The debate about whether husbands and partners belong in the delivery suite is a like a discussion from another era. Just when you think it's pretty much a given that the man responsible for the pregnancy will be there for the birth, questions are raised as to the aptness of his presence.
In 2009 a French obstetrician controversially declared that men should be banned from the delivery suite, on the basis that their presence prolongs the birth.
"[W]hat happens as soon as the man is gone, the woman in labour starts screaming, shouting, going to the loo and 10 minutes later baby is born," he said.
Just last year a British poll revealed that one in 20 fathers avoid being in the delivery room when their partner gives birth. I don't blame them. I reckon if I was a bloke I'd probably try to stay away and leave all that women's business to the women and the medical staff. I've not much appetite for blood, gore and raw humanity.
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If truth be told, I'd have happily avoided the whole messy process of childbirth myself if there had been any other possible way of bringing my own nine-month pregnancy to a satisfactory conclusion. My philosophy on the subject was that if I had no choice but to experience this then it would not be fitting for my other half to be excused either.
For me, having your partner or husband there is virtually compulsory. I'm not so sure about other observers. If you're young or without a partner then I can see that your mother, sister or friend would come in handy as a support person. But once you're inviting two or three people to witness the birth just because you can, I reckon it's shifted from an intimate moment to something akin to entertainment, a spectator sport even. In which case, you may as well build a mini grandstand in a corner of the delivery suite and sell tickets.
Sometimes parents are keen for their existing children to see firsthand the arrival of their new brother or sister. I know that it's a natural process and that it's how we all got here and that "the miracle of birth" is widely regarded as a wonderful thing - but if I'd witnessed birth as a child I reckon I'd still be traumatised. Who am I kidding? I'd probably have been just as traumatised if I'd seen it as an adult.
I see childbirth as a private experience. When I went into labour, the midwife was the only person we called. My husband and I were off the radar for thirty-six hours - until our daughter was safely born and we telephoned her grandparents. But for every person who wants the whole thing to be performed with a minimum of fuss, there's someone determined to magnify the drama of the occasion - perhaps even record it for posterity. Now there are video-makers who specialise in documenting labour and childbirth. I'm guessing that particular footage wouldn't be shown at the child's twenty-first - but, hey, what do I know? That might be precisely what it is intended for.
Our daughter was born by emergency C-section, which suddenly rendered the midwife
redundant. I remember her asking my husband for the camera (which he'd only packed because it was on the things-to-pack-for-the-birth list). Consequently, we are the perplexed owners of a set of still photographs recording our daughter's birth. I still don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Reminiscent of that famous scene from Aliens, the photographs are not for the fainthearted.
So let's recap. My delivery suite etiquette book would read something like this: Partner/husband? Yes. Mother, sister or friend? Possibly. Children? No. Other spectators? Not unless they are fee-paying. Video footage? Probably not. Photographs? Undecided.