The Birth of Dads

Giving birth is transformational for women. Ask any woman about how her life and perspective changed after the birth of her first child and she will gladly share a long story of how it all unfolded. She’ll share that she experienced nearly every human emotion possible, including fear, doubt, pain, regret, excitement, happiness, joy, and the deepest love possible, deeper and stronger than she ever knew existed. You will find out these things because at some point you are likely to ask a woman what it was like. Women talk about these things, especially to other women. But I believe that what men experience may be even more profound in some ways, but nobody seems to be asking.
A guy might be asked what he thought about the birth itself, to which he will most likely reply with a physical description of the birth process or some positive adjectives such as “amazing” or “incredible”. Some will joke about it, because that’s what they’re used to doing when it comes to personal, intimate matters.
But I have seen them. I have seen a man hold his partner during labor, tenderly encouraging her through each contraction, lovingly stroking her hair, offering sips of water, massaging, breathing, and praying. He is patient and selfless, sometimes refusing to even eat until his wife can eat, too. He stays awake for hours and hours, fighting the urge to just go take a nap. Many times women are unsure how their baby’s father is going to handle labor because he may not be the “most sensitive and nurturing guy around.” Yet, during labor, something magical happens. I see him turn into “that guy”. I’ve seen him display no reaction toward various bodily fluids, unexpected bodily functions. and exposed genitalia. In another context, perhaps he’d react in a different manner, but not in the birth room. During birth, I am witnessing pure kindness, support, respect, and devotion. And that’s before the baby even gets there.
Once the baby has emerged and is placed on its mother’s chest and Dad gets his first view of his brand new baby, it’s the best shot I can hope to ever capture with my camera. Mothers are just expected to have an awe-filled moment, but the fathers are something to behold. In that instant, his entire world becomes about 20 inches long and is attached by an umbilical cord to the strongest woman he’s ever encountered. When a man sees his child for the first time, the best word I can choose is probably “enraptured”. He has just witnessed something with little or no reference point. He most likely hasn’t chatted with his pals or brothers about this moment, the way that women often do. He is simply overcome by the strength and courage of his partner, as well as the beauty and miracle of this new life. A life he helped to create. His child. The child he will hold and cherish and love for the rest of his life. Many times he cries.
Once the birth is over and the realities of parenthood set in, on the outside he may appear to go back to the same old guy he used to be. But he isn’t. He’ll never be. Because now he is a father and in the moment of birth he was permanently transformed, his own rebirth of sorts. In a quiet moment, when on one else is listening, ask him how it felt, and just maybe he’ll tell you.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Amanda August 24, 2016, 1:48 pm

    Love it! I became so very proud of my husband during the birth of our 2 girls. You described it perfectly. I had chills reading it

  • Cheryl Waterbury August 24, 2016, 2:39 pm

    Your husband was definitely in mind while I was writing this blog!

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