Other men don't want to ride the emotional roller coaster of being present in the delivery room. "A father will feel some incredible excitement but also some real panic—getting shaken to the roots," points out Dr. Austin. "To become part of this process is to let yourself into the fear and terror that a woman goes through."
Occasionally it's the wife who decides she doesn't want her husband present. A significant number of women prefer that their husbands not be there to witness the painful and bloody aspects of childbirth. Explains Tereza, the mother of two daughters, "I didn't want my husband in the delivery room because it was a very personal experience. I didn't have to argue with him about it either. I think the birth of a child is wonderful—after the child is born. Not that I was protecting him, but we were very close and very much in love with each other. I really thought if he saw the pain, the blood and the gore of the whole thing that he might even resent the child a little bit for causing me that. I would have thought of him as an intruder in the labor room."
Some hospitals now offer a father birthing alternatives. He's allowed to stay with his wife right up until the time of delivery, and then he can retire to a waiting room during the actual birth. After the child is born, the father is immediately allowed to be with his wife and new child.
Even though the to-be or not-to-be in the delivery room debate continues, all parents must decide for themselves where they stand on this issue. Comments Robert A. Block, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Turnersville, New Jersey, "Today's parents are a much better informed population than previous generations. They have a good idea of what they want. And there are enough modes of delivery care available to suit everyone."