Delivery room dilemma
May 29, 2018 6:44 AM   Subscribe

My due date is 5 weeks away and my husband and I are at an impasse. I want him in the delivery room with me and he really, really doesn’t want to be there.

This is our first kid.

The reasons I want him there are obvious- he is my safety blanket and rock, and I want him to experience this with me (which may be a selfish reason).

His reasons for staying in the waiting room are:
- he’s scared of seeing me in pain
- he’s scared he will have an angry outburst directed at the hospital staff from stress (very possible)
- and the big one - he witnessed some terrible sexual abuse when he was growing up both in his biological home and his foster home, and certain situations are triggering for him and give him massive stress (see - angry outburst). TMI: He gets stressed when he accidentally walks in on me peeing so I can see why staying with me while I give birth might be too much to handle.

I’m not sure what to do. It’s not something I can talk about with people I know IRL because they don’t know about the abuse. My mom or my sister could certainly be there with me, but I would so rather have my husband there. He says he will be there if I want him but I don’t know what the right move is. He would 110% stay at the head of the bed if he was in the room which is fine.

The context of what he witnessed was father figures “helping” younger sisters with bathroom tasks so I certainly see why this situation would be triggering. I have thought about him cycling out of the room when he needs to take a break but even that might be too much. I am really unsure what to do here because I want him there so badly.

Also, and I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but I’m worried about family and friends and staff judging him for not being in the room.

Any advice is MUCH appreciated.
posted by pintapicasso to Human Relations (73 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Ask him if he is going to regret, for the rest of his life, not being in the room for the birth of his child.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:46 AM on May 29, 2018

Best answer: Why don't you ask him to come in, but that he can leave when he feels he needs to. Generations of women didn't have husbands in with them and still loved their children.
Is there someone in your life that can come in that can actually be able to be supportive? It sounds like he IS normally supportive but this is something he feels he can't do for you.
posted by beccaj at 6:51 AM on May 29, 2018 [28 favorites]

My husband did not want to be there at the birth. He did it for me. What happened was he had to leave the room for the final push. Which i noticed but I was so focused on the final push it was no issue.
However what he saw before totally impacted our sex life. He was unable to have sex for almost 3 years. It was genuine trauma and took effort to overcome on his part.
In retrospect, almost 10 years on, i would not do this again. 3 years of no sex was not worth it. I should have asked a friend to be with me.
posted by 15L06 at 6:54 AM on May 29, 2018 [46 favorites]

Is there not an option where he can be with you and hold your hand, but be turned the other way and look at the wall behind you instead of at all the action (unless he decides to look there himself)? They have screens and such -- I'm sure they have something for queasy fathers which would work just as well here.

As for the hospital staff, well, yelling at them isn't nice, but I'm sure they've seen it all before. And he can always send a card and flowers in apology.

Whatever it is, please don't pressure or guilt him into doing this thing when that pressure is only going to make his abuse situation worse.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:54 AM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

A doula might be a good intermediary here if you really want your husband in the room - she could explain to him what's normal and acceptable as it's happening and help manage his expectations and fears, and if he just can't bear it, he can leave and she can support you during the birth.
posted by pised at 6:55 AM on May 29, 2018 [60 favorites]

Maybe look into hiring a doula so that you have someone to lean on other than your husband. Maybe taking the pressure off will let him feel more comfortable with being in the room part of the time, as well as letting you feel like you have the support you need?
posted by Kriesa at 6:55 AM on May 29, 2018 [16 favorites]

Ask him to try, give him options, get additional support for yourself.

At 5 weeks to go that’s about all you can do. But long have ALL KIMDS of physical things that go on so he needs to find a therapist to work with on this.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:06 AM on May 29, 2018 [54 favorites]

Best answer: My husband was completely unsupportive during labor and delivery and, in hindsight, I would have been better off without it. It's his issue and he's - years later - mostly owned up to the fact that it's his issue (squeamishness and great emotional stress at times of upheaval, like the birth of a child) but the fact that it was his problem did not mitigate the fact that I was helping HIM emotionally while I was in labor rather than the other way around.

For example, he didn't want to hold my leg while I pushed and the nurse insisted, so I - WHILE PUSHING - had to yell at the nurse to just for god's sake let him be because him shutting down or passing out was definitely NOT what I needed. Him holding my leg was unnecessary.

He felt obligated to be there, socially. If he'd felt confident enough to say he did not what to be there we would ALL have been happier and better off. As it was, he took one glance at one (out of two births) crowning baby and he's never quite been the same about female genitalia since.

If he vocally does not want to be there, don't make him. Find someone else to support you through the actual birth, if you need someone. I could have done it alone (with the nurses) because I was just focusing inwards anyway.
posted by lydhre at 7:09 AM on May 29, 2018 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I think I'd find other people to support you in this. Frankly, it sounds like even if you make him be there he'll be traumatized and run out of the room and not be a good support system in this situation.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:10 AM on May 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You should not be handling your husband‘s emotions, trauma and angry outbursts (!) while giving birth. You need to really focus on the job at hand. Hire a doula, have him come in right after birth. There‘ll be plenty of time and occasion to bond and support you.
posted by The Toad at 7:10 AM on May 29, 2018 [96 favorites]

No. He HAS to be there. You’ve done every part of growing this child so far and you’re about to have (probably) the hardest day of your life. Time to get over his fears and step up to support his wife and child. Is he also going to get stressed changing a diaper? Giving a bath? This HAS to end and you deserve his support now and in the future.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:13 AM on May 29, 2018 [23 favorites]

he’s scared he will have an angry outburst directed at the hospital staff from stress (very possible)... He gets stressed when he accidentally walks in on me peeing...

Is he actively working on these issues? He needs to be in therapy yesterday. If seeing you pee causes him stress, and given the abuse he witnessed as a child, how is he possibly going to cope with caring for a baby?

Given that the birth is only five weeks away, I don't think he's likely to have any major breakthroughs on these extremely serious issues before then, so you should just find another source of emotional support (a parent or a friend or a doula). But if I were you, I would absolutely insist that he start actively dealing with these issues, which sound extremely life-limiting.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:13 AM on May 29, 2018 [140 favorites]

if your fear of being without him while undergoing a uniquely frightening emotional and physical trauma is selfish, his fear of being there while you undergo it is what?

His fear of an uncontrolled outburst due to past history is a real reason, not an excuse, but he's been in treatment for this for how long -- has he seen much progress? I ask because he'll have to deal with so many hitherto private functions of other people once he has a baby, even if he leaves you alone during your labor. one would expect that working with/on his triggers has been a top priority since finding out you were pregnant, if not long before. trauma can't be perfectly repaired or erased, and it isn't at all his fault, but this is just untenable for an active parent of a young child, especially if you have a baby girl. he can't be expecting to leave all infant and young childcare to you.

ideally he could get some intensive coaching and guided preparation from his therapist, be ready with large amounts of valium and look only at your face while holding your hand. he could even wear earplugs. even this might not be possible if his reflex reactions are that bad and that out of his control. but he should be searching for solutions like this, even if they are ultimately unworkable, because he should be as interested in minimizing the new trauma for you as he is interested in not triggering his own old one. really the bottom line is not whether he can or can't do it, but how much he's been worrying about you and what he's tried to come up with as a compromise or to make up for it. the only unacceptable answer is "nothing."

what other people, family and friends, think of him is irrelevant. supremely irrelevant. If you're angry at him or humiliated by the abandonment, don't project it onto other people in order to disclaim "selfishness." and likewise, these feared outbursts at medical professionals, is he afraid of harming them or interfering with your crucial care -- fair enough -- or just afraid of embarrassing himself or making them annoyed with him (not fair enough)?
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:14 AM on May 29, 2018 [16 favorites]

Hire a doula.

7 yrs later and I am STILL haunted by the look of numb terror on my husband's face during my 21 hours of labor. He was unhelpful as a partner in some ways for a long long time after the birth of our son, just incapable of functioning on certain levels. I sometimes miss the guy I was married to before he saw me give birth.

Seriously. Hire a doula. Shut down any judgement against your husband - he has a million other wonderful traits, not everyone is cut out for witnessing the trauma of childbirth. It's FINE.

Hire a doula.
posted by jbenben at 7:19 AM on May 29, 2018 [85 favorites]

What has he done in adulthood to manage these issues from childhood?

I know you really want him there but unless he finds a way to manage these extreme reactions, he is not going to be your rock or your safety net, he is going to be one more thing you have to worry about going horribly wrong on this important and scary day.

This is sad but it's time for both of you to confront this issue, which will only grow once you have a child. The delivery room is only the first of many scary, gross, weird, bodily, sexual things that will go on in this kid's life.

What does he plan to do to prepare to be as full a partner and present a parent as he can be given this delivery room issue has exposed a big problem?
posted by kapers at 7:20 AM on May 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

Came to suggest the doula option. We didn’t have this particular issue but having the doula made a big difference. Do it. Then do what she says.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:21 AM on May 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

To me, this is a question of balancing the short-term with the long-term. How important is the short-term gain of having him in the room worth? Is the long-term benefit of not triggering your husband worth not having him in the room? It is hard to say as this is your first child. Only you and your husband can make this decision. Ultimately, it is his decision to make for the simple fact that even if you discuss this and agree to have him in the room in some way, he can just not come in. There is no physical way to force that.

What if it is a C-section?
posted by AugustWest at 7:22 AM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You're saying he's your rock, but in fact he is telling you clearly he can't be your rock in this.

Having given birth twice I will tell you the very LAST thing you want is another variable to handle. I won't tell you details but I will tell you that things can happen that are terrifying even to people who are not predisposed to be triggered, and I would never, ever put someone in the room whose reactions were unpredictable.

Just hire a doula. This is literally their job. Or, better: have your mother there. (When I started going into shock, it was my mother I cried for, not my husband.)

(And there's no reason in the world why any of his family friends and staff (!) should know where he was during delivery!)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:22 AM on May 29, 2018 [36 favorites]

Is it possible for him to have a support person waiting outside of the delivery room? That way he can take breaks and get support from someone who is not you?
posted by mcduff at 7:23 AM on May 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

We had a doula. Part of her job is to be your advocate with the medical staff, allowing him to be a stress ball.

He can arrange himself in the room such that he doesn't see anything until the baby comes out.

He'll ultimately regret not being there.
posted by JPD at 7:23 AM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: So I haven’t suffered any of the trauma that your husband has suffered. I was there with my daughter for the birth of her first child. And I noped right out of being there for the second delivery. It was too stressful and painful for me. I was terrified for my daughter, who is adopted and so I have never had to deal with the whole labor thing myself. I think we sometimes ask too much of the people we love. If my kid had insisted I would’ve shown up for the second delivery, but she had other people who could be there for her. Also, I wasn’t convinced I was going to want to have sex again after watching my kid being sewn up afterward.

Life is hard enough; why let social pressure victimize your husband a second time? If you have a parent and/or close friend or other relative who can support you, why not give your husband a pass this time. He has explained why it is best for him not to participate. Don’t men get to practice self-care too? Particularly self-care that protects both of you from the unknown damage that might result to your relationship if you force him to do this.

I think the answer us might be a lot different if the victim of sexual abuse here was female. I hope that’s not true. I also hope that you don’t force your husband into an impossible situation. Our partners cannot meet every single need we have. This is a pretty important need and I totally get why you want him there. And if the situation were different, I would be all, push that guy into the delivery room! But we’re not talking about a situation of selfishness or simple preference. We are talking about a sexual abuse survivor who has suffered trauma. And may suffer additional trauma as a result of being there for your delivery.

This is not the romantic labor and delivery you were hoping for if he stays away. But isn’t the most important part how your family comes together after the baby is born? Please don’t jeopardize that over concerns about what your family or personnel may think. You can tell them that he has good reasons for not being there, and that you support those reasons, and leave it at that. I believe that would be the most loving choice. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:23 AM on May 29, 2018 [98 favorites]

If you worry about your sister or mother judging him, hire a doula; if not, invite one of them. He comes and supports you as much as he can.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:25 AM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I am definitely leaning towards him NOT being there, now. Yes, he has basically been in therapy, and committed to therapy, for his entire adulthood. Otherwise there is no way in hell I would be married to him!

I am not at all worried about HIM changing diapers and caring for the baby... honestly that didn’t even cross my mind as a potential problem as he is more experienced than I in caring for babies (as a former foster kid in a house of babies, and as a babysitter for his siblings kids).

But now I’m really wondering how the situations are different, and why he has a hard time being with me in the bathroom but he change a diaper faster than I can.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:32 AM on May 29, 2018 [10 favorites]

Best answer: But now I’m really wondering how the situations are different, and why he has a hard time being with me in the bathroom but he change a diaper faster than I can.

From what you describe, it sounds like there's a big difference for him between doing a thing (and being helpful) vs seeing a thing (and being helpless).
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:39 AM on May 29, 2018 [53 favorites]

Best answer: Some of your labor will be at home; you don't want to go to the hospital too soon. You will definitely need him to be with you at that point. The part of labor where you are having contractions and dilating may take quite a while. You are likely to experience pain, but many women experience it as work, frustration, exhaustion.

I would ask him to try to have an open mind. Hardly anybody has the tv experience where birth is sudden and fast, esp. a 1st baby. If he is able to be with you in early labor, he may very well be able to stay with you. Honestly, once you are in labor, he may feel that he can't *not* be with you. right now, he may be imagining the worst, he can keep in mind that many things are not nearly the way we think they might be. I'll bet you can find videos of birth on youtube, to get a more reasonable idea of what it's actually like.

I think you are making an effort to see things from his point of view. Ask him to see things from your point of view. I just spoke to a new Mom who was truly terrified; she would have felt a lot worse without her partner with her. You should be able to talk to your doctor about this; it's important to your delivery plans.

20 - 25% of deliveries end up being c-section. Knowing that I was at risk of a surgical delivery, we planned for my partner to be with the baby and do skin-to-skin contact if I couldn't. I was being sewn up after surgery and a nurse came in and said the shirtless Dad and baby were bonding in the nursery. I was deeply comforted by this. My son did the same for his baby. There may be ways for him to have a role that will support you. If he can't be with you, just accept it and move on. New babies are tons of work and fun and love.

He may just not be able to be present, so you should talk to your Mom, sister, or a close friend about being there. If he has made every effort then accept his reality that he can't do it.

Good luck and congratulations.
posted by theora55 at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: And I noped right out of being there for the second delivery. It was too stressful and painful for me.

It's too stressful and painful for most people. if pregnant women could step out until the process was over,I have no doubt that many, maybe most of them, would. it's the fact that partners have the option of saying Sorry, watching your pain is too stressful for me so I don't have to do it. Enduring your pain may be too hard for you, but I'm the only one with a choice, so I'll just enjoy my good fortune -- that makes it so shocking when they take advantage of it. Grandparents and siblings don't have the same responsibility to the pregnant party as a co-parent does.

If he was a woman who had undergone such trauma, and wanted to have children of his own body, he would not have the choice of just being somewhere else until it's over. however gruesome and damaging the experience, he would just endure it, along with the lifelong aftereffects, because at a certain point you can't turn back and you can't quit. you just endure. as the OP going to, no matter what stress and pain may come.

so if, OP, you resent this, if you are even enraged about it under the compassion and confusion, you are entitled. he has as close to an entirely valid reason for choosing his own emotional safety over yours at such a time as any man can have. hell, just say it's entirely valid. if he's sure he couldn't be any help or comfort to you, he's right. if you don't want him to suffer just to help you, you're right. and still.

if you don't resent him, that's good for your marriage, I guess. but if you do, you aren't wrong, you aren't irrational, and you aren't selfish. don't pressure him, but whenever and wherever you have leisure and space to be angry, if you feel that way, it makes all the sense in the world.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:48 AM on May 29, 2018 [71 favorites]

You can hash over whether he SHOULD want to be there or not till the cows come home and it won't change how he feels. He's been open about his feelings and it sounds like you recognize the practical problems involved.

Can you and he together negotiate whatever other things he can do to support you that won't render him so consumed by stress and anxiety that he can't operate as a partner to you at all? Suggestions for a doula or other family members to be with you during the delivery make sense.

You have to do what works for the two of you. There is no rule that you as a couple must meet our recent cultural expectations that the father must be present for the delivery. Nobody's grading either of you on this. Figure out what's going to work and make you both as happy as you both can be.
posted by Gnella at 7:58 AM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I wanted my husband to be there at the delivery of my child as well. But I also know that he's squeamish as hell. In our five year battle of infertility, he would almost faint if he glanced at any anatomical charts or figurines. I was worried I'd have to divide my focus on the safety of him and the baby so we agreed to have him wait outside. Plan B included either my older sister or mom in the room when I delivered.

I was lucky to have my twin sister visiting me from 3000 miles away when I unexpectedly was induced with pre-eclampsia. She was there for me and he couldn't. It made an already scary situation so much better for everyone involved.

No one judged us as far as I know. If they did, too bad. They weren't in the room with me.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 7:59 AM on May 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

He has to be around. You will want help in the room. These can be different people. And maybe nothing bad will happen if he was in the room, but if he thinks its better then trust him to know himself and let him take a different role. He can be around, waiting, it's ok that he won't be in the room. Because if he's not in the room for the everything turns out fine plan, he also will not be in the room if everything doesn't turn out fine.

*********Warning: Terrifying birth experience*********

I wasn't in the room for the birth. Because the kid could have died. Was in that process. The wife too. Emergency C-section was how it went down for us. Your plan is everyone's plan, bring a bundle of life into the world. I was there when the beep become an alarm and and everything, EVERYTHING, just stopped. It's medicine, not a spectator sport, it's surgery, complications, and very serious. Not everyone is equipped for this. Not everyone is prepared to witness, with their eyes, with the smell, their spouse in peril, their family in harm. I am crying right now at work, it is violent how I react to this. You should have anesthesia, the doctors will put up a curtain and try their hardest to care for you and your kid, your memories will be through a completely different prism. So take it to heart you have his support, and put your faith in the skills of your medical staff and stay focused on bringing a brand new human into the world - safely. I hope it is a healthy kid, and I really hope it's uneventful and in the years from know you'll get a small laugh out of how your fella waited in the waiting room like grandpa did. Tell him to bring themed cigars.

Sigh. Now I feel bad for even talking about this. I don't know how worried you should be - so let's end with something practical: Ask your medical provider, "in the unlikely event of an emergency C-section how long does your organization take to complete that procedure?" And be specific - "how long did the last one take?" They (the folks who do them, who might not be the person standing in front of you) should know this. Expect an answer around 22 minutes, and some hospitals do lots and don't and there are lots of reasons for both, but you want to be prepared for, as the nurses say "a deviation from the birth plan".
posted by zenon at 8:01 AM on May 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

Nthing find a doula. If you cannot find one then your mother or sister should be a good help, as long as they are sympathetic to your husband's needs as well as yours. for instance, they should not put him down for not wanting to be there. One advantage of a doula is that she is a neutral party who does not have a history with either parent.

Can you and your husband work out some kind of compromise? Like he doesn't have to be in the room with you the whole time but you want to see him a couple of times every hour, or something like that. He may see that it's not as scary as he'd anticipated, or he might not.

I think expecting men to be labor coaches is, in many cases, asking too much of them. They have not experienced what you're going through and although they can learn how to help they are just not capable of understanding labor the way someone who has been through it is.
posted by mareli at 8:03 AM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's ridiculous to equate someone's preference to not be part of his child's delivery with his skills as a father. That's like saying someone who hates anchovies can't make a pizza.

For the record, I am Indigo On The Go's twin sister (see her response a few answers above), and since everyone in our family already knew about her husband's squeamishness, nobody judged him for his inability to be in the hospital room during labor or the delivery.

What they judged him was on the fact that he literally is the best father I've ever known - there for every other moment of his daughter's life. Just not the first 30 minutes of her life. I got that honor and I cherish that gift. I hope you have someone in your life who is willing to step in and help you on that day.
posted by HeyAllie at 8:12 AM on May 29, 2018 [38 favorites]

Best answer: As my friends all entered the baby-having years, I discovered that a surprising number of women prefer to deliver with their moms there instead of their husbands (or in addition to their husbands, but with mom being the primary support). I wouldn't worry too much about people judging your choices about delivery support -- people make a lot of different choices for a lot of different reasons.

Myself, when I'm medically vulnerable, I want to be by myself or with indifferent medical professionals, having relatives there stresses me the fuck out, so I gave my husband very strict restrictions on how he was to participate in my birth-giving, because I did not want comfort and support from people close to me, I wanted to fucking focus and not be self-conscious about him watching. Like, honestly, doctors with too nice a bedside manner stress me the fuck out when I'm in a medical crisis, because then I feel like I have to be polite, and as un-gross as possible, which takes energy away from the 100% total focus I require to not freak the fuck out when coping with medical stuff. In the end I had C-sections, which actually worked out really well for me because he wasn't allowed to do anything or see anything but stand quietly by my head, and then he went with the baby to the nursery, which was perfect because I could finish the surgery without an audience, and I felt relieved that the baby was with a parent.

Anyway, when I tell people this, they completely understand. I've also heard people say, "My husband's great but I needed my mom," and "He's just so squeamish, I didn't want to spend the whole labor worried about him passing out," and "I just wanted to do it by myself, I didn't want him seeing the whole thing." As long as you present it as something you're okay with, there won't be much stigma. There's a certain kind of man who will give him crap about it (the ones who turn everything into a manliness competition), but most parents who've been through it understand it's intense, and personal, and intensely personal, and people cope with that sort of thing in very different ways, as individuals and as couples and as families.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:13 AM on May 29, 2018 [21 favorites]

Bottom line: you really, really want him to be there. So Plan A is he is there and he focuses on you and not what's happening, he (at the very least) reads up on how to be a great birth coach, and he's there for YOU. Plan B takes everything from Plan A but then adds: he can leave the room if things just get to be too much (and you have to be okay with that). The nurses WILL step in if he needs to leave the room. You won't be laboring by yourself.

Plan C, which isn't what you want, is that he isn't there at all and you find someone else to be there with you.

Those are your choices and they're all valid in their own way (except for Plan C, which leaves your preferences out altogether). It's okay for you to want him to be there and it's okay for him to know his limitations. You have to work with both of those conditions to make this work.
posted by cooker girl at 8:19 AM on May 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't know. If you're down with him not attending, that's your decision but if it were my husband I would be wicked furious that his need to avoid potentially upsetting situations and his need for self-protection outweighed my need for support while giving birth to our child. I would not be okay with that.

Pregnancy and labor were difficult processes that I alone endured. I had to live through the pain of pregnancy, he didn't. I had to physically ensure labor; he didn't.

With all respect to one's fears and delicate sensibilities, I kind of call bs that labor may be too darn scary and potentially triggering for him. There are ways for him to be physically present and supporting you without having to see anything that causes him distress. Delivery rooms have massive screens they can use and all he'll see is the upper part of your body.

And the LAST thing you need to be managing right now are his feelings.

if he's not in the room for the everything turns out fine plan, he also will not be in the room if everything doesn't turn out fine.

I take that back. The last thing anyone needs is trying to find him if things don't go well. I had three deliveries AND THEY ALL WORKED OUT COMPLETELY FINE SO DON'T WORRY but things did get a bit unexpected and scary with Thing 3. If at that time I had to send someone to find him, I would have been really upset.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:21 AM on May 29, 2018 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Thing is, everyone judges women on some aspect of labor and childrearing. You didn't do natural childbirth, omg! You had an epidural, omg! You didn't save the cord blood, omg! You had/didn't have have a doula/midwife, omg! You're not breastfeeding, omg! Your husband wasn't in the room, he's a terrible partner, omg! And so on ad nauseam. So as for any judgment of your husband (or you, for that matter), I agree that you should just let that go (even if it happens). Someone is always ready with an ill-informed and unasked for opinion, but it's not their family and none of their damn business.
posted by holborne at 8:22 AM on May 29, 2018 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a long term trauma survivior with complicated issues.

Please respect his boundaries in this situation. He is giving you self aware answers to why this would be a bad idea, and there is the factor that other people he doesn't know well, likely men , will be touching you down there. They are there to help, but he doesn't tolerate it and his brain will not see it that way. His responses are protective OF YOU, which will mean he may try to stop helping professionals from doing their jobs which during birth is a terrible idea.

That is not ideal.

It is hard to balance the past and the present. I wish PTSD and othe related disorders didn't confuse the two in such a terrifying way, but it does.

If he can get a script for some antianxiety medicine for labor that maybe helpful for him.

He's safety planning.

So, some things he can do now, if he is willing to watch realistic birth videos that may be helpful to gauge his reactions in a safe place. Touring the facility, getting to know the care team as well as possible can also help. He should have his therapist on speed dial. In fact, for my wives birth my therapist gave me her cellphone just in case, because somebody else needs to take care if me, and the staff there is for YOU.

For you make a plan like he isn't going to be there at all, allow others to support you. So, if he does manage to be there more than you expect, you can be try and be proud,not disappointed it wasn't enough. Of course this is a sad situation and terribly unfair. You are going to have feelings about this as well. You deserve support and care and a present partner.

Good luck, and take gentle care
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:22 AM on May 29, 2018 [29 favorites]

5 weeks out it might be hard to find a doula, but that is definitely my first best recommendation, since they will support you (primarily) and keep an eye on your spouse if they choose to be in the room with you for any part of this. If he leaves the room, the doula is not going to follow him out, they are there for you. I really relied on ours, since my husband and I had never been at a birth before - it's a pretty steep learning curve!

Early labor at home will test his abilities. Maybe he will find that he can be there with you for more of the process than he thinks. But I think it is only fair for you to recognize that his limits are real and that he gets to decide what he can handle. I would not expend energy on this if I were you, there is so much else that you will be doing and thinking during labor.

We get there in all kinds of ways, and I think everything the two of you can get out of the way before this happens, so that you are a team as much as you can be, and so that you don't have any additional uncertainties during labor, will serve you all well. I think if my husband had set a hard limit, said he couldn't be there, I would not have tried to negotiate with him past a point - you won't want him there if he's actively unhelpful. There are so many people in the room over the course of labor, and in my experience they were all great. The one nurse who was unprofessional and weird with me (in my postpartum room) was so unpleasant, I would do a lot to have avoided that experience. Don't make your husband part of your regrets.

The nurses in our L&D room checked in on my husband as pushing began, I guess fainting etc. is a thing for lots of new dads. So if he does come with you, don't worry, he will have someone besides you checking on him. HE IS NOT YOUR WORRY while you are doing the hard work. Do whatever you can to avoid making more work for yourself.

One of the best things I heard from the doulas we interviewed, months out, was that women in labor are pretty direct about their thoughts and needs and bodily experiences. Having my partner there to hear it set some expectations for both of us - permission for me to be that person, and preparation for him to hear different voices from me. I think women are so quick to minimize our needs that having that permission was really helpful for me.

Birth questions here on AskMe really stir a lot of stuff up for me, even now. Emotions, resentments, joys, relief (I am only doing this once, and am glad to leave some things about my kid's babyhood behind). I hope you are hearing things that help you find your way through your choices! And wishing you the best of everything and a joyous time with your new family.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:26 AM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree with the HIRE A DOULA advice. He's telling you that he cannot do this, for perfectly valid legit reasons, and I think you need to respect that. Besides, the absolute last thing you want while in labor is to have to do emotional labor for your husband. Trust me on this. (And honestly even the most birth-positive husbands can find, during the actual event, that all the mental preparation in the world did not prepare them for the OMG HOLY SHIT WHAT of childbirth and they too can become utterly useless.)

Laboring is a long process (or can be) the majority of which can be pretty boring and have nothing much to do with anyone's exposed undercarriage. If he can be around during the boring bits and then tap out with a doula taking over during the stressful bits, that sounds like a good compromise.

But, you do need to get on the doula hiring task like pronto. They get booked up. You'll probably have to call a few before you find one that is available. Explain the situation fully. They need to have all the facts and know all the boundaries before the big event.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:29 AM on May 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

My own emotional response would depend on whether he is generally your „rock“. Does he do everything he can to support you? Do you feel like he‘s excited and happy and in love with you, like he thinks up ways to make pregnancy easier for you? Does he do 80 % of the household labour now you‘re out of the picture? Does he understand how much you are doing?

If so, missing labour is but a blip. You can give him instructions on jobs to do outside the delivery room, tell him how else to support you.

Because honestly, this might be his way of protecting you from his stress.

But if this is a pattern of him being kind of meh and angsty about being a dad, not understanding that he needs to pick up most of the household work because you are a superstar making a tiny human and generally treating this whole pregnancy birthing thing as YOUR problem - then wow, I‘d be incandescent. I wouldn‘t make him come watch the birth but I would have a come to Jesus talk about what his job entails.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:42 AM on May 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

Gosh, you know what would be amazing is if he's able to be a rock and fully present for his child after your birth. You sound confident in his abilities to care for the baby, I sure wish my husband hadn't been near-comatose with tiredness after supporting me in my long labor and eventual c-section. How great it would have been to see him walking with baby and rocking baby in the middle of the night instead of him snoring in the background while my sister-in-law or a nurse tended to crying babe.

I did not have a doula for the birth but I did have a post-partum doula and I'd recommend you have both because you are going to need support after the birth as well and having someone who has experience with many moms, families and babies who comes in with no judgement and no trauma seems like it would be so amazing for your family. The post-partum doula we had was beloved by both of us because we just needed help, answers, no judgement and support which seems hard to get anywhere else. She was there to answer my husband's questions and help me with lactation and recovery from c-section.

Before the birth, my husband and I kind of split up the information - I read birthing books (my anxiety) and he read baby-care books. When there was something I wanted him to know, I'd direct him to a page or chapter and vice-versa. He was a champ (once he got some sleep) at stepping right in to the baby care role.

Lastly, everyone in the room during the birth needs to be supportive. Frankly, your husband can't get violent or stupid with the nurses because they will throw his ass out. I know a couple where the husband got so wound up with the labor and worry for his wife that he did get sent (by the nurses) for a walk around the hospital to get his shit together. And they were very frank that if he couldn't, he would be removed. His wife was on board, too, at that point because she was busy. Luckily, he was able to get himself together and then did great from then on and was able to be a good partner. But, that would really suck to have the one person you feel like you are depending on to just get benched in the middle of the hardest stuff of life!

I send good vibes to you and your husband that you're able to get the support you need in the delivery room and have a happy, healthy birth!
posted by amanda at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm pretty uncomfortable with some of these replies dismissing developmental sexual trauma as something you can just get over unless you're a big baby.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:26 AM on May 29, 2018 [84 favorites]

Mod note: Couple deleted; let's not get into general condemnation/debate over other men's issues with women; this is about a pretty specific situation.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:31 AM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

My husband doesn’t have the same experiences as yours, but does find hospitals terrifying and traumatic for other reasons. High-stress situations in hospitals with loved ones in pain even more so. He found our daughter’s birth really, really difficult, and that in turn meant it was more stressful for me, because trust me you don’t want to be worrying about someone else when you’re the one in labour.

But. If we have another, he is abso-fucking-lutely staying in the room again. I know there are women who manage fine without partners there for birth, and I am that for most medical/hospital stuff (I even prefer to be alone for it in general), but I am not that for birth. If I pretended to be for his sake, I’d have a much harder time and I’d resent him for it for years afterwards. Maybe this isn’t how you feel and if not that’s okay; but if it is how you feel, that’s really okay too. You’re the one giving birth, you’re the one actually going through all the stuff that it will stress him to see you going through, you’re allowed to want this. That doesn’t mean dismissing his feelings, but it does mean that you get to say “let’s find a solution where my needs get met too” and not feel like you’re frivolously imposing on him for it.

The solution we have reached is that if we have another, we’ll have a doula there, not instead of him but as well as him. This means he gets some of the pressure taken off him, I get active support for me where I don’t have to also worry about the person supporting me, and I still have him there. In your case this might also mean that he could leave the room if overwhelmed without any concern over leaving you without support.

(on another note: while it’s great that your husband’s trauma doesn’t affect him with baby-care, it is worth him really, really actively working on this intensively w/r/t the future baby anyway, because a) it’s not always going to be diapers and babies and dealing with eg potty-training may affect him differently, and b) it being his own child may also affect him differently to relatives’ children.)
posted by Catseye at 9:31 AM on May 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

Apologies for minimizing his trauma--that was really insensitive and I apologize.

The unknown is always so much scarier than the known. In that light, would it be possible for the two of you to get a tour of the delivery areas with a staff member so he can make a more informed decision? I'm sure they've dealt with people struggling during the birth process. Would he be okay with talking through his concerns and allowing staff to address them? Maybe you would also be more comfortable with that?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:36 AM on May 29, 2018

I am a guy who was present for two uncomplicated births with my wife and would not have considered staying out of the room unless required to for some reason, and then I would have been bummed that I missed being there for her.

Everybody's mind compartmentalizes things differently, but squeamishness over bathroom functions (which I have a bit of, i.e. I hate to walk in on my wife peeing, which is logically stupid but probably just coincides with toilet training and childhood expectations about privacy) does not necessarily equal squeamishness over being there for a vaginal delivery. Had a C-section occurred I don't think I would have wanted to SEE the incisions, etc. but don't know that I would have had to (see one of my bullet points)

As for the other considerations:

- I'd Nth that the LD staff has seen it all from patients and spouses as far as stressed-out behavior, and will know how to handle it. The strategy both times was "give Dad a job," which I think is one part keep him out of the way and one part to promote bonding. Also, since I was focused on holding one of her legs in position, and holding her hand, maybe I didn't have as much focus for getting freaked out?

- Despite having a ringside seat, as it were, I think she was draped in such a way that I did not have that much of a view of the OB/GYN's hands on her body, blood, fluids, etc. As a matter of fact, they were insistent that I NOT be in the room pre-delivery when they were getting her prepped, and in retrospect I think that's some of what that was about. I do remember seeing at least one of them crown, so it's not that I couldn't see anything, it's just that it was more natural to look at her face, upper body, etc.

If he's willing to discuss it openly, I wonder if your OB/GYN and/or the LDPR staff could walk him through some of what's going to be going on? Perhaps knowledge is reassuring.

FWIW I see both sides of the issue: I can understand that you'd be disappointed with his not being there, but if he's willing to look at the possibilities and then says he can't handle it, I think that's a topic for mental health help, not moral censure. If it helps any, delivery is kind of a blur at best, and doesn't last long. His readiness to be a father and partner in the near term is more about willingness to provide help, help, and more help afterwards, and if you're confident about that, maybe that's something to focus on.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:42 AM on May 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

There are two issues here: Getting the support you need during childbirth. And, getting the level of involvement you hope for from your husband. Solving the first issue might be as straightforward as a doula or mom or sister agreeing to be your rock. The second is more difficult.

It's worth a conversation with your husband about the extent to which he feels he can be there and involved. No judgement, no negotiating. Just walking through the stages of a typical birth and asking him about how comfortable he feels he would be, and where he would or could be. The purpose here is just to see what support he feels he is able to offer. At that point, you can decide whether that's sufficient, and try to find any additional help you need from family or a doula. It seems like a good idea to find one. Having another person there won't diminish his involvement. If he's more comfortable than he expects, your other helper can be involved a bit less.

You can decide whether negotiating or pressuring him to be more involved is worth it.

But if you get him to agree to some level of involvement, he may still be unable to follow through when the time comes. My wife was in labour for 14 hours overnight, and then needed an unplanned c-section. On little sleep, high stakes, and lots of uncertainty. The whole thing was at a level of emotional intensity that was much higher than I had expected. On the operating table, my wife asked me if she was going to die. I was able to be calm and reassuring. But hours later, once everything had resolved well, and my wife was asleep and baby was in the arms of his grandmother, I took a 15 minute walk and then had a good, hard cry. I was so overwhelmed. And I am fortunate not to be dealing with any previous trauma or mental health issues. Have as much help as you can.

I think it's good that you're accepting him at the place where he's at. Best of luck with everything.
posted by thenormshow at 9:43 AM on May 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't think anyone ever really made this clear to me when I was pregnant, so I want to spell this out for you. When you start active labor or your water breaks and you go to the hospital, a doctor or nurse will check to see how dilated you are. They do this by inserting their finger into your vagina and measuring the opening of the cervix against their finger. It's not pleasant and sometimes painful. They will do this every couple of hours. They also may insert a monitor inside your vagina or insert tools to help dilate your cervix or break your water. When you give birth, you will be pretty darn spread open (my husband stood on one side holding one leg back, while a nurse held the other). After the baby comes out, you will still need to push out the placenta and then often times will need stitches around your vagina. After that, you will be a bloody mess and you will be examined very frequently (I want to say every couple of hours after birth and then every 6 for the next day or two) where they will push on your stomach and then check your vaginal area for bleeding.

As a sexual assault survivor, a lot of this was triggering for me. If you are thinking about having your husband there at all during or after labor, I would suggest having an honest conversation with your husband and OB about what he will be comfortable seeing and even hearing discussed. A lot of labor is just waiting around bored in a hospital room, but there's also a lot of time spent having strangers all up in your junk while you're naked that people don't really discuss.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 9:46 AM on May 29, 2018 [19 favorites]

Just want to mention that while my husband was in the room, he was completely silent because our doula had coach him to look at who I was responding to and to let that person take the lead. It turned out it was a nurse named Ellen (thanks, Ellen!). For me, Ellen might as well have been the only person in the room. Going in, I would have said that I would be relying on my husband for support. I wanted to comment to say that you don’t actually know who will be the person you want to listen to. Mine was a person I met that night!
posted by CMcG at 10:02 AM on May 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

I don't know the answer here and I hope you come to some satisfying resolution.

He may end up regretting that he wasn't there at the beginning. You may regret that, too. I don't know. No-one does. None of us can see the future. Except, I can assure you that however important it is for him to be there at the beginning, it's even more important for him to be there for the next 18 years.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:30 AM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've had two kids. My priorities for a partner would be:

1. Post-partum responsibilities
2. Support during labor at home and on the streets of New York at midnight (that one might not be universal)
3. Bring me snacks in the hospital after the kid is born
4. Support during the final stages of labor, and delivery

If you know that he's going to be a stand-up father and partner before and after the birth, maybe you forgive him for missing the actual birth itself. My husband was there with me and did all he could, but I barely remember him during delivery. Nothing against him -- but I was concentrating on myself, and delivery is so overwhelming that it's not like someone holding my hand is helpful or even noticeable.

Immediately after the deliveries, though, it was great to have him there to share the moments and check out our new awesome babies together. I recommend having him come back in as soon as he can be a useful person and not a burden to you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:44 AM on May 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

Could he possibly get his doctor to give him a prescription for a xanax or three so that he doesn't have to be so stressed out? People can get them for flight-related anxiety, so I don't see why he couldn't get them for this.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:02 AM on May 29, 2018

Best answer: While I haven’t given birth, I’ve been present for quite a few (I’m a medical student who intends to be an OBGYN). I second the various folks with the really good point that you don’t know exactly how things will go. This doesn’t mean you can’t make a plan; it just means it’s important to be aware that whatever plan you make may not play out.

Were I in your position, this is what I would do: ask your partner to be with you when you enter the hospital, and stay with you until an agreed upon point or whenever he determines he needs to leave. A good option is when it’s time to start pushing. Practice a script for when he needs to leave, so that if it’s sooner than the agreed upon point, he doesn’t just disappear, but says something to you to let you know that his heart will be with you even when he’s not in the room. Arrange for someone else (doula, family member) who will remain present with you the whole time.

When you arrive at L&D and meet your nurse, explain, as a team, that for personal reasons your husband is not going to be able to stay in the room the whole time. He’s planning to leave at X time, but may leave sooner.

Having a conversation with your nurse about what he wants to do to be there for you, and what he’s not comfortable doing, is a good way to set expectations at the beginning. He can even say “Because of past experiences, I am concerned I am going to get very emotional,” or something similar.

At least at my hospital, the L&D nurse is the person who runs the show. To use an analogy, if you’re the star of the show, they’re the stage manager. They have heard and seen it all. Being open with your nurse and making them aware of the situation will help everyone do their best.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:17 AM on May 29, 2018 [16 favorites]

The medical staff are professionals, and won't give a damn about him. They are there for the baby and you, and will ignore or go through him if needed (I was told this by the nurses when my wife gave birth). You could also look at having a doula, or a close friend there to support you, and provide guidance to him.

To me it wasn't even remotely like a bathroom, and there is nothing akin to it.

Could you sit through some birthing videos together and see if he finds his role and models his behavior on what he sees?
posted by nickggully at 12:21 PM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Even though it is profoundly unfair--since you are doing the enormous work of carrying and birthing this child, and since mothers don't have the option to opt out of birth no matter how traumatizing it may be--I'd say it's in your husband's best interests and your own for him to hang out in the waiting room during the late stages of labor.

He should stay in the waiting room for your sake and your baby's as well as his own. Labor is short in the scheme of things. You absolutely won't have the bandwidth to deal with his issues/freak-outs during or after labor, since birthing and caring for a kid will take everything you have, physically and emotionally, for months. You may justifiably resent him for-bloody-ever if he creates more problems for you than he solves during labor or is less than a full partner to you postpartum because he's too busy dealing with his own trauma. Let him sit it out, and then expect him make it up to you--big time--by being awesomely supportive once the baby's here.
posted by xylothek at 12:29 PM on May 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Obviously I can't answer what you should do, but I do think it's useful to think that dads in the delivery room is a modern idea. It was a great one in my case, but, you know, it's not a biological requirement. It used to be a profoundly female affair, and I could see how that could be amazing. I know a dad who drank dozens of lattes in Paris while his partner gave birth in the hospital next door, and they were both happy with that! I know a dad who passed out and that was incredibly stressful on his wife. I know a dad who accidentally delivered his own child (too late to the hospital) and he says it was the best thing that happened to him (and he had been adamant he didn't want to be there!)

What I mean to say is do what's best for the both of you; assuming you have some support, there are no rules in this thing and the norm that men attend is just that. I wouldn't ruin the whole experience because of what other people think. Birth is important, yes, but it is so hyped up by society because we think we can control it. And of course, it is actually only the very tiniest part of what it means to become a mother or father. Haters will hate but that shouldn't matter to you and your family.

posted by heavenknows at 12:48 PM on May 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

Since this is your first child, I want to point out that this may not be as important as you think it is. I honestly can't recall whether my ex was there or not for 2 of the deliveries, however I do recall not particularly wanting his (or anyone's) presence during the labor anyways, and as some have noted it can affect your sex life negatively.
As for worrying about what others think, there's no reason why you can't lie for the sake of your husband, whether he was there or not is a smaller detail that not many are likely to ask or remember, technically he was "there" even if waiting in another room anyways, just not watching, and watching honestly is not something I necessarily wanted to do either... doulas are great too!
posted by OnefortheLast at 1:04 PM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Since dads-in-the-delivery-room has become A Thing, it is now such a thing that literally no one has ever asked my husband if he was there or not. It's just assumed that he was. If it were the case that he in fact wasn't, for good but private reasons that aren't for public consuption, there'd never be any reason for anyone to know that and I'd be surprised if anyone ever put you in a position to have to lie about it. Just let everyone assume that he was "there" by whatever definition of "there" they have and after the baby exits the newborn stage, no one will ever ask about the delivery again anyway.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:04 PM on May 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

The birthing center I used had bracelets for the mom and dad and then a matching one for the baby as soon as it's born. You would like your husband to accompany you far enough in to get his bracelet and be close enough by to follow the baby if it needs to be taken from the room for any reason. I had a whole crowd with me, and while I liked having someone next to me most of the time, I didn't even notice who else was in the room, and when it got to a certain point, I didn't even see who was next to me. A lot of mothers get tunnel vision. Part of why I had a number of people, though, was that my plan had a mom staying with me while my husband went with the baby (which turned it to be necessary). I had my best friend as a gopher, and it really helped earlier on that she could support my support people (they got hungry) and later follow my husband and baby, to watch over them both. My daughter only spent a few hours in the nursery getting extra oxygen, but it makes me so happy that she had her dad with her.

So consider who you would be okay with having there and see if they can all come and play specific parts. If there are two people who could come to be your rock, even better. They can trade off and eat every few hours or take naps as necessary. You might have a friend that's there specifically to go and get your husband as soon as he can meet the baby or help your husband go with the baby if it needs extra care out of your room.
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:20 PM on May 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am also in team leave husband in the cafeteria. Giving birth is not a magical, happy experience as our media protrays it. There's a lot of blood and poop and pain. I mean the baby is totally worth it but it's pretty much a shit day I'd rather forget. Let the medical people help you. Also, chose the drugs. I wish I had spent the day in the cafeteria too.
posted by Kalmya at 3:59 PM on May 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

I absolutely understand your need to have him there as well as his ongoing trauma around this issue. I haven't gone through the whole thread, but my feeling on this is that if he is not present during active labor, he can certainly make it up to both of you after the fact. There are 8,000 diapers to change, hundreds of meals to cook, clothes to launder, floors to sweep, patience to maintain, kids to drop off and pick up, and on and on. If he can't do that, he can and should do this.
posted by cnc at 4:31 PM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

From what you've said your husband is clearly stating his boundaries, which is awesome. He's aware of his triggers, plans for them, and is sensitive to not wanting to stress you out more than he anticipates you already will be. He is able to articulate and communicate these important things to you.

While I understand your impulse to want him there, you need to recognize that part of what you want for him is *this amazing experience* but you are setting him up for failure in that regard (and he has let you know it). The other reason you want him there is to advocate for you and your child in the event that things go sideways in the delivery room. Which, again, he has let you know that it's possible that he will fail spectacularly at that job, and he's worried that he will, and he has let you know it.

It's time to put your desires aside and respect these important boundaries.

Get your mom and your sister (has she gone through L&D?) to be there for you. Having that plan will likely bring tremendous relief to your hubby, and he will more than likely feel comfortable enough to be in the room with you, knowing that he can step out if he gets overwhelmed, without feeling that he is abandoning you completely in your time of need.

Source: extremely anxiety-prone hubby, with the feature that he panics if things don't go *exactly* according to the plan that he wrote down four months ago. I had to get family members to be in the room too, but hubby ended up staying in the room and everything was smooth sailing. You really don't want to be worrying yourself about how your husband is doing if you find your own self in the middle of a medical emergency.
posted by vignettist at 6:07 PM on May 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I suggest you two get and work through the book When Survivors Give Birth. This may sound odd, because the book is written assuming the survivor is a woman giving birth, but if you can work around that you may find it very useful. It is structured as a series of triggers that women survivors giving birth have experienced, where the survivor thinks through how much that they expect that thing to trigger them, and then develops a plan to deal with that trigger. So for example vaginal exams: based on what you have said, your husband might be triggered by seeing you get a vaginal exam, because of what he witnessed as a kid. What could help? He could step out of the room for the exam, hold your doula's hand and listen to her tell him things are ok, close his eyes and meditate for a minute, etc.

I think you and he would find it helpful to work through this process and make a staged plan. Because as others have said above, it's not possible for this to be an all or nothing thing. You could be in labor for multiple days, and a lot of your labor is likely to be at home. Is he going to leave as soon as you have your first contractions, then not see you for possibly days until everything is over? Probably not. What if you have prodromal labor, which can go on for weeks? Well, if one of his big triggers is seeing you in pain, that could be very hard for him, but you'd probably feel let down if he weren't at home in those final weeks.

I think this book will really help you break down the different options at different times, because just being in the room vs not being in the room doesn't make sense. Maybe it makes sense for him to not be there some of the time. But when? How does he decide when to leave? There's a lot to think about.

Many doulas have experience working with survivors. Ask around and you should be able to find one who knows these issues.
posted by medusa at 6:27 PM on May 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

There are occasions during birth where the medically necessary thing is also a painful and invasive thing. I had very few vaginal exams during labour but when my kid came out and got stuck, my ob had to jam his fingers/hand in alongside her in order to try and slip the cord around and stop it choking her and stopping her from descending further. This happened twice, tearing my vagina twice, before he decided to cut the cord and hope like hell she came out on the next push (spoiler: not even a push, just exploded out as soon as the cord wasn't trapping her). It was ugly, it hurt me (I didn't feel it at the time but two second degree tears are bastards to heal), and it had to happen. I was lucky enough to deliver the placenta easily - that's another thing that sometimes requires manual removal.

His trauma is about witnessing, respecting that is vital IMO. Because even if he doesn't have flashbacks/reactions during the labour, he will be processing a lot of it post-labour. And that's when my husband was MOST useful, because I was wiped out, so he did skin on skin, and feeding, and so on, until I'd recovered. It wasn't until he was on his way home that he was able to process any of what he had seen, and luckily he had my mother there to help him, and he doesn't even have a bunch of trauma to work through.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:31 PM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Anecdata: I really only needed company at the beginning of labor because a) I wasn't exhausted yet and b) I was bored. Once labor was happpening in earnest, the two people I cared most about seeing were the anesthesiologist and the obstetrician.

Which is another way to say, do what is best for you both. It does not matter what anyone else thinks.

A note, post-partum care is as real as labor and delivery. A different kind of messy and painful, sure, but messy and painful nonetheless. You will need help and care and being demure/private about it is not a thing you'll likely have mental energy for. You might want to do some research there and come up with a plan for that time too.
posted by this-apoptosis at 7:31 PM on May 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

I was glad that my husband was there through a long (mostly no anesthetic and not by choice) first birth and a shorter (but more difficult) second birth. The times when I was most frightened were when they sent him out for procedures.

Have a primary support person (birth coach or relative or friend) who can be there through the labor -- and 15 hours is a long labor. A backup would have helped my husband.
And have your husband at least in the hospital somewhere within calling distance and a few minutes arrival. My second childbirth might have gone wrong, in which case my husband would have been the person making the decisions.

This is just the first few hours (or days) of a decades-long relationship. He needs to be one of the first people saying hello to his child. Being in the delivery room is one option, but it's not the most important one.

I understand any disappointment about the change of plans, but you and the baby are the only concern here. If after all these months of worrying about it, he has come to the conclusion that he will be in the way and take the attention away from you, then that's an honest answer.
Keep him close, but give him an out for when it gets too much for him. Again, Plan A is having someone who can support you without getting in the way.

Also -- post-birth home care. This is his area to shine.
Congratulations and best wishes for your family.
posted by TrishaU at 8:56 PM on May 29, 2018

I have a few random disconnected thoughts.

Get a doula. During the birth, you need someone who gets what you're going through and can connect to you in the pain you're in. (This is probably less true once / if you get pain meds.) People can love and support you, and that's truly wonderful, but you also need someone who can look you in the eye and say "Breathe! Breathe! Breathe with me here! Deep breath in... " That's unlikely to be him, or anyone who hasn't gone through a million births. I appreciated the comment about Ellen above, because I also really remember near the end getting tunnel vision such that I only saw whichever nurse was saying "ready now? push!" This doesn't mean that his role isn't important, but there are different roles, and knowing what roles he likely will and likely won't be playing might make it easier to find some flexibility here.

Labor has a lot of parts, and if what triggers him is seeing your private parts, I think he could be there for a lot of the labor and contractions. For me, that was the time I felt most connected with my support team, during the long night of labor. He should probably leave for the cervical checks. Similarly, if you're not on a catheter, you'll probably need help using the bathroom because of the pain and the baby moving lower, so he might not want to be where he can see the nurse / doula help you, e.g., reach your underwear to pull it up. And probably for the actual final phase of delivery, he might not want to be in the room or he might want to sit where he can be moral support but doesn't see much.

While I can really understand your desire for him to be there, the person giving birth and the birth partner have very separate experiences, no matter what. (I've been in both roles.) You probably won't be interacting with him much during the most intense parts at the finale -- you'll be largely in your own world interacting with 1-2 professionals, if your experience is like mine. So you could think about ways to create moments of connection even if he's not present continuously.

I'd assign someone to be his caretaker. You will have zeeeero ability to make sure he's doing okay at a certain point. At that point, you'll also be wanting the doula to focus just on you. Maybe a close friend of you two who knows what he went through could be the one to be with him, to help him calm down if he gets upset, to come in to see you and find out if now is a good time for him to come in, etc.? If you go this route, learn how many guests your hospital allows in the delivery room at any given point. At ours, it was 4, which would work (a doula, his supporter, him, and maybe even one more person to support you if you wanted), but if yours is more restrictive, you might want to think that all through.
posted by slidell at 6:08 AM on May 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't have anything substantive enough to add to the really great thoughts folks are giving above, but I just wanted to take a minute amid all of the excellent/practical advice to cheerlead and say:

I know giving birth is a scary thing you still have to get through (and if I had had to think through these issues five weeks before I was due I would collapsed in a pile of goo) but reading your question and update, I see two people who are trying to understand each other's point of view and juggle both self-care and their partner's needs, and who are actively working to figure out how to live with the crappy sh*t that life shoves at you--while figuring out how to move forward. That's AWESOME. Good for you guys. What an excellent set of skills to take on the long road into parenthood!

Congrats again on getting this far, and your soon-to-be little bean. I hope you and your husband both get a few moments to enjoy these last few weeks together. You can do it!
posted by alleycat01 at 1:17 PM on May 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was zonked on Valium watching my wife give birth, just to prevent myself from having a panic attack or vomiting from stresss. Just saying it’s a valid option.
posted by moorooka at 3:23 PM on May 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

My husband and I were not squeamish and no history of sexual assault, but still, after being there for our first home birth he asked me if it would be OK if he didn't attend the second. I was fine with that! I wonder if you are trying to accomplish bonding between the three of you? He sees how much pain you go through and that bonds him to you. Plus the two of you experience so much pain that you subconsciously protect the child throughout his life - more than medicated birth - because you know how much it takes to bring a child into the world. I'm not saying medicated moms, absent dad's bond less. I'm saying some people might want husband in room because they think it will create more bonding. Consider your motives. If bonding is your motive, research it. Maybe bonding can be achieved other ways. All this may be achieved by husband watching a video of the birth later? - and camera person should be behind the mom so crotch shots don't trigger people with history of sexual assault.

What if he stays outside the room but comes in to "cut the cord"? In home births, as well as a lot of hospital births, that is a ritual assigned to the father. And believe me, they never forget that.

I personally would not force someone to attend a childbirth.

I knew a woman, her child was riding a bike and was hit by a car right in front of her house. This woman ran into her bathroom and locked the door. The child was OK, my point is there are just people like this in the world and I believe we just need to adapt to them. I have envied her many times, wishing I could lock myself in the bathroom during tragedies. My father died recently and I told my kids that if they felt like they couldn't be there, at his death bed, that it was fine with me. They did show up. Luckily my mom is not having a funeral for him because I was planning not to go - I can't go to my father's funeral. It would just be too much for me.

*my husband was not present for 2nd birth but was more bonded to second child /anecdotal .
posted by cda at 3:35 PM on May 30, 2018

Best answer: My husband is very squeamish, particularly about medical stuff and body functions. He was one of my labor partners when I gave birth to our son, my mom was the other. He was very firmly up by my head, didn't see anything below the waist, he did cut the cord. He does not have any particular trauma history that would have affected his participation in the birth. And while it was overall a good experience, he said later that it was very hard to see me in so much pain and he felt kind of helpless and clueless.

Does your husband WANT to be there but feels like he CAN'T? Or does he not want to be there at all but knows you want him to be? (And for the record, I absolutely don't blame you for wanting him there. I get it.) For me that makes the difference between, "Well, if he wants to be there but doesn't feel like he can, maybe he should talk to a doctor about some medication or some short-term directed therapy to see if he could be able." or "He doesn't want to do this AT ALL but feels like he should and will try to power through though it could cause him psychological harm and possibly get him arrested (if he hits a medical professional, he very well might get arrested)."

Are you planning to have an epidural? Could he hang out with you in the room AFTER it is placed and maybe tag out when things get too intense? Your mom and sister can provide labor support during the active parts, the pushing, etc.

I used to be super-judgy about men who refused to be in the room with their birthing partners. Then I had my own baby. And it is INTENSE. Even dudes without a trauma history can't handle it. And doesn't mean he's a shitty husband or father. You are not wrong for wanting him there, but he isn't wrong either for not being able to be there.
posted by Aquifer at 8:53 AM on June 1, 2018

Please seriously consider hiring a postpartum doula. They can help with all sorts of practical things after birth, but in particular I'm thinking of the time it will take for your body to physically heal. There can be a lot of bleeding, pain, soiled pads in the bathroom trash can, vaginal tearing that you need someone else to look at, and so on. You may find it difficult to get in and out of bed or up from sitting by yourself for a while, so if any of the after-care for your body could be triggering for your husband, it could be a important to have someone to help as needed. (This is not stuff you're likely to ask your neighbor to do when they stop by and say, "How can I help?")
posted by TrixieRamble at 10:41 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update:

I went into labor 2 weeks early and my husband was by my side for all but 2 hours
(right before I started pushing). He decided that he really wanted to be present for his son being born. He stayed at the head of the bed and cut the cord! All was well until he walked around the foot of the bed to announce the news to my family in the waiting room and he saw all of the blood. Then he threw up in the hallway. But all in all it was just perfect!
posted by pintapicasso at 10:08 AM on July 24, 2018 [26 favorites]

Best answer: Great marriage work both of you and welcome cupapicasso!

(because a cup is smaller than a pint!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:39 PM on July 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

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