By SHAMALA VELU
When an expectant woman goes into labour, it's not unusual to see her spouse in the delivery room as well. Many men take the role of fatherhood seriously. They want to take the first step by going into the labour room to witness the birth of their baby.
However, some men may not be able to handle the stress and strain when it comes to the crunch. So, should fathers be allowed into the labour room?
A father and a midwife share their views on this:
Tay Chee Loon with daughter Tay Xiao You
IT consultant Tay Chee Loon, father to one girl, aged three:
“Being in the labour room with your wife is probably the most important thing you can do for her. I will never forget the day my daughter was born. It was an anxious wait in the delivery room. I believe it is very natural for every man to feel nervous when he enters the delivery room not knowing what to expect for the first time. As for me, I took my wife to the hospital as soon as her water bag broke. I had a lot of mixed feelings, being anxious and happy at the same time.
While waiting for our gynaecologist in the labour room, my wife began sweating and I could sense that her pain was becoming intensely stronger. As an inexperienced first-timer, I did not know how to help her. I held her hand and told her to stay calm and not to worry. After the doctor came in to check my wife and unborn baby, the nurses started to prepare the room. The doctor gave specific instructions to my wife: 'Don't waste your energy. Do not simply push and waste your energy.'
I jotted down in memory everything the doctor had said so I could help her through labour. When my wife kept shouting and telling me that she was in tremendous pain, I tried to calm her down. Then, I noticed that her legs were shaking while she was trying to push the baby out.
At this point, I was afraid my wife could not withstand the pain, as she had not taken any painkillers. My biggest fear was that she might collapse or fall unconscious and this could lead to other complications.
Though it was chaotic, I wanted to be in the delivery room because I wanted to support her. The birth of my baby was definitely something I wanted to witness because it was important to me.
However, the biggest challenge was pretending to be calm in front of my wife when I was actually feeling very tense the whole time! I knew I had to be calm and collected in order to encourage her to be calm as well.
There was such excitement when I first saw my baby's hair and head. I knew she was going to be out soon. In my heart, I wanted to hold her tight and to give her my first daddy kiss. It was an amazing experience indeed. I could feel the power of life and hope. The proudest moment was when my daughter was born. I was also very proud of my wife for all the hard work she had put in as well. In fact, it motivated me to work hard for my family!
I think all fathers should help support and experience the birth of their babies because it is a remarkable experience. It is also very important for the health of the mother and baby. If a mother's life is in danger or in critical condition, her spouse can give consent to do certain life-saving procedures.
I believe husbands should support and reassure their wives when they are in labour. They should prepare themselves by reading books on what to expect and how to help their wives in the labour room. Husbands should also accompany their wives on their regular health checkups so they are aware of both mother and baby's condition.
I recorded the birth of our baby after she was out and when the nurses took her to the cleaning room to wash her up.
She was carried directly into another room for a checkup. My wife asked me to monitor the baby and follow the nurse while she was still in the labour room being stitched up.
There may be many men who may not be comfortable being in the labour room, watching their wives in pain. However, I must also say that it is certainly one of life's greatest moments to see the birth of your child.”
Retired midwife and former nurse Cecilia Koh:
“The good news is that many fathers are proactive now. Childbirth classes are very helpful for fathers who want to be in the labour room because they are better equipped to help their wives who may not be able to remember much when they are in pain.
Fathers also feel more confident after learning what to expect during labour and childbirth. For men who are not comfortable with the sight of blood, we encourage them to sit by the side of their wives to calm them down.
On one occasion, we had a father who actually fainted when he saw the crown of his baby minutes before the baby was born! At this point, medical personnel had to be called in to attend to him.
Thus, fathers who do attend antenatal classes tend to be less anxious or overwhelmed by the whole experience.
Most hospitals also allow fathers to accompany their wives during planned caesarean sections but not when it is an emergency delivery. Fathers are also asked to step out of the labour room if complications arise during childbirth.
I'm definitely all for men joining their wives in labour rooms because almost all of them have been very involved and caring.
In fact, fathers also want to cut the umbilical cord because they feel it is an honour and responsibility entrusted to them. Times have certainly changed and I believe this is a valuable and positive step towards fatherhood.”