I feel a little sorry for fathers in the delivery room, because let’s face it, they’re pretty useless there. At best, if they’ve been to a birthing class they can maybe count while their wife or girlfriend breathes or pushes, but any nurse could do that just as well, or perhaps they can give a small amount of emotional support to the mother. At worst, they can foul things up by fainting or needing to be led from the room because they can’t take it anymore. The fact that their wife or girlfriend is doing one of the most difficult human tasks in life – as the saying goes, there’s a reason they call it labor - can only emphasize their feeling of inadequacy. Mind you, I don’t blame the father for this. The delivery room is a new and scary situation for them, and that is compounded by the worry they have for their significant other and child.
Unfortunately, some genius many years ago came up with the idea of making the father feel useful by having them cut the umbilical cord. This has been the bane of neonatologists ever since. We’ll be called to a delivery because there is concern about the baby’s health, perhaps because of meconium stained fluid, maybe because the baby’s heart rate is low, only to have to wait to receive the baby while the father painstakingly cuts the cord. Give us a break, people! If you want us to be there for the baby, then give us the baby as soon as possible.
I’m not sure how cutting the cord is even symbolically important. Is it supposed to mean that now the baby is no longer dependent on the mother alone, but on both parents? If so, then why has the practice spread to include grandmothers, aunts, and other bystanders cutting the cord?
Dads, let the mother have all the attention and glory in the delivery room. They deserve it, and a puny thing like cutting the cord won’t begin to change that. Rest easy with the knowledge that there will be plenty for you to do, and plenty of rewards, in the years ahead. Stick around – too many fathers don’t – the real work of fatherhood is just beginning.