I recently read an article from The Washington Post entitled "Feeling Her Pain," all about men being present in the delivery room. When my parents were born, expectant fathers could be found pacing in the waiting room. By the time my sisters and I were born ('70s), many hospitals were beginning to give dads the option of attending the actual birth. Today, it's almost expected that we be in "the room." I attended the births of both of my kids, and I was extremely anxious both times (especially the first time around).
We attended the classes at the hospital before delivering Grace. I was dreading "the movie" that we would eventually be shown, and when that night came, I don't mind tell you that I nearly went unconscious. I knew that the baby wasn't the only thing that would be delivered on that magical day, but I wasn't prepared for all the pain and groaning and, well...blood. It was rough.
Worst of all, I feared that I'd have the same reaction in the delivery room. I wanted to be a source of support for my wife, not a nauseated coward.
However, I did a much better job during the actual delivery. I was more upset at the helpless feeling of seeing my wife in so much pain, and not being able to do anything about it. Sure, it was the most blood I've ever seen in my life (the article makes a good point: Stand at your wife's shoulders, not her feet), but I was less bothered by that than the movie blood. Odd.
Anyway, the article goes on to say that many dads are just plopped in the room with no clear indication of what they're supposed to do, if anything. I was lucky, in that the Dr. that delivered our kids (same one both times) seemed to have a well-rehearsed "dad plan" in his head. I had my little jobs to attend to during the entire process, and in hindsight I'm very grateful. If my job was to simply stay out of the the way and witness the miraculous wonder of childbirth, I would have been a seething ball of anxiety in a corner of the room. While it wasn't my experience, I guess a number of dads don't know what they're supposed to be doing in there, yet feel that they aren't "good" or involved dads if they opt out of the delivery room.
In the end, I'm glad I attended William and Gracie's births. It was both an amazing and a jarring experience.