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Dads Who Are Disgusted by Childbirth

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Dr. Michelle Golland: I have often said to the couples in my practice that it may be the most difficult time in history to be a father.

father in delivery room

I believe this because our generation of men had a lot of expectations thrust upon them, but didn't really have a "movement" to define the change they have experienced as men, husbands and fathers. It's not that I don't think the changes are positive, but let's face it: It doesn't make them any less challenging. When I think of my own husband, I realize that he is expected to be manly and strong, connected emotionally to me and his children, work hard at his job, come home happy, assist with dinner, help me clean up and then put the kids to bed. He is to do all this with his only role model of "Dad" being completely different from his experience! His father worked from 9 to 5, expected his dinner to be on the table, loved his kids but was not so involved in their lives and certainly was not expected to be emotionally in tune with his wife and "understand" her feelings (as well as his children's).

Our fathers were also not allowed in the hospital room while our mothers gave birth to us. That didn't come into fashion until the 1970s; it came out of the women's movement and the natural-childbirth movement. It was an effort to help keep the mother relaxed while she gave birth naturally -- and in the humanistic movement of psychology, it was thought to create a deeper connection between the couple and the infant by inviting the father into the birth experience.

It just seems unfair to paint the dads who are squeamish about witnessing birth (and may have a lowered sexual arousal for a time toward their wife because of the experience) as "bad, evil men." It's no different from the fact that, for some women, packing on the pounds during pregnancy is not seen as the wonderful, beautiful, goddess-like experience it is for others. I know many female clients who have a lowered libido due to having gone through childbirth and feeling like a baby-milk factory -- so why wouldn't the experience of witnessing all of this just maybe lower men's libido or sexual desire towards us?

The initial reaction by most mothers to men who confess their negative feelings about witnessing the birth of their child is that of hostility and frustration. You know, the thought of, "Oh, grow up and deal with it" does not allow these dads to express their feelings about the birth -- and that is simply unfair to them. Is it immature that they don't seem able to get past the vision of their sexy wife pushing a watermelon out of her vagina -- which ends up looking nothing like the vagina they knew before the glorious event? Maybe, but that doesn't change the reality that some dads need a little understanding to get over the visual.

I know some women who were in such fear of pooping while on the table that they received enemas before going to the hospital to deliver the baby! You see, the whole thing, in my mind, is related to how some people need to maintain a distinction between the sexual, reproductive and bodily elimination aspects of themselves to still feel sexual feelings toward their partners. I know some people who still don't fart in front of their partners -- or if they do, it is really embarrassing. I know couples who do not ever want to poop in front of each other. Is this a healthy relationship? It depends upon the agreement of the couple, and if they each feel comfortable with this separated experience.

There's been a huge cultural shift between 30 years ago (when we saw few men in the delivery rooms) and now (when nearly all fathers are present). Allowing men to share their own experience of witnessing birth should open a dialogue among couples that can lead to a healthy and authentic experience for each person.

next: Mom Takes the Challenge: Have Sex One Day in a Row
16 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous April 28, 2010, 4:50 AM

I’m a woman and I thought giving birth was disgusting and pretty gross - for me it’s a means to an ends. So I had no issue with my husband staying at my end. I even told him he wasn’t allowed to look!

Kristin April 28, 2010, 7:56 AM

My fiance is totally grossed out by pregnancy and childbirth. I was studying to be a midwife for a while. It is beautiful! (in my opinion, at least. lol) I do hope that he will change his mind when we get to that point but I suppose I can understand why he might not. It still hurts though.

Aprilcot26 April 28, 2010, 9:21 AM

I couldn’t agree with you more, Anonymous. Although I have yet to go through labor and delivery (4 more weeks!), I am currently one of those pregnant women who sees nothing “goddess-like” about it. My husband is already very squeamish around blood and I have no qualms about him staying by me and not watching the delivery. When the teacher for our childbirth class suggested holding up a mirror so both parents could witness the birth together, I looked at my husband and told him not to let anyone come NEAR me with a mirror!

S April 28, 2010, 10:45 AM

My boyfriend was not all about it when it was discussed as a future event. But when the time came he definitely saw more than he had anticipated but once that baby was out he did not have a moment to think about anything but the baby. Just a suggestion Aprilcot26, send him away right after the baby is born so he does not witness the after birth. They should be cleaning up the baby so a good moment for him to get some pictures and not be totally horrified.

A side note. I am 13 years younger than my siblings, so when they were born my father waited in the waiting room. When i was born times had changed and he was in the delivery room. He says that if he had known what it was like, my oldest sister would have been an only child, my mom delivered us all naturally.

Darla Siereveld April 28, 2010, 6:41 PM

Are you kidding me, child birth is beautiful !!! My husband was there through the whole thing and cut the cord.We had a beautiful baby boy!!!
If you cant handle it dont do it…..

Mo April 29, 2010, 1:54 PM

I don’t know what you people have witnessed, but all the birthing sessions I’ve witnessed are disgusting! The way your ‘private’ parts look during birth……words can not describe…and its not just your vagina. There is nothing ‘beautiful’ about bowel movements! I can say AFTER you have expelled the after(gag)birth and your baby is cleaned off, all the grossness is over. And lemme tell you pregnancy is not always pretty either, I don’t know about you others….but my hips were painfully widened and have not returned to there normal state! I haven’t come across a beautiful stretch mark on my tummy or hips. Nor was I happy that I went 25 plus years without any type of skin outbreak and suddenly I have them pus filled bumps on my face

Mo April 29, 2010, 2:00 PM

Oops, I suddenly had pus fulled bumps on my face. The outbreaks didn’t stop until I was done breast feeding.

GPC April 30, 2010, 10:43 AM

Why would you inflict that experience on your husband? The miracle of childbirth? Oh Please! It’s messy, grotesque and traumatizing. Hurts like hell and looks like a scene out of A Nightmare on Elm’s Street. I don’t blame men for being grossed out. They only call it a miracle because they don’t want to scare first timers. We all know that it’s torturous and hideous.

Joanne April 30, 2010, 2:48 PM

i was miserable throughout my whole pregnancy, i was sick couldn’t sleep and i hated everybody. when it came time to have my son i had everyone but the doctors, nurses and hubby locked out of the delivery room and told my husband if he so much as inched lower than my elbow i would break his legs. no cameras or mirrors allowed. this may seem extreme to some but it was the only control i felt i had left at the time. I love my little boy more than life but there is nothing “beautiful” about most of what we go through while pregnant.

Golf Clubs September 14, 2010, 10:40 AM

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Jenny March 17, 2011, 11:16 PM

it can be disgusting for women too..why pick on dads?
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