If you're somewhat less than completely enthusiastic about being an active labor and delivery participant, don't beat yourself up too badly or allow yourself to feel like a failure. You're certainly not. Everything you're worried about -- and any other feelings you might have for not wanting to be there -- are absolutely normal. In fact, as many as half of all expectant fathers have at least some ambivalence about participating in pregnancy and childbirth. Clearly, being forced into a role that isn't comfortable for you will do you and your partner more harm than good. But there are a few things that might help you get over some of your concerns. The first thing is to spend some time talking with other people. Other dads you know may have been through something similar and may have some suggestions. Even if they don't, some living proof that you're not alone can be reassuring. Talk to your partner, too. She needs to know what you're feeling and why. But be particularly sensitive to the way you do this. She may misinterpret your apprehensiveness as a sign that you don't care about her or the baby.
If you're not at the all-out panic stage, consider being there for the birth for no other reason than your partner's happiness. If you're still worried, think about getting someone to help you, too. Don't worry about how your child will turn out. Yes, plenty of evidence indicates that early parent-child bonding positively affects kids, but not being there for the actual birth -- whether it's because you didn't want to or because you simply couldn't -- will not cripple your children. You'll still be able to establish a strong relationship with them. Just make sure you get there right after the birth.
Finally, hold your ground. If, after all this, you still don't feel truly comfortable participating, don't. But be prepared: Your family, friends and medical practitioner will probably suggest that you just quit pouting and do the right thing.
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