There’s a recent article in the Daily Mail written by women who think men should not stay over night in the maternity ward, with their partner, after their new baby is born. Saying she felt ‘vulnerable’ and unsafe and that many other mums feel the same. Whilst I don’t dispute other peoples feelings and concerns, I do however, think it’s right for dads to make their own decision as to whether to stay over night, to support their partner and bond with their new baby.
The only reason Mr Firstooth would have been pried away from our baby for the night, would be if our first child didn’t have any overnight care. We have the in-laws to thank for taking care of our son whilst we were in hospital. I needed him. No-one else would have sufficed during the night. I just needed his presence, both times. It wasn’t just for the support, it was to savour every moment with each of our new additions. Also, babies are at their most content when they are first born, he couldn’t miss out on the only sleep-full night.
With our first child we experienced what it’s like to be on the ward. One small room, filled with families and their new babies. I bloody hated every single second. But I still cherished every precious moment with our son. I didn’t hate it because there were other peoples husbands next to me, or across from me. I hated it because I wanted my own privacy, I didn’t want to hear Mr and Mrs Smith on the other side of the curtain calling everyone in their phone, hearing their phones clicking from numerous Facebook updates, and then the alerts following (at 10pm at night). I didn’t want to be hidden behind a curtain. I wanted space. Not once did I feel vulnerable, I didn’t at all wonder whether the husband in the next door cubicle would swap our babies or worse, steal mine. Why would I when I knew he would be just as smitten about his own baby as my partner was about ours. I could never deny someone the right to be there for their partner.
The article then goes on to say ‘You’re at your most exposed after giving birth. The curtain only offers a small amount of privacy; everyone can see through the gaps’. I don’t disagree anyone could peek in, there are some very strange people in the world. Firstly however, why would anyone want to have a look? You’ll most likely be sleeping or feeding. Secondly, if someone peeked through, I would have been surprised but since I wouldn’t have my legs splayed for everyone to see my war wound and catheter and I also would not have been naked with all hanging out, I certainly wouldn’t have felt ‘exposed’ by the peeping tom, because I wouldn’t have been exposing myself.
The article also states an issue of privacy between her and her husband (whilst having her catheter removed). Dignity does not exist after having a baby, it also ceases to exist weeks after giving birth. Your partner has just seen a human emerge from you, in what I can only imagine as an unforgettably gory view. He sees any catheters being fitted, he’s seen it all. I asked my partner to regularly check my stitches, we also had an incident with my own catheter, which lead to him catching my bag of wee and having a quick look, just to confirm, yes, catheter has indeed come loose. The whole process of childbirth brings a new kind of intimacy to your relationship that you wouldn’t imagine.
I appreciate that we live in a time that sees the father play a larger role in their childs life. Paternity laws are changing, for the benefit of new fathers, should they choose to spend longer with their new baby. Overnight stays are now allowed and I think it’s a brilliant choice. It’s not a ploy to relieve midwives of their duties, but to help families bond. Having my partner around actually meant our midwives were with us a lot more, he had never picked up a baby, nor changed one. Our midwives were very helpful in giving him a crash course to do so. Whilst I laid in bed helpless, watching. I wasn’t able to reach over and pick either of my children up the evenings after their birth. Without him there I think I would have gone to pieces in my uselessness.
It’s a choice for fathers, whether they want to stay the night with their family in a maternity ward, a choice that they are at liberty to make. We can all share a high-five in the corridors in celebration of our new additions and loving, empathetic smiles. Perhaps the women who contributed to the article would have felt different, had they have stayed in their own private room (which was my first request the second time). That would be my only privacy issue, not with men, but with everyone. If only it were possible for every family to have their own room, instead of cubicle.