As one father said about being present during the birth:
"It's a difficult role for the man. What exactly is he supposed to do? He wants to be useful and helpful, but in most cases he has to just hang around, feeling he's in the way." (Jerry)
"I remember feeling a bit of a spectator. I think the staff gave me some sort of trivial job to carry out, to make me feel useful." (Martin)
One survey revealed that some men felt they had two conflicting roles during the labour. They felt they were expected to be - and expected themselves to be – the selfless supporters of their partners, yet, like their partners, they too were going through a rite of passage.
The conflict between the woman's need for support and the man's need for his own emotional space can make childbirth a challenging event for men.
You may find it helpful to think beforehand about the issue of control in relation to the delivery. It can be very difficult to see your partner in pain and not be able to help. Being unable to control or even influence events in childbirth can be particularly difficult for men who, in our society, are expected to be in charge and make things happen. Some men also feel that health professionals increase their sense of powerlessness.
As a result, many men feel they want an active role during the labour because doing 'something' feels better than doing 'nothing'. But simply 'being there' is what many women want from their partners.
One good way of preparing yourself for the labour and the delivery is to know about the various stages of birth and what to expect. (See The first stage of labour; The second stage of labour; and Pain relief.)