Giving birth is an incredibly beautiful thing, there’s no question about it. If we’re being honest, however, it is also, well, kind of off-putting – and to some, even goss. After all, the female involved is literally pushing a human being out of her body – it’s not exactly pretty. Despite that, women, rightfully, still expect their partners to be supportive through the process. That’s why this woman was so hurt when the first thing this woman’s husband said to her after the birth of their first child was “that’s disgusting”. (1)
Woman’s Husband Told Her The Birth Of Their Child Was “Disgusting”
After nine months of pregnancy, hours of labor, and of course the difficult delivery process, first-time mom Kristen was in awe of her baby boy. She turned to her husband, remarking about how incredible and perfect their baby boy was. Her husband, however, had a different reaction to the whole process.
“this whole birth was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen… don’t expect me to go down there again” he said to her.
She was in shock over her husband’s comment and deeply hurt. Kristen explained that his words made her feel the ugliest she’s ever felt in her life. Unfortunately, her husband’s behavior leading up to the birth wasn’t much better.
“He offered me water while I was having massive contractions and couldn’t speak,” Kristen explained. “Then he would become impatient and rude and say loudly ‘are you even going to answer me?!’ His complete lack of support during the birth made it even harder… at one point, I cried because he wasn’t being nice.”
From Bad To Worse
Immediately after the birth, he left her alone for an hour to talk on the phone. It was when he returned that he made the horrible comment. Despite this behavior, Kristen decided to forgive him and stayed with him long enough to have a second child. The marriage was not a good one, however, and her husband was not a good father.
After 12 years, her husband began having an extramarital affair while away on a business trip with a woman 17 years his junior. Several months later he filed for divorce and moved in with the other woman. Now, the new couple is expecting their first child together.
“He continues to party in nightclubs until 6 am in the morning and do what he wants, when he wants,” Kristen explained. “I feel that he will be just as disengaged with his new child as he was my kids… this new wife is in for a big shock – good luck to her,”
Kristen, for her part, is now in a very happy relationship with a man who has two kids of his own. They are raising their four children together. Her advice? Don’t stay with a man who treats you like garbage “for the sake of your children”. Better yet, leave for the sake of your kids. Your whole family will be better off. We’re glad that she has moved on for the better, but it leaves us with an interesting question. While her ex-husband’s words certainly lacked tact, is there something more to this? Are there pros and cons to partners witnessing every detail of childbirth?
Pros And Cons Of Partners Witnessing Birth
Naturally, any woman giving birth wants her partner to be there and support her. That being said, birth is not the easiest thing for anyone to witness. Yes, of course, without question, it’s hardest on the women going through it. For the witnesses, however, it can also come with a different set of challenges.
1. It’s Kind Of Gross
“I watched my wife tear apart like tissue paper! I didn’t know skin could do that. The midwife moved the mirror real fast but I still saw it all.” —Nano, 30
“So birth is raw and honestly not a pretty sight. It’s worth it, though, when you see your baby for the first time. Everything before that is gross.” —Jordan, 25
“I stayed behind the curtain during my wife’s C-section. But after our son was ripped out of her abdomen, I went around to watch them weigh him. I accidentally looked at my wife and OHMYGOSH there is a gaping dark hole in my wife!!! Why did I look!?!” —Eugene, 35
2. It’s Scary And Exhausting
“I’d heard several people say they couldn’t bear to watch their wives give birth, so I had no idea what to expect. Blood? Poop? Blood and poop? As I watched my first daughter come into the world, though, I experienced the following emotions in this order: (1) Tears. So many tears. I had never cried like that, and I don’t think I’ve cried that hard since. (2) Why is my child blue? Is she supposed to be blue? Can we get a doctor in here who will acknowledge the fact that my daughter is blue? Is she okay? Oh, she’s crying, okay, we’re good. (3) Holy crap, my wife is a badass. She just pushed a human out of her body! Thank god men aren’t the ones giving birth because we’d have gone extinct millennia ago!” —Stephen, 32
“Watching my wife give birth was exhausting, which isn’t something you’re really allowed to say when you’re not the one pushing out a baby, but it’s true. For almost 24 hours, I had to push on my wife’s back and let her squeeze my hand during contractions. Sometimes, I literally had to hold her up, and I was so tired I was literally falling asleep during contractions. When our baby finally arrived, I felt like I got hit by a truck. My wife got this crazy burst of energy from all the birth endorphins, but not me. I have never been so tired in all my life.” —Thomas, 31
It Can Be Traumatic
We always talk about how challenging and traumatic childbirth can be for the female, and rightly so. That being said, it can be highly traumatic for the other new parent in the delivery room, too. So much so, in fact, that there is even a risk for PTSD. Part of that comes from the partner’s complete lack of ability to really help if something goes wrong. (3)
“Childbirth can bring serious complications from uncontrolled hemorrhaging to unexpected emergency C-sections,” said Mark Williams, a lecturer and advocate for fathers’ mental health. “We must remember PTSD can occur following the experience of witnessing a life-threatening event. We must remember it’s the fathers’ loved ones in the labor room and feeling they cannot help them can make them feel helplessness and failure.”
Still, not much is known about PTSD induced by witnessing a traumatic birth scene. Williams says that the symptoms can include:
- Vivid flashbacks
- Intuitive thoughts that make the person feel angry or upset
“Many fathers I have spoken, including myself, used drink to block it out” said Williams, who went through the traumatic experience of his wife needing an emergency cesarean, something he had never heard of until the moment.
Post-Natal Depression In Dads
Dads, or the non-birth-giving partner, can also experience post-natal depression. This can be brought on by witnessing the birth of their child. Anna Machin from the University Of Oxford studies this mental health issue in dads and says that the birth doesn’t necessarily have to be life-threatening to be traumatic.
“PTSD is obviously more common in men who have experienced births which are objectively traumatic, where there is risk to life, use of emergency procedures, or significant blood loss,” she explained. “However, my experience is it is really how the man perceives the birth which is the most predictive element. Even an objectively straightforward birth can be the cause if the man has experienced past trauma for which it is a trigger.”
Reasons can be their lack of control or capacity to help in the delivery room to simply struggling to cope with seeing their partner in so much pain. What’s worse, many men are hesitant to visit a doctor and talk about their thoughts or feelings afterward.
Dad’s Weren’t Always Allowed In Delivery Rooms
In the past, men weren’t allowed in the delivery room. Instead, they sat out in the waiting room anxiously waiting for news from the doctor. Today, it is often expected that the husband will be there with their wife supporting her while she pushes out their child. If the whole scene is potentially traumatic to the witness, however, is it still a good idea for them to be there? (4)
“Men in the birthing room are a huge benefit all round, to their partner, the baby and themselves. It increases the likelihood of a successful birth, it cements the idea that two parents — rather than just a mum — are being born and it allows the dad to begin bonding as soon as possible,” Machin says. “However, we have just assumed that all men want to be there and not given them a choice. We judge men who say they don’t want to be there and we shouldn’t.”
So the answer is that both the birthing and non-birthing partner need to be coached by the doctors ahead of time as to what they can expect in the delivery room and everything that could possibly witness. The couple then needs to talk together about what they think is best for both of them. For many people, the opportunity to be in the room and support their spouse is an incredible one. Witnessing the moment they become a parent and getting to share that with their partner is beautiful. They are also there to advocate for their loved one if they are unable to do so themselves.
That being said, they must be prepared ahead of time for the reality that is childbirth. It is not going to be pretty. It will be hard to watch, and, no, there’s nothing you can do about it except supporting your partner. They should be aware that things could go wrong. The more prepared the partner, the less chance that the experience will be traumatic. One thing is certain though: Even if you do think the whole thing is gross, make sure that’s not the first thing you say to your wife – maybe even just leave that part out entirely.
So, what do you think? Should partners always be there to witness the entire birth or is there room for something in between? Let us know in the comments.
- “My husband said our son’s birth ‘was the most disgusting thing he’d ever seen’.” Kid Spot. Madeline Cox. August 31, 2021
- “These 13 People Got *Brutally* Honest About What It Was Like to Watch the Birth of Their Child.” Cosmopolitan. Lauren Hartmann, Megan Uy. July 1, 2020.
- “Dads Are Getting PTSD From Watching Their Partners Give Birth.” Fatherly. Joshua A. Krisch September 27 2017.
- “This Father’s Day, Remembering A Time When Dads Weren’t Welcome In Delivery Rooms.” NPR. June 18, 2017