The reality is that the person who makes the ultimate decision on who can be with her during birth – in any circumstances – is the pregnant woman. She has the ultimate right to this decision, as medically she is classed at the ‘patient’
This does mean that in order to be at the birth of your baby, she will need to happy for you to attend.
Consider why you want to be there
Sometimes we can get so caught up in the feelings caused by our lack of control over a situation, that we can lose sight of the bigger picture. If you want to be at the birth of your baby, and especially if your ex-partner is not in favour, or you suspect she will not be, it can be helpful to start with thinking about the big question – why do you want to be there? Sometimes discovering the real answer to this question will also help to find solutions which actually will meet everyone’s needs and wishes.
At the end of the day, birth is not a spectator sport, and the people in the room need to be bringing a positive influence and support in with them. Ask yourself if you will be able to give that kind of support and reassurance to your ex-partner – if you can, and she wants you to, then fantastic. If you don’t feel you can, then maybe it will also make sense why she is not comfortable with having you there either.
If the reason you want to be there is so you can meet your baby as soon as they are born, then perhaps you do not specifically need to be at the birth itself. Perhaps you could be in the waiting room and negotiate with your ex-partner, either coming in to see the baby straight after birth, or even having someone bring the baby out to see you, if she doesn’t want you seeing her straight away.
Why might it be beneficial to not be there?
If you want to be at the birth, but your ex-partner does not feel comfortable having you there, it is likely to be very difficult for you. However, do bear in mind that if the main reason you want to be there is because your baby is important to you, then by not being there you might be actually making a huge positive difference for them – which is the part which really matters to you.
At the end of the day, it is a physiological fact that for a woman to give birth, she needs to feel safe and secure. If she feels threatened, unsafe, uncomfortable, observed – she is more likely to experience a stalled or difficult labour potentially leading to birth interventions. Birth experience and outcomes do have an impact on baby’s wellbeing, so for their sake you will want to support your ex-partner to have the most straightforward labour and birth possible. If it will help her to have the best birth she can, with the least amount of stress, then not being there is the selfless thing to do for the sake of your child.
What are my options if she doesn’t want me there?
It is important to be able to talk to your ex about your preferences, but also to respect hers. If she feels that you are not listening, being argumentative or just keep putting pressure on her to be there, and she doesn’t want you to be, then she is more likely to become resistant to have you involved in other ways.
So, if she doesn’t want you there, see if there are other compromises you can make, such as:
- Being in the waiting room and being invited in after baby is born
- Being in the waiting room, and having the baby brought out to see you after they are born
- Being the first person to hold your baby (probably other than your ex) after they are born
- Arranging for her birth partner to take a photo of baby as soon as they are born, so you can see what they looked like immediately after birth
If she does want you there
If she does agree for you to be present, it is important that you take this role seriously – you do not want her to feel that you let your baby down from the very beginning by being late or missing the birth. It will not make the rest of your journey into co-parenting any easier if she feels that you started your role as a dad by letting your baby down, not taking fatherhood seriously or breaking a promise.
You need to make sure that you are available to get to the birth when needed, so from 36 weeks of pregnancy through to the end, you need to be ready. This means no drinking alcohol, so you are ready to drive at a moment’s notice. This means making sure you know where you are going, alternative routes, where you go when you get there – and always having enough fuel in the car.
You also need to be mindful that anyone in the room during labour and birth, has an effect on the birth itself. Birth partners can affect the length of labour, the degree of pain felt, even the outcome of the birth – whether interventions are required or even whether she has a Caesarean section. What you need to remember is that all these things also affect how straightforward the birth itself is, and how your baby experiences it. Therefore, your first role as a dad is to try and make sure that your baby gets the easiest journey into the world possible, for their own wellbeing, with the least stress or difficulty.
How do you do this? Well, you need to make sure that you are prepared for your role of being a birth partner, whether you are the only one, the main one, or one who your ex-partner wants to be quite hands-off. EVERYONE in that room during birth will have an impact on what happens. If you are going to be there, you need to take responsibility for understanding that, by accepting and making sure that you do everything you can to ensure that your impact on the birth is positive and not negative.
For more information on how to prepare to be at a birth, read through the resources over at Expecting A Baby.
If your ex-partner is willing, it would still be helpful to have discussed her birth preferences, so that you can still help and support her as and if required.
If I’m not there, will it affect my relationship with my baby?
It may feel like you are missing a crucial event if you are not at the birth, and while the birth is important, be reassured that there is still plenty you can be getting involved with.
Even though you may not be together as a couple, there are still ways you can start bonding with your baby before they are born – so make time for those to start establishing that bond. Get some ideas of how to do this by reading How can I prepare for becoming a dad?
There are also lots of ways to bond with your baby once they have arrived. Bonding is not exclusively something which only happens in the first minutes and hours after birth, but can also build over time.
Check out Hanging out with a Newborn to find out more.