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The Vine: January 23, 2013

Submitted by on January 23, 2013 – 10:29 AM76 Comments


I married a great guy, T, in 2008. In 2010 we found out I was expecting. I had a completely normal, if barfy pregnancy. I had a terrible doctor (that problem is taken care of; I have a new ob/gyn), but soldiered through until the end. In December I went into labor, and everything was all normal and hunky dory, if painful, until my kid was born via C-section after 42 hours of labor (don’t judge, I pretty much had thrown in the towel at that point, 42 hours of being awake is a really long and exhausting amount of time).

Upon his entrance into the world, he collapsed both his lungs, didn’t breathe for seven minutes, went septic, got revived and transferred to a nearby big city, where for five days he was put on a hypothermic treatment. He’s totally okay now, he’s a charming, silly boy who loves to give hugs and kisses and make animal sounds and has a fixation with Elmo. We can’t imagine life without him.

My husband and I have been talking about how we’d like to have another kid. We’re both on board for the whole pregnancy, and sleep deprivation, etc., but where we have a difference of opinion is the delivery room. My husband left me in there, which was a little traumatic for me. I understand why. Our kid was in the corner while people are shouting things like “No breath sounds” and “Charge to 500” and he was floppy and purple. My husband was also told, “If you’re gonna vomit or pass out, you need to let us know so we can get you out of here” prior to the C-section. I’m not mad, or frustrated or disappointed by his past behavior. If I could have left the room, I would have.

However, when the new-baby topic comes up, he says very vehemently that he doesn’t want to be in the room. I would like him to at least try. I’ve suggested therapy, I’ve even offered to go (I’m a social worker and I think we both have a little PTSD from this), and maybe an Rx for him for while he’s in there to calm his nerves, and if after he’s in there, if he really can’t handle it, he can leave. He’s completely against it, the therapy and the being in the room.

We live far away from our parents, and while I love both my parents and my in-laws, I really don’t want either set in there with me. They would seriously just stress me out. Sure, I could ask a friend, but I’m in that cohort where most of my friends have young children and can’t really leave them in the middle of the night to go to the hospital. So it’s really just me and my husband…

Can you and the TN peeps help me come up with 1) a strategy to convince him to go see someone about this? 2) a workable compromise about the delivery room? (No suggestions of a birth class…we won’t be doing that again…unhelpful, expensive, and we aren’t people who are into the whole “birth is a beautiful natural process” idea.)

Expecting To Expect Soon

Dear Expecting,

What happens if he won’t go to therapy, by himself or with you, and he won’t consider going into the delivery room? Do you decide to go forward and just gut it out (excuse the pun) on your own in there? Or do you tell him that this vote needs to be unanimous and you won’t go through the delivery-room experience without a wingman?

I think you need to get clear on that for yourself, then make sure he’s clear on where you’re at, because I think it’s possible that he’s actually not so hot on the second-kid idea, and he thinks that creating this roadblock will…create a roadblock, I guess. You mention that it’s really just this one issue, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, or that you believe otherwise…but at the same time, if it is just this one issue, why won’t he just go talk to somebody about it for an hour or two? I mean, the C-section is not your elegant arthroscopic two-stitches-and-a-shot-of-whisky procedure. You got sawed nearly in half, following which your son skated close to death. He has every right not to want to watch a rerun (and so do you). But given how well it turned out, you have to wonder if that’s in fact the real issue, especially if he won’t deal with it head-on. And if it is, you should obviously try to ascertain that now, versus, you know, in the car on the way to the delivery suite.

So, as I said, I would do some thinking for yourself about how you want to handle it and proceed (or not proceed) in the event that he continues to refuse to cope proactively with the issue. See a therapist your own self and make sure you’ve got everything untangled. Urge your husband to get honest with himself and you about what’s really got him hung up here.

And if it really is just straight-up anxiety, I’d say extract a promise from him that he’ll at least try his best, and not rule out keeping you company entirely — and then find a good midwife or doula, one who has relationships at your local hospitals, knows the drill from long experience, and can ease everything from labor to running interference with hospital staff to knowing when it’s time to send your pale-green husband down the hall for some ice chips and quiet time.

All of that said, I have no children of my own, and if I did, I’d be taking the “I’ve hauled Junior around for nine months, so you’re gonna to stand where I fuckin’ tell you, hoss” stance, which makes decent copy but isn’t super-productive maybe? So: readers! Is this a surmountable problem? How hard should Expecting push this? Is Mr. Expecting scared of the labor/delivery, or is something else going on?




  • Jenn says:

    Re: Sars’ question of whether Mr. Expecting is scared of something other than labor and delivery, my guess is he feels bad about leaving/not being about to tough it out. He’s afraid something will go wrong the second time around and that he’ll have to leave again. He feels like he failed himself, his wife, and his child.

    I think the Expectings should talk to the new doctor about their fears and what happened with the first delivery. Part of an OB’s job is making sure the patient and her family are as comfortable as possible with the process.

    BTW, Expecting: 42 hours of labor? First of all, you’re Superwoman. Second of all, I’ve never heard of a doctor letting a woman labor that long.

  • Katherine says:

    Expecting, I had a lesser version of what happened to you, around the same time, actually: surprise, emergency C-section, but without the prolonged scary medical stuff afterwards that you describe. I’m so glad that you and your son are OK!

    Anyway, Sars is 100% on-target with her suggestion of a doula. Having someone else around to lean on and advocate for the two of you, and someone who can “tap in” when your husband’s wrung out is an excellent solution to this issue. A good doula will meet with you several times before you go into labor, and that would be a good time to share what happened previously, and what the two of you need, in terms of support. Our doula was worth every penny, and I will hire her again if we choose to have another child.

    I wonder if your husband would also benefit from having a close friend ready by the phone when you go into labor. A friend of ours told me that her husband needed to step out of the room around 3AM during her labor and went called one of his best friends, where he basically broke it down as, “She’s in pain, there’s nothing I can do to make it immediately stop, and I’m scared.” Just being able to talk about it got him back on track and he attended the rest of the birth. I also wonder if your husband might benefit from a father’s support group–not actual therapy, if he’s unwilling to go, but a group of guys who’ve been through this before, and can talk about it over beers/video games/golf/etc.. If you belong to a church/synagogue/religious community, speaking to its leader might help as well.

    Best of luck!

  • holly says:

    Obviously, I don’t know how much talking you have done about it, but I agree with Jenn, much of this may be about feeling like he failed you. Also, although I was the one laboring through my three deliveries, I don’t begrudge my husband one bit, because he was the one who stood there for hours while the person he loved was in pain and he could do NOTHING about it.

    Also, Sars is dead on on the doula. Ours not only made it easier for me but also made it much easier for my husband. There was someone there who had the time to explain to him things, and someone who knew what was supposed to happen and was calm about what was happening.

  • Kizz says:

    There are avenues toward raising a second child that don’t include a delivery room experience for either parent.

  • MinglesMommy says:

    All I can say is – who would judge Expecting for having a c-section for any reason??? All that matters is that you have a healthy baby (which, thank goodness, in the end happened for her).

    As for the hubby, well… I don’t know. I’m not sure I would want to be in the room if I were delivering a baby. (Yes, you read that right. In fact, I think I’d rather someone else delivered my baby. Or I’d just adopt. Because I can’t even deal with paper cuts.)

  • Lisa says:

    Just an endorsement of the doula idea…. We hired one with our first (we didn’t with our second as we were more confident about the process second time around). The main reason I had hired her was to help me with natural pain relief (that idea went down the tubes after throwing up repeatedly from the pain – epidurals are wonderful, not evil, as it turns out). However, the one unexpected job that the doula really excelled in was “husband handler.” She gave him mindless errands to run when she sensed he needed a time out, coached him on what would be helpful to me and what I was finding just plain irritating, etc. In your particular situation, a doula may be a great solution to making sure you have very good support while running interference and making sure husband comes out of it all unscathed.

  • B says:

    I’m guessing if you have another baby, you will go with a scheduled c-section? (No judgement at all, just that VBACs are somewhat rare and a lot of doctors don’t like them.) Maybe you could take the angle that a scheduled c-section is very different from an emergency one? I don’t know if there are articles or videos that might help.

  • Jen says:

    I would definitely recommend that you shell out for a doula – they are wonderful people and the right one can make you and hopefully your husband feel a lot better about the process. She would provide excellent labor support for you and would NOT leave you alone. I don’t know how we would have managed without ours! is a great place to get started but you can ask local parenting resources for recommendations too.

  • k says:


    I would highly recommend finding a doula that you are comfortable with and who is on board with whatever your particular birth plan is (medicated, unmedicated, whatever). She can be part of your birth preparation as well as part of the birth itself. She’ll likely have seen a lot of births so she can also be a “safeguard” as it were for your husband — like, she can tell him when to leave if he’s going to freak out if x, y, or z happens, or she can tell him to stay, because a, b, or c is almost over and then things will be fine again. And, of course, she will be there with you during the delivery in case your husband can’t be.

    Let me be clear — I think your husband should be there and I think he should do what he needs to do to get comfortable with that. But if he can’t — just, you know, CAN’T — then having a doula there ensures that you have the support you need. And having a doula there may also help him feel more comfortable being there (or not being there, whichever happens).

    And yes, there are doulas who are totally fine with supporting a birth that is medicated. You might have to look a little harder, but what you want is less someone to help support your birth plan and more to support YOU.

  • Charity says:

    We had a rough first delivery, and my husband was joking even before then about doing the whole fifties dad waiting in the waiting room thing with cigars prepped. Our second was rough in a different way, and honestly, if he told me that he didn’t want to be in the room again and seemed earnest about it, I’d call my sister or hire a (moderate as to natural stuff) doula and give him a pass. Yeah, I’d very much rather have him with me, but I get that it’s hard for guys in a whole helpless sort of way, and it freaks them out. I can work around something less than ideal for this one day, probably only a few hours really at most. It’s just a small slice of all our time together.

    This is just my perspective on it, of course, not necessarily advice. Sometimes it helps to see it through someone else’s eyes.

  • Sara says:

    Maybe this comment is just totally out of line and insensitive (I don’t have kids, don’t want to have kids, never been pregnant even for a minute), but please know it’s not coming from a place of wanting to be a complete b* …

    What if you adopted a kid?

    This part: “My husband and I have been talking about how we’d like to have another kid. We’re both on board for the whole pregnancy, and sleep deprivation, etc., but where we have a difference of opinion is the delivery room.”

    Your husband isn’t “on board for the whole pregnancy” thing if he’s not on board with the whole “supporting you in the delivery room” thing, that’s like saying I would really like the macaroni and cheese, but without the cheese. Pregnancy = eventual delivery room. (Well, possibly pregnancy = back of a taxi, but let’s hope for the best.)

    It seems like a great way to get what you want (another kid) without the mac-and-cheese-hold-the-cheese (pregnancy that magically ends with no drama or delivery) is adoption. I have no idea what the costs of adoption are versus the cost of prenatal care and delivery, but perhaps they are comparable?

    Now, in my heart of hearts, I would caution against raising a child with a partner who seems deeply resistant to even trying to hear your side of things when the shit hits the fan–the fact that your partner won’t go to therapy, refuses to engage with the issue, etc. seems like a potential red flag.

  • Editrix says:

    Something that it might help both of you to think about is that a scheduled C is absolutely 100% different than an emergency C after 42 hours of labor. Of course you were both exhausted, and emotions and hormones were running even more ridiculously high than they would have been normally, and then you had to recover from both a C AND a long labor, while your kid was hospitalized. That’s some serious trauma right there.

    My C was in a bit of an emergency situation, but let me tell you – knowing ahead of time that we had to do it, and being prepared, and not doing a trial of labor before it, meant that the C itself, while not “two stitches and a shot of whisky,” was by far the easiest part of the whole mess. And I don’t know if the long labor had anything to do with the complications for your son after, but it’d be worth discussing with a (good) OB and even your son’s pediatrician whether you’d even be at risk of the same things happening if you’re planning all along for a repeat C. It’s possible that the things your husband is most afraid of (the long, long, sleepless, stressful hours and maybe even the panic at the end of them) wouldn’t be in the picture this time anyway.

  • Erin W says:

    Though I completely understand why you would need him there with you, Expecting, I’ve got some real sympathy for your husband, too. This is coming from someone with a long and storied history of fainting in medical scenarios. I’ve fainted while getting vaccinations. I fainted when a cut on my dad’s leg started gushing blood. I fainted once in the vet’s office while my dog was getting her anal glands expressed. I had to leave the theater after the C-section scene in Prometheus and sit with my head between my legs. I get dizzy just reading about medical things on webmd. Have I made my case enough that I am completely unsuited for a situation like your husband’s? And he just might be, too, which sucks a lot for you and for him, but I can’t imagine any anti-anxiety meds in the world strong enough to get me through a marathon like what you guys went through.

    I do agree that he is shell-shocked from the first birth, and that he could do much better in a tidier, calmer delivery. Also agree that paying a nice woman who does this for a living is a beyond excellent idea.

  • Cora says:

    I don’t know that for the husband to be adamant about not wanting to go through a bad birth again means that he’s actually not on board with the idea of a second kid. He has a really great first one; his experience is that the birth and first few weeks were painful and awful, but it all came out okay, so a second would too, probably.

    I wonder if he just feels pressured. What if you stopped trying to convince him? If he doesn’t feel pressured, if he feels like you’re listening to him, he might come around. In other words, if you accept that he really truly cannot deal, and tell him so, then he doesn’t feel like he has to fight you. If he doesn’t have to fight you, he’d be more inclined to support you — especially if the fact that no two births are alike can be emphasized.

    I agree with Sars that you need to come up with a Plan B, like a doula. But setting this up as an adversarial issue, when you’re not even pregnant yet, seems like a lot of unnecessary aggro.

  • Maria says:

    I guess a lot depends on if you want to try a VBAC or if it’s supported where you live. You both need to sit down and have a consult with the new doctor. It’s possible that the right person could put you both at ease about what to expect, and it’s so much nicer to be clear from the start now that your eyes have been opened to a worst case birth plan scenario.

    Yes, a scheduled C is a lot easier, and you might be able to line up somebody quite easily, whether it’s a friend, a coworker, or somebody that you hire. A doula is the first person who comes to mind, a monitrice (a nurse midwife who will advocate for you in a hospital) is another one. You should talk to your local crunchy granola birth place for recommendations and see what the attendants are on board with doing for you. Some doulas may not be open to attending a C and you should find out. Also make sure your hospital would be okay with that as well; some have a strict family-only policy.

    I don’t think you should force your husband on it. The reason I say that is, you want a very specific kind of caring from him and I think he is telling you in every way that there is that he cannot give it to you. Not that he doesn’t want to, just that he cannot. And yet, you still need it from somebody. I would personally buy a family member I trusted a plain ticket to come to a scheduled C before I would push an unwilling spouse into unwanted therapy. It just seems like a better way of getting what it is that you need, labor support. And then you have somebody to hang out at home and hold the baby. An infant doesn’t care who meets its needs, an older child will want Mom.

    A second baby is every bit as theoretical as a first one, but in the end they all work out. Normally I can pretty tough on partners, but I give this one a pass this time. I think him saying he just can’t go through it is no different than you saying you need somebody in there with you. You both have a bottom line, and when it comes down to it there has to be a way to meet them both. Good luck to you with the new pregnancy!

  • Annie says:

    Hey hey adopting recommenders–just an FYI (that you may or may not know): adoption costs anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 and is not actually a walk in the charitable park. I love adoption; soooo much adoption in my family of all kinds! But finances are a real hurdle for most people and “just adopt” doesn’t usually take in the serious levels of thought, hard work, and amount of time it takes.

  • Hollie says:

    I get wanting to have him there because it’s pretty intense time, even when everything goes according to the textbooks. And I second for the umpteenth time the suggestion of a doula to support you both. I thought I’d just throw out something I read once that might help with some perspective (it’s good for any worries about not having the kind of birth you hope for/expect/want): Essentially, a birth is to parenthood as a wedding is to marriage. It’s one day, it doesn’t define the relationships involved, and there’s a whole lot more that follows, much of which is arguably harder and more challenging. Just another way of looking at it….

  • Christy M says:

    I was typing out a comment and hit refresh before I pasted it in to post, but then I saw what Maria said, so: What Maria said. Finding out if you want a VBAC (or if your doctor and hospital will support it) is the first step. Because laboring is a whole different animal than a scheduled C. Perhaps speaking with your doctor with your husband there might be called for too.

  • Sharon says:

    No! NO NO NO! Fathers do not belong in the delivery room. Seeing the birth process is a scarring experience for men. He will never, ever look at you the same way again (in a very bad way). Hire a doula for support and let your husband maintain the illusion that things are always beautiful and clean in the area between your navel and your knees!

  • Anne says:

    I’m the “other mother” in a two mom family and we hired a doula, and I recommend it highly. I was pretty anxious about being in the room and knowing how best to be supportive, and the doula did an excellent job supporting my wife and helping me out (handling me).

    Now, if you’re going to try VBAC, I do think your husband should at least be able to say he will try. I would try to get him to commit to helping you select a doula, as well as being present for all of the pre-birth part of labor (we did so much waiting and playing cards and watching TV when my wife was induced at 42 weeks before anything stressful happened).

    I know I was really not keen on having to be in an OR for a c-section. It almost came to that for us and I think I would have gone in and probably kept my eyes closed and held hands.

    I’m not trying to let him off easy (he should at least agree to talk to someone about it), but I also can’t mention enough how awesome our doula was.

  • Stella says:

    Expecting, it bums me out that you don’t have a good friend that you think would support you though this issue, if your hubs can’t surmount it and you don’t want a new-agey doula type. I’m imagining if my best friend wrote this letter – I would be in that delivery room any time, day or night, my husband can watch our kids when I’m away. Because I love her and she would absolutely do the same for me. Have you talked to your friends about this? Maybe you could at least ask a couple of them to come in shifts, just to ease the anxiety a bit? Asking for help is hard, but that’s what friends are for and true friends are happy to.

  • Meredithea says:

    My parents had a somewhat similar situation with my sister and me. When I was born (a month early), the docs discovered that the cord was wrapped around my neck. Several scary procedures later, my dad passed out. My mom’s doc picked him up by the scruff of his neck and tossed him into the hallway (Yay, the 70s!). When my sister was born 14 years later, my dad was completely onboard with having my sister — he was the most excited guy ever about it — but he just couldn’t do the delivery room. My mom brought my grandma and a trusted friend in with her, and all was well. Meanwhile, my dad paced and smoked out in the parking lot, and then was a fabulous dad to my sister and me.

    A doula may be a great idea! Find one who’ll go along with your wishes about how you want the birth to go.

  • attica says:

    Does anybody else have the Yale fight song running through one’s head, except swapping in ‘doula’ for ‘boola’?

    Just me? Sorry. As you were.

  • Bronte says:

    I was in a similar situation with our wee man. My waters broke green, and 10 hours of highly monitored labour later we opted for a c-sec on our midwife and OB’s advice. I completely understand you needing him there. I had full confidence in the staff and a good relationship with my midwife, but I needed my husband there to reassure and hand hold. he was taken away to be gowned up, and I felt my nervousness increase until he returned.

    I have friends who are midwives at our hospital. They are of the opinion that birth is super scary for Dad’s even when it all does well. The woman they love is in pain, mega pain, and it’s a double whammy for them. It’s their fault (since they were party to the impregnation) and they can’t do anything about it. Apparently many women don’t get the chance to ask for pain relief as hubby asks first, mine did.

    Frankly I’m a bit with Sars on this. The dad’s (or other mother’s) job is to support the mother and they should just suck it up

  • Sarah says:

    Expecting, I’m echoing the recommendation for a doula. With my first, I was worried about my medically squeamish husband making it through without help (and I was worried about myself making it through without him) and our doula was absolutely amazing for both of us. I’m a pretty private person, but she was someone we both felt comfortable with quickly, and she was worth every penny. I went into the birth knowing that I would likely want an epidural but wanting to go as long as I could without it, and she was totally supportive of that. With my second, we both felt more comfortable with the process, but I still had a good friend attend the birth, just to have someone else there to give my husband a break when he needed it. (For the record, she also has a small child, but was totally willing to do this for me. She’s a rock star, but I also think this isn’t necessarily a burden for the right friend; I would be honored to be asked to attend a birth.)

    Neither of my births were anywhere near the trauma of yours – I can’t even imagine, and you are also a rock star – but there’s no way I would have given my husband a pass on being in that room with me. If he had been obstinate about being at the birth, I would have done whatever it took to get him comfortable with the process – helpers, change of doctor, therapy, whatever – but for me, that would have been non-negotiable. I agree that the birth is just one day, and just the very beginning of the parenting journey, and I was never the mom that had to have the perfect birth plan all laid out because: just one day, BUT. It’s a lot of work, both physically and emotionally, and can be full of trauma (as you know), and dammit, it’s his kid being born. You don’t get a pass when parenting gets hard, not at the birth, and not when things get sticky down the road.

    All that is to say: you might be able to give him a pass for not being there, but if you can’t, you’re not alone. And as Sars said, you should figure out where you come down on it, and delve into what’s going on with him, before you’re on the way to the delivery room.

  • EB says:

    I think you need to get some clarification as to what specific aspects of being in the room are creating your hubby’s staunch position.

    I was in the OR for my wife’s c-section. I was by her head and we were screened off so I couldn’t see the actual procedure, which would have caused me to pass out, throw up, and cry simultaneously. So other than some blood that hit the floor, there was no visible gore. So if it’s a concern of witnessing your innards, it’s not a problem, but it’s a very emotional process so there could be a number of aspects to it that are triggering his response.

  • Morgan says:

    @Sharon: I’m sorry for whatever experiences that you had that make you feel this way, but just because you don’t want the father in the room doesn’t mean that is right for everyone. I couldn’t have managed the 55 hour labour and c-section without my husband at my side. It did change the way he looked at me afterwards: he looked at me like I was some kind of fucking rockstar/goddess/superhero. And he’s a grown man – he was already aware that I have biological functions that occur between my legs, just like everyone else.

    @Expecting: I nth the doula recommendation. But do check to see what the deal is. At our hospital, you could have 2 support people in the labouring rooms with you, but only 1 in the OR. Though maybe they can trade out? I’m not sure – in my case, the doula went home as I was prepped for surgery.

    Also, I’m both glad and saddened that I’m not the only one who feels apologetic/defensive about my c-section. I laboured for 55 hours, including 16 on pitocin, before they announced that I was out of time and options. And 10 months later, I’m still a little defensive about it. Which is crazy, but there we are.

  • Soph says:

    I’m 20 weeks pregnant (thanks to a reverse-jinx from the Vine: and–even though I have a husband who’s completely game for labor and delivery–these doula comments are making me tear up (yes, I’m a tad emotional). Not to thread-jack or anything, but how did you all find your doulas? Do you guys have any resources? It may be helpful for the LW (and, fine, me) to know where to start looking for one. (Thanks, @Jen, for the link.)

  • ferretrick says:

    Ok,speaking as a man, and coming at this from the perspective of a man, albeit one who admittedly will never experience childbirth. I would be taking the “I have carried him for 9 months so you will stand where I tell you and you will like it” stance. Ok, yes, phrase it a bit more diplomaticly then that. But, he needs to grow a pair. You will be experiencing one of life’s more traumatic events, and you are telling him you need his support in there. In my opinion-wife begging for support delivering your baby = time to man up, push through the pain, choose the cliche of your choice. No ifs, ands, or buts.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    No kids here, now or ever, but I have to say; hiring a doula seems the way to go.

    Not only will you have someone advocating for you, but for your husband. A good doula will be a channel for the more intense emotions/hormones that flash flood a room during a birth, while also knowing when to step back because a medical procedure has to take place.

    If you know/trust the hospital or birthing center where you would give birth, ask if they have staff or recommended doulas that you could go for an initial interview with, and get a feel of what they do for couples in the delivery room. And if a doula’s not for you, no harm no foul, and the energy boost of “well, I am trying to do something about this, even if this particular try didn’t work” may be what you need to start getting past the whole PTSD thing.

  • Jem says:

    I was my single-mom-friend’s birthing partner, and I would like to third, (fourth, fifth, sixth?) the doula suggestion. She also chose to have one in the delivery room, and despite the fact that I attended all of the birthing classes with Friend, I could not have been more grateful for the doula’s calm, confident, knowledgable, helpful presence. I do not have kids, and I think I would have been useless to Friend without her.

    This birth also turned into an emergency-C, and Friend chose to take the doula with her into the OR instead of me (for which I was very grateful!). Both were happy with that decision in the end: Friend because the doula could tell her, calmly and supportively, everything that was going on when the baby came out (also with complications) (he’s fine now!), and the doula because she shared with me later that she’d never gotten to witness a C-Section before, her clients always having chosen to take their significant other into the OR.

    Also, if you’re like me and not very granola-crunchy yourself, and the idea of a “doula” makes you think of hippies and home births, I would urge you to consider it just the same. While I can’t say I agreed with everything she had to say about childbirth, that didn’t change the fact that she was a rock star in the delivery room, no matter what happened.

  • Megan says:

    You went through a terrible trauma and lingering PTSD is likely. If so, it is a small drain on your emotions and well-being all the time, new pregnancy and delivery or no. It wouldn’t hurt to see a shrink who does EMDR for PTSD, and get that cleared out (it would take a couple sessions of a couple hours). You could do that, just as good upkeep for yourselves. When that is addressed, you could have a new conversation about delivery and see where you both stand.

  • Bridget says:

    I know you said you don’t want to do birthing classes again, but different classes have different results. For my first pregnancy we did the hospital class, which prepared neither of us for anything, and resulted in us not having the experience we wanted (although a happy & healthy baby at the end is all that ever matters). For the next 3 we took a class in a technique that required his participation as a coach, which enabled him to be a positive, necessary part of the births. A lot of times there is no clearly defined role for the non-pregnant partner–maybe having a “job” to do as your advocate and support could help him feel more in control, even in the OR.

    I do think you guys have a lot more talking to do before you get pregnant–you do not want to be fighting about this for 9 months and in the car on the way to the hospital.

  • Isabel C. says:

    Disclaimer: not having kids, not with anyone who’s having kids, not in a committed relationship.

    However, the big red OMGWTF flag here is that dude’s refusing to get therapy, and that’s where I’d lay down the law.

    Because even if you work out something with a doula or a friend and your husband watches friend’s kid while friend comes with you or whatever? A guy who won’t get therapy when he has issues is a guy who needs a sharp smack to the back of the head with a spoon. Especially when the issues are affecting you at a time like this.

    Dude who won’t get therapy now is dude who won’t get therapy ten years down the road when he has depression or alcoholism or family members die or whatever else comes up in the average human life, and you do not need that noise. Bud-nipping seems like the way to go.

    (Sidebar: guys? Being all macho “I don’t need a shrink I can handle my problems I AM BATMAN” and then claiming that you juuuust caaaaaan’t heeeeelp whatever way you’re making the people you care about miserable makes zero sense, and makes you look like an asshat. Join the rest of us in the twenty-first century already.)

  • Dorine says:

    Can’t offer any better advice than what is above — try to find out specifically what part of the delivery experience is the scary part for your husband and then find out if something can be done about that specific part (e.g., standing behind the sheet) and/or find a good doula.

    But I also just want to say how sad it makes me how many women feel defensive in some way about how they give birth — ladies, you birthed another person! It’s a wonderful thing. Why do we care whether it was vaginal, c-section, uninduced, induced, “natural” (I hate that phrase), medicated, etc. Whatever is right for you is right for you — I feel so sad that so many of us feel we have to “explain” our stories (I ended up with the epidural and wish to this day that I hadn’t felt so much pressure to not do it — I had THE BEST time at my delivery once that sucker kicked in). You had a kid! Yea, you, however you did it.

  • Abigail says:

    Expecting: Oh, I’m so glad all of you are OK now. I think you and he probably do have some sort of PTSD from your son’s birth, because, hello? I was traumatized just reading it!

    What really stood stood out to me about your letter was the “don’t judge me, I had a c-section after nearly 2 days of labor” thing. Why would anyone judge you? Why would you think that anyone is judging you, what or who in your life is giving you those messages? Maybe your husband is picking up on some of that and doesn’t want to fail. Men (and this is just my experience, so it’s worth what you paid for it) are extremely sensitive to situations where they’re expected to perform, be manly, be strong, and if there is even a hint of disappointment, well, so long Charlie. I’m guessing that’s why he’s so adamant. Maybe he can talk to male friends or relatives that have beent through it, if he’s got them?

  • Meg says:

    First, @Soph: CONGRATS! :-)

    Second: wow. This letter is actually making me think a lot. I’m at 31 weeks now and therefore have really started to think about my whole labor and delivery set of hopes and fears. My inclination is to immediately jump to Sars’s feeling that, dude, “I’ve hauled Junior around for nine months, so you’re gonna to stand where I fuckin’ tell you, hoss”.


    The main thing I realize that I want from the delivery room is someone there who can keep all the bullshit and chaos the fuck away from me so that I can go to my “happy” (yes, I know I won’t be “happy”) place, concentrate, bear down, and deliver Boy Spawn alive and screaming. Both of us, hopefully, for that last.


    I would be UNBELIEVABLY ANGRY were my husband to exercise the choice to absent himself from the experience. I can’t do that, therefore why should he be able to?


    It’s not a relationship ender. At least to me.

    Good luck…sorry these are mostly hormonal musings from a fuzzy, emotional preg brain.

  • Nikki says:

    Agreed with Sars and ferretrick. You’re GIVING BIRTH to his child. And he can’t even stand there? I think you are giving him too many excuses. He has one job – to support you. Compared to your job in this, it’s a cakewalk.

    If it were me, I would “stop trying” until he got a better attitude. I would be PISSED.

    Better advice is to ask him if he thinks it’s *fair* for you to give birth and/or go through surgery *alone* after carrying his child for nine months. Then, explain how you feel about having to go through it alone. Writing a letter might work best if you can’t say everything you need/want in a conversation.

  • Meredith says:

    First of all, good luck!

    From my experience with my own husband (and from listening to Sars over the years), I just don’t think it ever goes well when you start out asking “how can I convince him…” He…feels the way he feels. He almost certainly isn’t feeling that way to screw you, or hurt you, and he may simply not be able to change the way he feels, even when it involves something as huge and as emotional as this. I think it’s totally okay for you to tell him that you’re hurt, angry, whatever, that he won’t even consider it, but…he still reserves the right not to change his mind, too.

    I agree with Sars that ultimately you have to decide whether and how it affects your decision on this and kind of go from there. Are you okay with the idea of not having him there? It’s hard to separate, but if hubby had been totally heebed out by the idea of watching the first time, would you have tried to talk him into it or shrugged and hired a doula?

    Also, I just had my first, and did some researching on doulas. I totally second, third, and fourth the idea of hiring one if hubs can’t or won’t do the delivery room. But to possibly add some perspective: not only did I come across stories of fathers who Just. Did. Not. want to be in the delivery room that led to a doula being hired (and the mom being fine with it), but I believe that in many non-United-States locales, it’s still rather common for birth to be a ladies-only thing. I do think we have a cultural thing going now about how it’s “unnatural” if a father doesn’t want to be involved in the delivery. We’re wired that way; if my husband had said “no way do I want to watch that” before our first, I definitely would have wanted to talk with him and understand why. But if in the end he told me that honestly, he was afraid to faint or couldn’t bear to see me hurting or whatever and just COULDN’T, I think that I would’ve shrugged and enlisted my mom or a doula. I agree with the poster who said that this, while a beautiful thing, is still only one day. If he wanted to tag out on changing diapers, like, EVER, I’d probably have a different stance, but maybe this is one you let go, especially because of the first experience.

  • Matt says:

    Everybody’s threshold for processing blood/pain is different, so I’m reluctant to judge too harshly — but in this case I’ll make an exception. I’m a cream puff about medical procedures. I get lightheaded when I even get my finger pricked during a blood test, I’ve passed out during blood donations, and yet I was in the delivery room for both my kids’ births. The first was supposed to be natural but there were complications, and it ended with an episiotomy. The second was natural but slow and often painful for her. Both were protracted (over 36 hours of labor for both children) and filled with medical mini-crises. At the end of the second one, my exhausted wife fell asleep naked on a mattress soaked with afterbirth while doctors suctioned fluid out of our son’s lungs so that he didn’t drown. It looked kind of like a tableau out of “Se7en.” I went into the bathroom after I knew she was asleep and threw up, then couldn’t keep any food down for the next day.

    But as another commenter said, I sucked it up, because I was supposed to be the wingman, and she was doing all the work, honestly. What I went through was nothing compared to her experience. It was my job to be present. That’s all that was expected of me, that and feeding her ice chips and telling her I loved her and making sure she didn’t get pressured into a procedure neither of us wanted. And I knew if I didn’t pass that basic test, I knew I’d feel horrible forever. I just know hubby feels horrible about this, and embarrassed. What mate wouldn’t? That’s why it’s got to be addressed, somehow, it doesn’t matter how. And it’s on him, ultimately.

    Adoption, scheduled C-section, whatever — but also, marriage counseling, therapy, confession, something like that. Honesty. Conversation. Confrontation. Working through the issues. This is all imperative. Otherwise the past is going to haunt both parties no matter what they decide to do about kid #2. And nobody will blame her if hubby’s refusal to deal with reality becomes a relationship deal breaker — or at very least, something that busts him him from a full partner in her eyes into somebody with an asterisk next to his name. You can’t look at somebody for the rest of your life wondering if they’re going to fold during the rough times. There’s a reason why marriage vows include the phrase “for better or worse.”

    My 2 cents.

  • Jobiska says:

    Just honing in on the tiny subsection that you suspect you yourself have a bit of PTSD (or even unacronymed “stuff”) related to the experience.

    See what therapy on your own can do, whether or not spouse joins in. My son is 18 and and amazing young man and I’ve mostly processed on my own the crappy OB doctor (no C-section) and the various hospitalizations in son’s first year, but every now and then something comes up that tells me that when I do get around to talking to someone about the various stressors in my life, there’s some leftover stuff there that needs to be cleared away.

    And none of those subsequent or current stressors in my life was having another kid.

    I think you’ll be doing yourself and any future kid a favor just by relieving this source of pain/stress/etc., and if your work on it shakes some change into your husband, so much the better.

  • lsn says:

    Expecting: I agree that you both probably have some PTSD and I’d definitely look at counselling together with your husband about what happened during and immediately post the birth of your first child, especially now that you’re looking at having a second. It’s amazing how much stuff you thought you’d dealt with comes up again. I talk with a lot of ex-NICU moms (we’re still in NICU, although leaving soon!) and contemplating having another pregnancy seems to be something that triggers a lot of feelings that had been pushed aside in the whole dealing with what is happening Right Now, whether that is the stress of having a baby in NICU or the change in having the baby at home and adapting back to normal life.

    I nth the doula idea too if your husband really can’t cope with being there, or even if he can actually. We had a midwife at my planned emergency c-section whose job it was to basically support my husband and myself and explain what was going on behind the sheet and, after my son was born, over in the corner with the neonatal team – very helpful, especially when they intubated my son and he went from crying to not crying quite suddenly. I think in all honesty it was much more helpful for my husband having her there – I was under the influence of drugs and adrenalin and remarkably calm, he on the other hand was in an extreme state of stress over what was happening to me and to our son. The previous three weeks of Pregnancy Drama including me being hospitalized probably didn’t help much there either.

    (Incidentally ‘planned emergency c-section’ still makes me laugh – I always thought of “emergency c-section” as being very dramatic with beds being rushed through corridors to theater and people frantically doing things, but when you’ve been in hospital being monitored for two weeks already your emergency c-section becomes quite routine. Obviously I watch too much TV.)

    I also nth the idea that a planned c-section (even an emergency one) is pretty non-dramatic, although I will say there were far more people in the room than I was expecting (about 15 medical staff all up, although at least 5 of those were for my son). Again, I blame television for leading me to expect about 2 people in the room during birth, heh.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @Dorine and everyone else who has brought this up:

    A-MEN to the whole “Rate your ‘birth experience’ on this social scale and FAIL! FAIL, YOU NON-WOMANLY WOMAN!” thing.

    Any “birth experience” where the woman and baby are alive and healthy at the end is a good experience, okay? Telling someone who went through two fucking full days of labor that she’s letting down some imaginary team because her DOCTOR decided a C section was necessary are the words of a small, sad, shitty person.

    (And by the way, preaching about how only X kind of experience is legit is even more spectacularly horrible when someone’s spouse/child did NOT end up alive or healthy.)

  • JeniMull says:

    First, a ton of support your way!

    I millionth the doula recommendation. Just knowing he doesn’t have to be “the only one” to support you may really help your husband. And doulas don’t & won’t get freaked out by the intensity of labor.

    I also want to acknowledge the disappointment I hear in your mentioning the c-section. My first ended up being a c-section, and I was really really hard on myself for it. And I didn’t feel like I had any right to feel bad, because “all that matters in a healthy baby”, etc. But I can also feel let down about the delivery while celebrating the baby.

    If you want a VBAC, you will have plenty of time to discuss his role and a doula, etc. I had two VBACs after baby #1’s c-section. I used hypobirthing CDs to really help reset my impressions of my ability, etc. (I didn’t go no drugs etc – but I certainly felt much more confident about my abilities).

    If you have a scheduled c-section – it’s nowhere as intense as an unplanned one. I have many friends who have done that and were able to walk in relaxed and ready.

    I strongly recommend hypnotism, EMDR type stuff for both of you to help resolve the lingering stress and/or trauma from kiddo #1’s birth. That stress and trauma is real, and it would be great to remove some of the “charge” around those memories before entering delivery again.

    Good luck to you! You are NOT alone.

  • NZErin says:

    Late voice to the choir, but my first delivery was horrible, long, and ended up with an emergency caesarean. Husband was with me the whole time, but let’s be honest, being witness to his wife’s labour and subsequently disembowelment (so to speak) was extremely difficult for him. (I know people say, oh, harden up, she’s going through it, but yeah, I’m going through it. With all the hormones to help me; I’m not sitting there helplessly watching)

    Nevertheless, he stuck by me through our second delivery – a much more managed trial of labour. Never achieved the VBAC, but there was no drama, and we knew exactly what we were expecting with the c-section.

    Anyway, if a doula isn’t an option for you, it will be different the second time round. And both you and your husband should feel much more prepared and in control. Also, they probably won’t let you labour very long after a previous caesarean. It’s too dangerous. So the 2 day drama is not going to happen.

    Hope it all works out.

  • Jennifer says:

    Disclaimer: No kids, no spouse, no clue. However…I think if the dude is this freaked out, even if he gets therapy and agrees that he’ll be in the room and whatnot, both of you guys have no idea how good or bad birth #2 is going to be and if he can handle it in the moment. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh weak and all. So I think having a backup person like the aforementioned doula would be good in this case.

  • Im Expecting (well not yet) says:

    Hey everyone,

    I just wanted to say thanks for all the advice. Maybe we will go the doula route. We had interviewed a couple when I was pregant before but all the ones we had great referalls on were, a bit, well,”You are a mother goddess feel your lotus opening” to which I was like “Um no” Maybe we’ll look again and this time try seek out someone a bit less averse to our wise ass natures. We actually did the hypno birthing (I have no idea why since I can’t be hypnotized- yea yea everyone says that, I’ve gone to one several times including to the Mad Russian to quit smoking and I walked out of there annoyed and in desperate need of a butt and completely pissed that I threw mine away before I walked in)

    He is completely on board with having a second kid. He brings up the subject all the time. I really do think he wants one. I think its just the piece of him fearing reliving those last 3 minutes in the delivery room in which he was sort of stuck in a sea of conflicts. He’s been told to leave if he’s gonna pass out, but he doesn’t want to leave my side, he’s watching the kid he’s so eagerly awaited be floppy and basically dead.

    He’s not averse to therapy in general. He’s actually been in the past. I think this is one of those things where under normal circumstances you need to “flush” keep dealing with the memory until you can stop reliving it ( something I’ve only recently been able to do myself) as opposed to talk therapy where he is discussing how he feels.

    The other really big piece I think is that the entire “hospital experience” was not good. While my son was at Childrens and they were absolutely phenomenal, my care was less than at the smaller regional hospital. I think he also felt really torn. I was telling him that he “should not pass go, do not collect 200 dont come see me. I’m 30 I know you love me. Baby is 30 min and needs to know people love him. I cant be there so you need to be” Meanwhile I was in this hospital dealing with the bitchiest nurses and was basically ignored or being treated cruelly and wanting to be there for me( I’m not kidding. All the RN’s knew what happened- The second night -the first full night on that unit- I paged the nurse for an extra blanket because I was freezing. She asked if it was for me or the baby. Then in the AM I was crying and they asked if they should bring the baby in from the nursery. Then two hours later the RN came in with the newborn photographer… it was a delight)

  • Dana says:

    I also had the crazy emergency c-section, after a very lengthy labor. My mom is a nurse midwife, and I know so well what a beautiful experience birth can be. And mine was horrible, and I felt so frustrated, and, well, betrayed that I didn’t get that beautiful experience that I’d dreamed of.

    For baby #2, we decided to try for a VBAC. We found a really great practice and a midwife that was willing to work with us. And I did have my amazing and triumphant birth. It was awesome. Polar opposite from labor #1.

    My point is, every birth is different, and every labor is different, and you just don’t know how things will go. But husband doesn’t know that, doesn’t have a frame of reference to put that in, and yeah, he’s probably pretty traumatized. And I don’t think you have to push him not making a decision beforehand. Don’t make a battle out of it. I’d say, I understand why you feel like this. But I really want you there with me. Lets see how things go this time around, and we can talk about it again when things get closer.

    Then, find yourself a really good midwifery practice. Someone your really like. Bring Husband to your appointments. ALL of them. Get him comfortable with your midwife. The more experience he has with her, the more comfortable he will be. I think that will help him tremendously. It will be like therapy, though he won’t label it that way. Get him comfortable, make a birth plan together as your pregnancy progresses, and I think you’ll find that he may well change his mind on being there for the birth. You might ask the midwife to talk with him – hearing it from someone who knows what they are talking about might really help.

    Go with a nurse midwife if at all possible. It will be a huge difference from a doctor. Their approach is SO much warmer, and you both need this after the scare that you had. I would go the midwife route even if you have to get a second c section – which sometimes is medically necessary and sometimes isn’t – talk to your midwife – she will give you the low down. Some docs will not even consider a VBAC, no matter what. I will tell you that is BS. Most women VBAC successfully if given the choice. It may not be an option for you, but the midwife can tell you that. And, even if you do have to have a scheduled c section, the midwife will assist the doctor with the surgery, and you both will feel more comfortable with it.

    If you do have to have a scheduled C, it will be a VERY different experience for you and baby. You will both be rested and relaxed and it will be a much easier deal. Short labor or scheduled C – believe me, either way, it will be night and day in terms of how you recuperate, how you feel, and how baby does in those first couple of weeks.

    The doula is also a fabulous idea, especially if he still can’t handle the delivery room at the end. But make use of all those appointments to build a relationship between him and your midwife, and I think it will go a LONG way to easing his fears.

    Wishing you an easy, healthy pregnancy and an utterly beautiful birth!! Good luck!

  • Lisa says:

    I had a doula there for both of my deliveries and like everyone else, I highly recommend it. To whomever asked about finding a doula, the best way is just to meet with them and go with who you like the best. Start with the Dona website and you can eliminate a lot just by calling and seeing if they are available. Also, some will tell you straight up that they won’t come to a hospital, or won’t come if you might get pain meds, or to a planned c section. But there are plenty who are awesome, non judgemental, and just support what you want.

  • Maria says:

    We have this illusion that we can choose an optimal birth experience, but a lot of the time nature has other plans and it gets rough. I feel like the OP wants a healing experience for the next birth, and it is possible. It has to do with feeling safe, respected, and able to make decisions as things unfold. Sometimes that gets taken away from us, and it hurts like he’ll. Being in labor makes you so vulnerable. Birth is an experience you will never forget, and it’s so, so worth trying to make it a good one every time. Nobody should ever tell another person what constitutes a good birth experience. It’s just too personal.

    But back to the reluctant partner…I have to ask, if he’s going to be worthless (balking, needy, unconscious, holding a grudge) then why insist? Is this a punishment? I think it’s sad to miss out on the first moments if you don’t have to. Apparently that’s a price he’s willing to pay. I think he does owe you a meeting with a new doc, consults with doula candidates, and some help with how to go forward here. If he really is just checking out completely past being your driver both ways, that would be pretty upsetting.

    I agree heartily with the rec to get yourself into counseling over it. Sometimes a funny thing happens–they realize they are being talked about and want to have a say in the narrative, so they come in next time, and then the work begins. Even if he doesn’t go, you will still get a lit of help with your own feelings here. Change begets change. Maybe if you can be calmed and healed, it make him more open to changes of his own.

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