For instance, I’ve seen fathers (as I’ve mentioned in past posts) strip down to their underwear; or even sit naked with their wife in a bathtub full of amniotic fluid, feces, vernix, urine, and blood. Yuck. I’ve seen them smear vernix over their hands and chest so the baby would “recognize” them. More commonly, many step in and direct us to speak to them, and not their wife, since the man “directs” the labor (a concept taught by some Bradley Method classes, of which I’m not a fan for this very reason.)
A couple weeks ago, I had to laugh. There was a dad whose wife had to have a c-section. At my hospital, the baby will meet the mother in the recovery room so that we can begin “skin to skin” and breastfeeding as soon as possible. This dad, while waiting for his wife, took off his shirt and had the baby skin to skin on his chest…his hairy chest.
We see this occasionally and roll our eyes a bit. Understand, I’m a complete advocate of “skin to skin.” But I can’t help but be bothered by the sight of a strange man sitting there shirtless with his baby rooting against him. I get it; it’s done for bonding, warmth, soothing, etc. And it may happen after the baby goes home all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it, but somehow there’s something not right with it either.
First of all, honestly, unless you’re Channing Tatum, we don’t really want to see that. Second, it’s going a little overboard. There’s really nothing about a man’s bare chest that would interest a baby. They want to be held, and talked to, and cuddled. That all can be done with a shirt on. Third, it's out of place. You are not a patient, keep your clothes on. (And chest hairs are getting in the baby’s mouth…that bothers me.)
That said, we would never interfere if a father decides to strip and do skin to skin. If it’s what makes him feel useful and helps him to “bond,” then so be it. (We'll just giggle to ourselves about it.) At least he’s keeping the baby warm.
But this is not
What made me laugh was the anesthesiologist summed up all our thoughts when he entered the room and, horrified, exclaimed, “Are you trying to breastfeed him?!” Oh dear. We turned away and stifled our giggles. The poor doctor wasn’t exactly up on the trends of naturalism in childbirth and had to be filled in…affirming the practice in front of the dad to reverse his embarrassment.
To the other extreme, there are the dads that would probably just drop off their wife, if they could, and come back when it was all over. They would be a lump on the couch if we didn’t make them at least hold a leg. One of the worst behaviors by a father I’ve ever seen sadly came from a dad who was an orthopedic surgeon. He came in looking like a million bucks, sporting his hospital badge as if to say, "Be afraid, I have authority here." He ignored the nurses, and griped to himself, "My schedule is completely shot tomorrow." He was short tempered at his wife for her whimpers of pain ("Oh, you're fine!"), and actually asked the OB physician if she could “just do a c-section” to get it over with sooner. Apparently, he forgot that it’s not about him…it’s about her today. He eventually went to sleep on the couch while his wife labored on in pain. We left him there. Better without him.
Then, we have the obnoxious dads. The ones who, during a repair, say, “Hey Doc, can you throw an extra stitch in there for me?” and think they're funny. They point to their girlfriend's belly and say proudly, "See dat? I did dat." Really? How many "dats" did you "do?" I guess that means she's been frolicking in peaceful pastures for the last nine months. Idiot. I have no patience for these characters.
Another father came out of the labor room and asked, “At what point do you just do a c-section? I mean, how long are you going to let this go on?” His wife had been laboring for about 12 hours…long for him, not long for us. We explained she was making steady progress and that there was no reason why we would need to do a c-section at this point. He put his face in his hands and started to cry. I mean actually mourn! We looked at each other in puzzled amazement. According to their nurse, he and his wife had been saying strange things like this all day and kept talking about a c-section…not exactly requesting it, but acting disappointed with every report of progress.
Later, it became apparent why both he and his wife were so sad. She was crowning, and like we commonly do, we asked her if she wanted to see her baby (in a mirror.) She said sadly, “No. I want to remember my vagina the way it was.” To that, her husband welt up with tears again, looked at the ceiling, and touched her as if to comfort her. They were mourning her vagina! Is that really what you think about when you are about to give birth to your first child? Hmmm…..
Most dads, you'll be happy to know, are just precious. When they cry, I usually do too (apart from the guy above.) I always cry when someone else is crying…especially a man. It’s my weakness. So around my job, I cry a lot.