It is very normal, natural and surprisingly even helpful to have fears about labor and delivery. And despite what you’ve heard, fathers are not exempt from birth fears! These are the 7 most common fears fathers have about labor and delivery.
7 Fears Fathers Have About Labor and Delivery
(And what to do about them.)
Before we get started I thought it would be helpful to explain why it can be helpful to have fears about labor and delivery. The main benefit of fears, anxieties and knowing what one would like to avoid during labor and delivery is that it can motivate parents to activate resources and find solutions to their particular problem.
However, fears, anxieties and knowing what one would like to avoid can also paralyze parents and keep them in a state of fear.
It’s important to operate in love rather than fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18
My desire for this article is that parents 1) recognize their fears but also choose to 2) respond in love rather than fear. Let’s get started!
1) Death of the Mother or Baby
More often than not, the first fear that fathers confide to me is that they are worried something awful will happen to their wife or baby. However, in my childbirth classes I usually don’t help dads work through this particular fear. Likely, mother and baby will be just fine and I encourage them to pick a different fear – perhaps something that is more likely to happen.
Unless there is actually a congenital abnormality, mom is facing serious health complications or this fear is keeping dad up at night, in all honestly it is a better use of our time to process through a more likely fear. And so without further ado, let’s move on to more realistic fears fathers have about labor and delivery.
2) Labor Pain Will Be Worse Than Anticipated
A common fear fathers have about labor and delivery is that their wife’s labor pain will be worse than anticipated. Fathers are afraid that labor will come and mother-to-be will be blind-sighted by what she experiences.
Contractions caused by natural birth will be longer, closer together and more intense than anything she had imagined. Dads fear their woman “losing it” and being out of control.
3) Labor Will Be Longer Than Anticipated
Another fear fathers have is that labor will be longer than anticipated. Exhaustion, fatigue and lack of progress despite mom’s hardest work can be overwhelming and confusing all at the same time. Dads fear an unexpectedly long labor.
4) Dad Won’t Be Able to Help Mother
Which leads me to the next point, the underlying fear that most fathers have, which is that of feeling helpless. Most partners would give anything to fix, alleviate or somehow make their lady’s experience easier.
But when labor is longer or more painful than anticipated, fathers fear being unable to help the mother cope through labor. Fathers are afraid of being helpless throughout the labor process.
5) Dad Will Be in the Way, Disconnected and/or Peripheral
So much of pregnancy is about the mother and baby but not about dad. Prenatal appointments, childbirth classes and pregnancy books (but not the pregnancy books geared toward fathers!) sometimes send the message to dads that they’re replaceable and unimportant.
Many dads fear that they will be in the way during the birth process. Also, many dads fear that they somehow will be disconnected and unable to experience the magic of birth. And other dads feel that they won’t be needed and will be a peripheral spectator. (And some dads worry that they won’t feel a connection to their baby. If that is the case, I’ve got some good ideas to encourage bonding between fathers and babies!)
6) Care Providers Will Make Decisions Without Parents
Another on the list of fears fathers have is that care providers will make decisions without or in spite of parents. If this were to happen, dads may feel bullied, angry, helpless, confused and so much more.
For dads it is so important to be a part of the decision making process and anything standing in the way is cause for concern. Fathers fear being steamrolled by care providers.
7) Dad Will Under or Overreact to Care Providers
Finally, on this list of fears fathers have about labor and delivery, is that dads fear that they will under or overreact while interacting with care providers and thus make a potentially stressful situation that much more stressful.
In this case dads may feel like a failure and ineffective and that nothing they do is helpful.
Steps to Work Through Fears Fathers Have
Don’t worry, I’m not going to end the article there leaving us all feeling anxious, worried and overwhelmed. Remember earlier how I emphasized how it is important to operate in love rather than fear? Now that we know what we’re afraid of, let’s bring some love into the process.
The first step in working through these fears is to do a quick but powerful visualization. Keep going, it’s so worth it!
Now what I need you to do is to pick your top fear and visualize this particular thing happening. Spend a few minutes doing this so you can really see it in the mind and watch it play out.
- Notice what others around you are saying.
- Notice what you’re saying or not saying back.
- Notice what you’re telling yourself about yourself.
The second step in working through these fears fathers having about labor and delivery is to recognize what exactly we are telling ourselves about ourselves when this unwished for event takes place in our mind.
So far we’ve learned that Dad’s are likely telling themselves that they are:
- In the way
- Not needed
- A failure and
- Next, I want you to envision the same unwished for event taking place again. Keep everything the same except for one thing.
- This time, I want you to see yourself coping with this unwished for event happening. Spend another few minutes visualizing this same thing happening, but this time you are coping.
- While you are coping, what are you doing differently? What are you saying or not saying? What are others saying back to you as you are coping through this unwished for event?
- Spend a few minutes really seeing this unfold. I really want you to see and feel yourself coping.
- The first time you visualized this event playing out, you told yourself something about yourself. I AM _________ (Helpless? In the way? Disconnected? Not needed? A failure? Ineffective?).
- This time, while you are coping, notice what you’re saying to yourself about yourself. What is your new I AM statement? I AM ___________.
- Take a few minutes to journal anything about this process that stood out to you. What do you know now that you didn’t know before?
Fears Fathers Have About Labor and Delivery
Just to recap, these are the most common fears fathers have about labor and delivery.
- Death of the Mother or Baby
- Labor Pain Will Be Worse Than Anticipated
- Labor Will Be Longer Than Anticipated
- Dad Won’t Be Able to Help Mother
- Dad Will Feel in the Way, Disconnected and Peripheral
- Care Providers Will Make Decisions Without Parents
- Dad Will Under or Overreact to Care Providers
But remember, fear doesn’t necessitate paralyzation. By bringing our love and resources to each moment, even if the moment is not what we had hoped for, everything can change. Instead of operating out of fear, we can operate in love. Love changes everything.