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DeWayne's World - We've come a long way fellas

DeWayne Bartels

When my dad became a dad, he paced in the father’s waiting room.

Things changed a lot in a generation. When my wife gave birth, I was right there at her side all three times. 

I went to Lamaze class three times so I could have that privilege.

The thing is I really wasn’t much more than a nuisance.

While my wife was giving birth, I was too busy down at the doctor’s shoulder asking questions and observing to hold my wife’s hand or help her with her breathing. As far as I was concerned, the nurses were there.

I recall when our oldest was born his head was cone-shaped.

I freaked.

“What’s the matter with his head?” I screamed as the nurses cleaned him off.

Then my wife started screaming.

“What’s the matter with my baby?” Yeah, I was a big help.

Without missing a beat the doctor replied, “Don’t worry. His head will round out.”

With that I turned my attention to poking the afterbirth which disgusted the nurses.

I’ll bet they were thinking letting dads in the delivery room was a good idea.

I got better with the other two, although I never did stop disgusting the nurses with my poking at the afterbirth. What can I say, I’m just curious.

And, things keep changing in regards to family in the delivery room. My wife has been present to see the birth of several of our grandchildren.

I had to stand in the hallway and be content with my ear to the door listening for that first cry. That is until Michelle, my daughter’s daughter was born. I had to stay out in the hallway until Michelle was born, and then, after covering my daughter, I was summoned to cut Michelle’s umbilical cord.

That was pretty cool.

I’d never been allowed to do that with my kids.   

Anyway, I never really wondered how this change came about that I can recall.

But, just in time for Father’s Day, a new book has come out explaining how things changed.

It seems many fathers-to-be, in years past, while waiting for word, spent time writing. These writings became known as “stork room jottings.”

Judith Leavitt, a professor of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, came across a stack of these books.

Leavitt said the fathers described their general worries about fatherhood and their frustration about being left off of the birthing process.

“From these poignant accounts, it’s very clear that the men did not want to be in the waiting rooms; they wanted to be with their wives, supporting and comforting them as they went through the entire process,” said Leavitt.

She used the journals as a source for her book, “Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room,” to be published Father’s Day.

Leavitt said many forces came into play to bring about the changes.

“During the 1950s, thanks mostly to the growing natural-childbirth trend, there was a hue and cry from laboring women that their husbands should be present,” Leavitt said. “Men were also beginning to be outwardly vocal at this time, especially when their wives later told them they wanted them there so badly.”

By the ‘60s, Lamaze was in vogue, the women’s movement was growing and fathers’ protests grew louder leading most hospitals to allow some men into the labor room.

“Men’s ‘privilege’ of being with their wives came first for paying white patients, then for paying black patients,”  Leavitt said.

Now, just about everywhere, dads can go right on in the delivery room. OSF Saint Francis Medical Center started letting dads in the delivery room in the ‘70s. Today, 95-plus percent of dads go in the delivery room there.

We’ve come a long way, fellas.