel bucket that was set right below her specifically to catch this alien-esque blob, and nightmare fuel.
"I put a hand over my mouth to keep the words from spilling out of my mouth, but my mind SCREAMED them. 'I broke it!'"
So that new father, like the ones shocked by C-sections, also thought his wife was dying… So let’s make sure that all adults, including men, know the afterbirth is a normal part of delivery!
12 Sit Down, Dad!
This new father, who goes by Countpudyoola, was filled with love for his wife, and also gives some advice for soon-to-be fathers who are told to sit down:
“It was awesome.
My wife has a SUPER LOW tolerance for pain and discomfort. She did get an epidural but it didn't take 100%. But she still took it all without much complaint. I wasn't allowed to pass the hip mark, as she didn't want me to get emotionally scarred by all the whatnot, and, of course, her large fear of poopin' on the table.
"So I wasn't allowed to hold a leg up or anything.
"But my sister-in-law is a delivery nurse so she acted as dula and held the leg...was a massive extra bonus in the room.
"I inadvertently got a side view at one point that looked like some blown out bacon that made me realize I was glad she kept me up by her head (even though I can watch the beginning of Saving Private Ryan with no issues).
"I know some dudes who can just be all up in the business and film it, but ...not for me. I think a dude would know up front if he's going to have issues or not.
"But if a nurse or Dr. tells him to sit down , even if he thinks he doesn't need to ... he needs to do it, because they don't need to handle you - a fainted husband - at the same time, and they can see cues in his face that tell them ...have the man sit.”
11 But That's Not The Right Color?
This user, Snailprincess, has some warnings and advice.
“One thing I wasn't quite prepared for is that babies look awful when they come out. When babies are born they're blue and limp and they're not breathing. Both times I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing until I heard them cry.
"The other thing that got me came after the delivery. After the placenta came out the doctors wanted to make sure they got all of the blood and blood clots out of the uterus. So there was the doctor, standing with his arm in my wife up to his elbow, scooping out handfuls of blood and clots. I could have done without that…”
Babies born through C-section are more likely to come out looking blue or grey and motionless since the process of contractions and pushing that occur during a vaginal birth make it a more active process for baby and mom. Dr. Ashley Hill explains, “Their lungs are not compressed by the vagina during a c-section, so they often have lungs with a little extra fluid in them.” That said, with modern medicine, doctors know how to handle all of these things, so try not to panic if you see your baby looking grey-- within a minute or two, they should perk right up.
10 A Packed Maternity Ward And A Doctor Stuck In Traffic- Thank You, Birthing Classes
Martin Grosse tells a moving and detailed story of his and his wife’s journey before, during, and after the birth.
"She was dedicated to having a natural birth. We read a bunch of books together, researched on the web, and found a Registered Nurse/Midwife who was retired, but taught birth classes. It was a 6 week course where we learned everything from how to develop trust and communication in stressful situations to the actual mechanics of the birthing process itself.
"What surprised me was that the birth went exactly as she described.
We were in a hospital, but the doctor didn't get there until after the birth. (stuck in traffic).
"The nurse tried to help, but there were several births going on simultaneously, and we apparently seemed most together, so she put on the birth monitor for a couple minutes...and that's about it. She was there when the doula finally delivered. We got to control the hospital room, the lighting, the music, the positions. We went through about 8 birthing positions, which eased the contractions a lot. Turns out a baby pressing on your spine is super-painful, but it's not nearly as bad when you're on hands and knees or squatting. (her report of the events and many of the other mothers). On the back is more convenient for the doctors, but not generally for the mothers.
"Watching her move through the positions was very much like watching a slow and beautiful dance. There was intensity, and fear and joy all mixed together. She's a dancer, so she's very in tune with her body, but several of the other mothers in the group reported similar results.
"Because of the class I was able to participate a lot. I massaged her, held her in a way that harkened back to reassuring pillow nests and massages from before. I breathed with her and said soothing things close to her. I held her in many of the positions, supporting her and helping her to stretch. The final position she was squatting with me sitting in a chair behind her holding her up. The doula delivered our daughter over a folded blanket. We helped my SO to the bed, and wiped our daughter off a bit and put her right on her mother's belly. She was shaking, and crying, and smiling. She was beautiful in ways I find hard to describe.
"I absolutely felt love. I still do. I was incredibly impressed with her. It was really intense, but she wouldn't describe it as pain. There was no disgust, but I'm not the sort of person who feels disgusted easily. Absolutely fear. Both times. There's always fear."
9 Gang's All Here!
A new dad who goes by biffsocko feels even more connected to his wife after witnessing the birth of their child, especially since that event turned them from a couple into a family.
“Just happened for me last month. It was a C section, so I held her hand through the whole thing. I knew she was scared and there was a lot of anticipation about having a healthy baby.
I loved my wife before, but I feel more connected to her now. She's been a great mom to our baby; hop[e]fully I've been a good dad too.
One of my favorite photos is me in my hospital gown, with mom on the operating table holding the baby. Our first family photo (minus the dog)”
User dssorg echoed his sentiments, while also expressing frustration at not being able to share the pain: “ I felt bonded with her as never before with anyone as the mother of my child. Definitely, love for her and my child. I also felt bad because I knew the discomfort she went through and I couldn't help her.” Many men report this feeling of helplessness, but birthing classes and preparation can help make the dad be more part of the experience, and teach him how best to help the mother.
8 Forgetting About Mom!
Reddit user glguru was so absorbed with the cuteness of his child that he forgot about his wife!
“I was in the room and with the midwife delivering the baby. The active labor was about 1 and a half hour and I was absolutely exhausted after that (this was late in the night and I was up for 2 days in the hospital). I went out of the room for about 15 - 20 minutes to call my parents and take a break while the placenta was being 'delivered'.
"Anyway, come back to the baby and I just melted. It was the most adorable thing on the whole planet. I was shivering from excitement and handling such a tiny little thing. I'll be honest, I didn't [think] that much about my wife (my back was facing her) at the time because I was just in awe of the baby and also the midwife was cleaning up what was a pretty bloody scene. However, after changing the baby and getting settled down, I had nothing but admiration for women (my woman in particular).
It's by far the weirdest thing I have witnessed.
"Not just giving birth but the whole 9 months of your body getting absolutely wrecked and then the finale. What you get at the end of it is absolutely worth it though. It's slightly unfortunate that the real hero of this entire process is the woman but the baby gets all the attention (and rightly so) but women are often completely forgotten.”
7 Don't Forget To Take Care Of Yourself And Eat Snacks
User Daz316 recommends preparing, not just mentally, but also packing snacks. Sounds like he was ready to be a dad--I’m sure every parent has learned how useful snacks can be to prevent kids’ meltdowns. Nobody is at their best when they’re “hangry,” and that includes both parents and children!
“We did a planned C section so gave birth under easier circumstance. We did do it a week earlier than planned (3 weeks in total) but she wasn't screaming or anything when we went into the hospital. Honestly. Just listen to the doctors and do as directed.
"Also, it's important to have your OWN bag packed too. Obviously, you have her bag packed and babies stuff too. But make sure you bring your own clothes, snacks, and drinks. You could be there for a while and I've been told stories from midwives of husbands fainting because they are so worried over the mother/baby they forget to take care of themselves. Doctors trying to deliver a baby, doesn't need a passed out man next to them. Plus you'll miss everything.”
I’d like to interject a warning about these snacks, though. Don’t eat them in front of your wife during times when she’s not allowed to eat--you’ll drive her crazy!
6 Forceps Fright
Another thing that can shock new dads is the force used to extract the baby. It may seem far too strong for such a tiny being, but rest assured that the doctors know what they’re doing and the baby will be just fine. However, user dob48 was so disturbed by the force the doctors used during both of his children’s births that he decided two was enough!
“They had to use forceps with my daughter and I could not believe how hard they were pulling on her head.
My wife was actually being pulled down the bed.
"When my son was being delivered he went into distress because the cord was around his neck. The delivery team jumps into action and I don't think they remembered I was beside my wife. Again, they used forceps before they could give my wife any anesthetic. She is screaming as he is being born and he is not breathing. They are hitting his feet and giving him oxygen. He eventually starts grunting as he tries to breath and starts to breath. I told my wife, no more kids.”
Pregnant ladies, if you’re hoping to have a big family, maybe warn the father ahead of time that he may see this sort of thing, so he’s not so shocked that he swears off babies!
5 Everyone Has An Equal Amount Of Fun
You might want to be careful with the timing of your photos if you want the new mom to at least be able to attempt a smile. A lot happens in that delivery room and it is not all pretty. Unless, of course, you’re like Reddit user laughingpug, and find awkwardly timed photo ops hilarious.
“I took what I thought was going to be a nice selfie of myself, with my wife behind me in the bed holding our daughter. It was only later that we noticed in the picture that I'm smiling nicely, and she's got a frozen scream grimace on her face because the doctor is elbow deep taking out the rest of her placenta. I've got that picture in a frame on my nightstand.”
Hopefully, this guy’s wife has the same sense of humor as him! It is probably a good idea to talk through what you as a couple do and don’t want recorded on photo/video. Some parents want to record the whole thing, while others don’t want to snap any photos until everyone’s a little more cleaned up and well-rested. Talk through your expectations so dad doesn’t take any pictures that mom’s not so comfortable with!
4 Just A Dash Of Magic
A reddit user who goes by ThatOlderGuy let his imagination wander a bit while watching his wife give birth. “ I stood next to my wife, desperately hoping for a big stork to fly in the window with a baby. Nope. Pain, suffering, and blood. Then a baby. A little miracle. Did it two more times.”
An article on Wired writes of a psychology study performed by Pilyoung Kim, which showed that becoming a father can actually change the structure of the brain. We have known for a long time that becoming a mother can change a woman’s brain, but that seems more obvious, since there are already other physical changes taking place in her body during pregnancy. But recently, psychologists have discovered that these same changes occur in the brains of many new fathers. Perhaps this man’s flight of fancy in the delivery room was a sign that his brain was growing more creative, ready to play pretend with the new child! The study doesn’t comment on whether there is significant change to a new father’s imagination, but it does show differences in “ the striatum (involved in reward processing, among other functions), hypothalamus (hormonal control), amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; involved in emotional processing), and the lateral pre-frontal cortex (PFC; involved in memory and decision making).” Over time, we may learn of even more changes that take place in the brain.
3 An Insufficient Sheet
Reddit user mcsmack has a highly colorful description of his wife’s C-section:
“It was like witnessing a train wreck. I didn't want to look but I couldn't turn away. ... it was determined that my boy's fat head just wasn't going to fit through the birth canal. So the only option was an emergency C-section.
"So off they go to the operating room. I'm told to change into the paper gown and they'll come get me when they're ready for me. I expressed my concerns to the doctor and she informed me that there would be a sheet, so I wouldn't have to see 'anything gross'.
"I'm rushed to her side. There's a sheet, as promised, but unfortunately it only keeps her from seeing the operation.
I'm left to watch in sleep-deprived horror as the doctors insert what I can only describe as the unholy offspring of an oil filter wrench and a set of salad tongs.
"Apparently, the doctor got a bite, because he ordered the nurses to push. Two of the attendants began to shove violently on my wife's abdomen as the doctor pulled some purple Lovecraftian lovechild from the hole in her torso.
"It was a day of joy and horror. I still have fondly remembered nightmares about it.”
So keep in mind that the sheet is first and foremost to block the surgery from the mother’s point of view. Depending on where you’re standing and how tall you are, it may not help dad at all! So for squeamish men, keep this in mind. You might have to block the view yourself if you don’t want to watch.
2 A Bigger-Than-Expected Baby
Reddit user PunkyShoeStore thought he had a decent idea of what to expect, having watched live birth videos before, but found that the reality is far different than seeing it on a screen.
“The two nurses who worked with us through my wife's 12+ hour labor wanted me to hold her head forward when she was pushing. Then, they wanted me to come down to the foot of the bed and hold her leg back and pointed out the head coming out. It was the soft spot, about the size of a knuckle. I remember thinking, 'Man, that's a really small baby.'
"When the head finally came out, it was so big, I was in disbelief. Then, as I'm trying to wrap my mind around the size of the head (that I previously thought was so small,) the body comes out. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the head, and the body just...whoa!”
However, unlike some new fathers who feel traumatized after witnessing the birth, this dad was filled with a different emotion-- joy.,“It was incredibly emotional though, and I teared up fast. My wife's first words after our son came out: 'WE DID IT!!!!'"
1 Lovestruck Papas
Let’s end on a happy note! Here’s a few dads who walked away from the birth experience more in love than ever.
Theungry says, “My wife had a home birth (with a midwife and labor support doula). She was in my arms through most of labor, and I watched my son emerge in the mirror while I was holding her."
"I thought she was a rock-star, and I still do. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen someone do in person, and I loved being a part of it.”
HBOXNW says, “Our connection grew even stronger. If there was ever any doubt she was the one for me, it was completely erased as soon as labour started.”
An anonymous user relates, “Respect. She is all that is woman. I was proud of her. And I felt horrible there was nothing I could do for her except keep her comfortable and cheer her on. Learned a few things the first time. Like once the baby is born give here a kiss and go see the baby because you don't want to see what comes out next. But I feel closer to her each time. “
So if anyone tries to tell you that men will stop being attracted to their wives after witnessing a birth, read them some of those quotes! As long as a man is mature and prepared, there’s no reason that has to happen.