As the former director of a university hospital newborn nursery, I have attended many cesarean births and personally escorted many fathers—some willing and some reluctant—from the operating room into the nursery, where I put them to work. Here’s a story about Jim and what his cesarean-birthed baby did for him. I met Jim and his wife, Mary, prenatally, and Mary shared with me that she had a difficulty getting her husband involved in the pregnancy and feared that he was not going to be involved in the birth. She expected him to be one of those dads who would become involved as soon as the child was old enough to throw a football. Jim thought the whole scene of delivering babies was strictly a woman’s thing and that he would stay in the waiting room. As it turned out, Mary needed a cesarean, and I persuaded Jim to accompany her into the operating room and to be at her side during the delivery. After the baby was born and all her vitals were stable, I wrapped baby in two warm blankets and orchestrated some bonding time among Mary, Jim, and Tiffany while the operation was being completed. I then asked Jim to come with me to the nursery. It did not surprise me that his initial reluctance about getting involved in the birth was already melting. Jim was still in awe of all the theatrics surrounding the operation, but he willingly followed me.
While in the nursery, I said to Jim, “I need to attend another delivery. It’s important that someone stay with your baby and stimulate her, because babies breathe better when someone is stroking and talking to them.” I encouraged Jim to put his hands on his baby, sing to her, rub her back, and just let himself be as loving and caring as he could be. I returned about a half-hour later and saw big Jim standing there singing to and stroking his baby as the pair was really getting to know each other. I assured him that his initial investment was going to pay long-term dividends. The next day, when I made my hospital rounds and went in to talk with Mary, she exclaimed, “What on earth happened to my husband? I can’t get our baby away from him. He’s really hooked. He would breastfeed if he could. I never thought I’d see that big guy be so sensitive.”