When your partner misses the birth

There are ways for new dads to make up for missing out on the big moment.
There are ways for new dads to make up for missing out on the big moment.  Photo: Cultura RM/Jade Brookbank

Every year, Hayley's husband Rob takes their daughter Lily on a camping trip.

But when Hayley was pregnant with their second child, Rob hesitated about leaving his wife alone while he headed to the bush.

Hayley, on the other hand, was insistent they go. 

"I was so looking forward to a quiet weekend before the baby arrived," she says.

Although Hayley was 36 weeks pregnant at the time, she wasn't concerned. She had a C-section booked for three weeks' time and no indication the baby would come early.

Rob and Lily waved goodbye to Hayley on a Friday morning, and Hayley settled in for some much needed relaxation.

But things didn't go as planned.

On Friday evening, Hayley had some back pain. "At first I didn't really think too much of it," she says.

As the pain intensified, she grew more worried.

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Once she realised she was actually in labour, Hayley rang her parents. Her parents called her an ambulance and also phoned Rob.

When Rob found out what was happening, he woke Lily and started driving home.

Meanwhile, as the ambulance arrived at Hayley's house, the officers whisked her away so quickly she didn't even have time to grab her hospital bag. It wasn't until later that she realised she didn't even have her shoes, or camera, with her either.

Once in hospital, Hayley was taken straight to theatre for an emergency caesarean, necessary due to a pre-existing medical condition.

While Hayley wanted to wait for Rob to return before starting the operation, the doctors insisted she needed the C-section immediately.

Hayley was delighted that her baby boy, Jack, arrived safely, but was also upset that Rob wasn't there.

"It's such a sad thing that my husband was not at the birth of his son," she says.

Rob's not the only father who's missed his baby's birth. Just last week, an American army captain was unable to attend the birth of his quadruplets.

Captain Anthony Burch from Illinois was away on deployment in South Korea when his wife, Mary Pat, gave birth to the couple's four babies.

While Captain Burch wasn't there in person, technology allowed him to see his babies' arrival via a video call on FaceTime.

He told ABC News: "Once we figured out I wasn't going to be back in time I was just grateful to be able to witness firsthand that they were healthy and safe and that my wife was healthy and safe."

He described the video call as "perfect timing" as he watched in awe as his three sons, Henry, Nathaniel and Samuel, and his daughter, Molly, made their grand entrance.

In fact, his wife Mary Pat noted, "[He] got to see the babies before I did, even though I was right there in the room."

Midwife Amanda Bude says it's not that common for partners to miss their baby's birth, but still recommends having a 'contingency plan'.

She advises having a second and third 'back-up' person in case you go into labour while your partner's away. The back-up person can be a close friend, family member, doula or midwife.

That person should know what to bring to hospital if the time comes, and what you would like them to do during the birth (either be there and take videos or photos, or wait outside). Your support person should also know your birth plans.

If you go into labour while your partner's away, Bude says, "The best thing you can do is to try and stay calm, call your back-up person, call 000, focus and breathe."

While Bude admits attending the birth is important, she reassures there are lots of ways dads can be involved in newborn care if they missed out on the big moment.

Once they're with their bub, this can include having lots of skin-to-skin contact, singing and reading to them, and learning baby massage.

Naturally, Rob would have loved to have been at Jack's birth. However, he has since put a positive spin on the story.

As Hayley explains, "He jokes that his son is so clever, he didn't even need his dad to arrive at his birth!"

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