Friday, February 10, 2006


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.


Blogger bill said...

My goodness. Words fail me.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Fat Doctor said...

Love your blog, am linking to it at my site. Let me know if you'd prefer I de-link you. Thanks.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Alison A said...

I can give you a mom's perspective. I very much wanted my husband to be the one to cut the cord, even though he was a little leery of it beforehand. Cutting the cord is a very powerful symbol not only of the end of pregnancy, but also of the beginning of a lifetime of letting go of this little being who has been apart of you for the past nine months. It's very intimate, and I'd rather do it "with" someone I love, than have it done "to me" by a doc I've only known for a few hours.

That said, if we'd had to have a neonatalogist in the room, I'd have agreed in a sec to let you have the baby without delay.

9:39 AM  
Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

That's why doulas are so helpful to Moms and Partners! ;)

7:04 PM  
Blogger Jonquil said...

My husband thought cutting the cord was silly. He was there to support me and to welcome the new baby; he didn't need a rubbery and difficult scissors-cut to become a father! He was and is a fully-involved father, but thought cutting the cord was an odd ritual.

Everybody's experience is different, of course.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Lindsay said...

Wow. Useless.

I didn't want anyone but my husband touching me while I was in labor. He served all the functions of a doula. We had a doula as his back-up and he used her as he needed, but he did 95% of her work.

He held me up, walked with me, fed me, helped me choose new positions, held me physically out of the water while I slept between contractions in the tub. He kept the hospital staff at arms length to protect my birthing space, massaged me, kept the room dark and un/dressed me as I asked. He held me up as I walked through transition, held my leg while I pushed, spoke up to make sure our son went straight to my breast instantly after birth.

His support let me labor without thought of anything but laboring and birthing. He kept me from interventions and pain meds, and kept my brain and emotions together during the most difficult physical and mental work of my life.

Some of those things sound small "held my leg". I couldn't reach the stirrups and couldn't hold my own legs, and needed help. Holding me up while I walked through transition. I had no strength left to walk through the pain, but couldn't remain stationary. He physically held my upright and helped me walk.

I could go on and on. His physical strength, compassion, emotional strength, love and support were phenomenal and necessary.

Either my husband is the only man who could do what he did, or you have a low opinion of men.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a neonatal nurse practitioner who frequently attends deliveries similar to those you have mentioned, and I've had your thoughts a million times. If you need ME there, it is because something is wrong or potentially wrong. So PLEASE just give me the baby NOW. Sometimes, if the baby is fine, I have let fathers cut the cord after I have clamped it. My other favorite is getting called to a meconium and the baby is suctioned and held up for the parents to view, and then to me. Yeppers.

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