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Dear NCT, what about the fathers that don’t want to be at the birth?

>I recently saw a poster from the NCT proudly proclaiming that thanks to them 97% of fathers attended the birth of their child.

Not only am I not totally convinced that the NCT is solely responsible for this increase in the number of men being present at a birth, I was also a little worried about what happens to the men who just don’t want to be there?

Mr Muddling has not been in the room when either of my girls were born.

With Toddlergirl he had gone upstairs for some time alone and to get a respite from me being in labour and was actually changing our duvet cover when she arrived.  He was there to see her swimming about the birth pool shortly afterwards.

With Babygirl, he was looking after Toddlergirl and waited in the hallway for what, I imagine were very long seconds, for her to cry and to know she was alive before coming in.

In fact, when I was pregnant, and when we’d discussed birth choices, he was very clear that he was not good around blood, he was not sure he could cope with seeing me in pain and being unable to do anything about it and would probably prefer to have the choice to not be my main birth partner.

And around here, the midwifery services are so overstretched that your partner does tend to end up acting as your primary carer during labour.

So what if you husband doesn’t want this?  What if he wants the option to walk out of the room and get some air when seeing you in pain and having no way to stop it gets too much for him?

At our NCT ante natal classes he was treated as a bit of a freak to not want to be there.  It was almost portrayed that he didn’t have an option, that he had to be there holding my hand, that it was a manly right of passage.  There was no mention of the increase in epidural rates amongst women who had their male partner present during labour, nor of the historically chronicled benefits of women being supported by other women during childbirth.

We were lucky, we were able to afford to hire an independent midwife, to work throughout my pregnancy with someone who understood that men might not want to be there throughout, that having a role to play in dealing with practical aspects such as filling a birth pool can be helpful and that being able to walk away because you know your partner is in safe hands can be positive.

And I wonder if the NCT realises what they are doing by reducing men’s options, by forcing them to take up the slack in midwifery provision and to witness things that they really may prefer not to.

What does happen to those men who don’t want to be there but pushed into being there?

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9 comments to Dear NCT, what about the fathers that don’t want to be at the birth?

  • Mummywhisperer

    >Totally agree! David was there for the birth of max & found the responsibility tough. He looked after max, while I gave birth to willow upstairs & it worked brilliantly for both of us. As I have no family I booked a doula as additional support for me (good thing as the 2nd midwife didn't make it in time!

  • planb

    >As ever a really interesting and well written point of view. B was, as it so happens, there at both births, but then I wanted him there and he wanted to be there. I have other friends where either she didn't want him there, or he, having found seeing his wife in so much pain and being impotent to help her the first time, opted out the second.

    What makes me cross about all these pronouncements is the implication that we aren't all adult enough to make up our own minds about what is right for us and our families.

  • Snaffles Mummy

    >I am all for men not being there at the crucial moment. As long as I had someone there with me that I knew I dont think it would have mattered who it was.

    Having my husband there changed our relationship.

    If and when I have another child I would prefer to have a strong women with me and let Mr C have the option of coming and going as and when he needed to.

    Most people think this is a strange view so it is nice to meet someone with a similar view.

  • Luschka

    >I 100% agree that its the couples choice and that the man should be there if he wants and not if he doesn't, but I must say for myself, the only pain I remember from my entire 48 hours of labour is from the 10 minutes when my husband went to drink coffee, go to the toilet and check the temperature in the birthpool – those were the most excruciating minutes for me. His support and quiet reassurance made the whole experience for me.

    But that is his biggest strength in life anyway – he is a rock steady ship.

    I know my mom – in – law was very surprised that he was even allowed in with me (in my own kitchen, but never mind that!). She also said she didn't want her husband in for any of her 3 births.

    As with everything, choice, education and options are the key.

  • randine

    >At first I thought WHOA this is crazy!! I could never let my husband 'opt out' of child birth- I certainly didn't have that luxury! But then when I thought about it- my husband, though physically present during the birth- wasn't my main support, or possibly, even any support. I had my mom and my sister and a team of nurses. I had asked them to be there because I knew for certain that it wasn't going to be my husband painting my toe nails when the labor dragged on and on. He mainly sat doing cross words and asking "how much longer".
    Inetersting point of view. Thanks.

  • Jenny

    >I think you hit the nail on the head when you day that our current midwifery service is so stretched that women don't often get the support they need. I think this means the father has gone from being an optional to almost essential part of a birth. It sounds like you were able to arrange some great alternative support but in the absence of this it's probably true many couples feel there is no choice. It's a shame our culture doesn't encourage more involvement/support from the wider family, as well as properly resources midwifery, to take the pressure off fathers alone.

  • More than Just a Mother

    >I suspect my sex life would be better now, had my husband not been at the business end of the birth. Ultimately it has to come down to what each couple – each person in fact – feels is right. There goes the bloody sanctimonious NCT again…

  • Mwa

    >Very interesting! I think you're right that each couple should decide what's right for them. And if that's right for both of you, no one should suggest it's any worse than what other people choose.

  • marketingtomilk

    >Here bloody here. i've heard a few criticisms of the NCt recently. i thought i was the only one that had reservations.


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