Did Your Partner Watch Your Birth? Two moms unpack this doozy.

By Babe | Illustration by Ana Hard

In our series The Debate, our community of real moms tackle the pros and cons around common parenting choices. The truth is, like so many decisions around child rearing, there is no right or wrong answer.  At HATCH, our job is to give voice to both sides of any debate, peppering real mom wisdom with the necessary facts so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.

Ohhhhh, the old “did he/she/they watch?” question. That feminist rallying cry for those partners who did and a sometimes source of shame for those partners who didn’t choose to have a first row seat into a birthing vagina. At the end of the day, who cares? (What actually matters is whether they’re changing diapers NOW). In this installment of The Debate, we hear from two mamas – one whose husband was all up in it, and the other’s who took more of a brow wiping, by-your-side approach. Read their stories, below:

All Up In The Biz….

J. M. Lindsay 
Full time mama 
Gracie, 8
Violet, 5

“My husband and I have been together since college and we waited to become parents. We had IVF kids, so the birth was very exciting to us after a long infertility journey. He absolutely wanted to be part of everything. I couldn’t imagine him not. Parenthood was really his dream, so it was a fulfillment of a dream. It was pretty amazing. For me it was a tunnel of pain but joyfully, it was the biggest moment of his life. I grew up knowing that it wasn’t always common for men to be in the delivery room. In fact during my older sister’s birth in the 1970’s, my dad was the first man in the hospital to be present at a birth. It’s almost a feminist issue. Women didn’t have a say in their care when my mother had me; it was what the doctor decided. So I grew up knowing that the gift of my husband watching wasn’t always normal. My husband was certainly there during our IVF, infertility, miscarriage journey. So it was more fulfilling to him. He says it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. He still tears up to this day.

My pregnancy was fraught with issues. I was on bedrest. I was induced for medical reasons. I had only pitocin and no pain medication. My genetics are fast labors. As soon as my water broke, she was out in 20 minutes. My doctors were not prepared for that. So my husband had to advocate for me and say, “Excuse me, this is going to happen.” He really was my advocate but also he was having this emotional experience, and was worried about me and the baby. We had already lost babies, and we were so close. So when he was able to watch, time slowed down for him in those final moments and tears started streaming. I looked at him and saw the joy on his face and it got me through. 

When he was able to watch, time slowed down for him in those final moments and tears started streaming.

When I think back on those moments, I still hear my husband’s voice. I even think he looked at me differently afterwards, but in such a good way. I’m still his warrior goddess. I did IVF multiple times and I had these ridiculous pregnancies. They were precarious and different, and he’ll say, “I don’t know how you did it but you gave me these children. There’s nothing you can’t do.” We’ve been together so long that it was this shift in the relationship. The female body is capable of all those things. He’s seen me at every size and looked at me differently in a better way. Our life got so much better after babies and it made our relationship more powerful.”

No Need For the Full Frontal….

Andrea Mitchell
Maternity leave mama
Evelyn, 10 months

“I see a lot of conversations about a man’s preference and how it’s lame if he doesn’t want to watch, which is a totally valid point. If someone’s saying he doesn’t want to see that, well he is participating in this act that leads you to that point, so he can probably handle it. For us, there was some talk leading up to it. We were very guided by our midwives to think of our birth plan as preferences. It was my first baby and I had no real idea of what to expect. Everything we did was very much a “maybe.” But we knew leading in that we were kind of moving in the direction of him not watching. And honestly, when I say “we,” it’s mostly “I.” He was supportive of whatever I wanted to do in terms of process. He said, “This is your body and it’s an intense process. I will be there and I will meet our kid and it will be great for me.” 

The point we came at it from was that for me was it was more of a sensory thing than anything else. I didn’t want to see it happening, either. I was given the option to reach down and feel her head or look at a mirror, and I didn’t want anything. I totally respect people who do that and I understand how it might be a very emotional moment connecting with your baby. For me, it was much more of a physical process. I had a 72 hour labor. At that point, by the time I was pushing, I was already so in my body that I didn’t want to think about anything else. It can feel very invasive being pregnant and being in labor. And part of it was that I was so sick of people touching me and looking at me and me having so little control. I had a great birth experience. My partner was wonderful and my midwives were wonderful, but I didn’t have the ability to divide my attention at that point. I just needed to be all about me and not my body for him.

Part of it was that I was so sick of people touching me and looking at me and me having so little control.

My husband was also exhausted in his own way. I hadn’t slept in days and he was very much a partner – as much as someone could be when not going through it. He had been up taking care of me for days and was advocating for me with my midwives. So in the moment, I wanted him right beside me wiping sweat off my face. He did skin on skin, he changed the first diaper. He was involved the entire time but whether or not he watched was one thing that he didn’t feel strongly about.”