Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Delivery Room Football

A poignant account of a new father who insists that his daughter, born via cesarean after more than 24 hours of unmedicated labor, remain with her mother. But the hospital staff said that their baby had to go to the nursery for a few hours for observation. So this new father, also a physician, intercepts his baby. From his essay Delivery Room Football:

“Hold on a minute!” I said. “I want her to go to her mother.” I looked over at Sandy’s exhausted, filmy eyes and the look of panic on her face.

“No, we’re sorry,” they replied firmly. “Hospital policy.” Having proclaimed this, they strode purposely forward toward the door just to my left.

Quickly I stepped in front of them, blocking their way. “Hospital policy or not, I’m her father and she’s staying here!”

Suddenly it seemed time began to slow. Looking back, it seems almost like some sort of bizarre operating-room football game. The doctor, with my child tucked under his right arm like a halfback, decided he would simply ignore this irrational father, take a step to his right and scoot on past my left elbow and through the swinging door. I don’t know what he expected I would do, but I certainly know his eyes looked surprised when I made my move.

Sensing his plan, I quickly stepped back so that my body was exactly in front of the door. My hands were on my hips so there was no room to go through. My fists were clenched and my knees were slightly bent. My heart was racing in my chest and my lungs were pumping air. I could feel my eyes narrow to slits and my belly tightened as my voice dropped about an octave. I growled more than spoke the words, “Nobody’s leaving this room with that child!”

They froze in their tracks. Their eyes told me that this was not an everyday experience for them. The doctor on my right tried one more time to run interference, a kind of “bureaucratic cross body block”. “You’ll have to sign papers saying that you’re taking this child against medical advice!”

I imagine that if I had not been an experienced physician, I might have faltered long enough for him to succeed in an end run after all. But I had delivered enough babies to know that this one was in no immediate danger. I felt not the slightest tinge of fear, only intense concentration, resolve . . . and a rising tide of fury.

On the other side of the room, beyond the pediatricians, I could see the tears in my wife’s eyes as she watched her only child being taken away before she had a chance to even see or touch it. In the doctor’s arms I saw Lauren’s mouth making sucking movements. I felt the irreplaceable seconds ticking away and could hesitate no longer. I stepped forward and extracted her from his arms. “You get the papers, and I’m taking my child.”

The interception completed, I stepped swiftly between them. In response to a sub-sonic growl, they parted like the Red Sea and I marched through. A moment later, Lauren was there on her mother’s arm nuzzling for the breast. The feeling of warmth, closeness, love and family was breathtaking. Suddenly all the pain, labor and danger faded from our minds.

Now, eleven years later, the remotely possible complications never having appeared, we are thrilled at the results of our steadfast attention to such “details.” Lauren is a wise, loving, active, good humored, secure and wonderfully compassionate being. We know that our role has been to make space for and nurture these inborn qualities.
(Photo from The Man-Nurse Diaries).


  1. What a great story! That dad is awesome.

  2. It makes me want to cry tonight. He's one in a million. So many babies and mamas separated for nothing more than "policy". So many dads who feel helpless and powerless to stop it. Does one have to become an MD to feel 'in the right' to ensue the basic right of their newborn to suckle immediately upon birth.

  3. What a great story. I think more families should understand their rights and responsibilities when in a setting such as this one. Thanks for sharing the writing of this father.

  4. if only every baby could have a dad or another advocate that strong...where does this guy practice medicine? I think I mught trust him as my doctor...

  5. I'm in tears. How I wish with all my heart that we had had the courage to fight for our parental rights to keep our daughter with us two years ago when she was sectioned out of me. I hated surgery. I hated the drowsiness of the sedative they gave as part of my epidural (a sedative that I did not give consent for). But I hated most of all that my precious daughter was taken from me. It was so unnecessary and caused emotional trauma for me for months to come. My husband was in tears repeatedly over the next couple hours as he watched our daughter try to suckle anything within her physical proximity, telling the nurses repeatedly that she needed to be with her momma. To no avail. I am due in two weeks with our son. I will not - WILL NOT - let anyone take my son unnecessarily. Lesson learned the hard way.

  6. I read this to my husband, and he said, "I wish I had known enough to do that..." But two years ago, when my son was cut out of me, we didn't know. He met his momma four hours after surgery. We established breastfeeding through many, many torrents of tears, and sheer determination, and with the help of a very blessed midwife that I happened upon online. That he is still breastfeeding today, and that we were finally able to bond, months after he was born, I owe no thanks to hospital policy. The strange irony of it, though, is that for the fact that I know better now, I owe them all the thanks.

    Four months ago, I birthed my second child, hbac, onto my own bed, peacefully and wonderfully; in a strange way, I have them to thank for that, also.

  7. What wonderful, strong father. I was so thankful that when my daughter had to be born by c-section the hospital we were in was so, so baby and mom friendly. We were never separated and my husband was able to hold her skin to skin within minutes.

  8. Kick ASS!

    I was a section baby, and my mom had always wanted a girl...so when I was born, and they just said "Hey, it's a boy!" and ran out of the room with me, she cried. No bonding whatsoever. When I was finally allowed to "visit" her and I snuggled in, then she was happy.

    This is why I'm so glad we home-birthed. I would've never been brave enough to fight for keeping our baby with us the first time around. I wouldn't have known better.

  9. That's AWESOME! I was cheering the whole way through!
    Funny, how even a doctor didn't get much better respect from his fellow profession...at least initially that is. He had to block the door! I can just invision this too!

  10. In my hospital we recover the baby in the radiant warmer, that is placed right next to mom's head, in the operating room. We encourage the dad to hold the baby up to mom's face, so she can see, smell, touch and kiss her baby. We do not have a normal newborn nursery. All babies room in with the parents, unless the baby or the mom is very sick. As a matter of fact, you will hear howling from the special care nursery nurses if you even try to recover a normal infant in the nursery. To bad that dad could not have delivered where I work :)

  11. What a fantastic Dad! How amazing to not be cowed by the doctors and nurses, and I'm sure very rare.

    It's your child, right? There is no immediate danger of anything, right? How dare they even think to take a baby away from the mother for hours?!

    Good work Dad.

  12. Pretty much, throwing a fit is about the only way to keep the baby with mom after a c-section at a lot of hospitals. What a bunch of crap. I've seen this same sort of thing first-hand with a dad who wasn't a doctor and unfortunately it took me (their doula) and him both taking a collective stand to get the nurse to put the baby into mom's arms where he belonged. Later, she chewed me out for undermining her in front of everyone. Good times.

  13. This gave me serious goosebumps. I hope my hubby one day has that same resolve!

  14. I read this earlier and just read it again, this time with a visceral reaction.

    We made the mistake of assuming that, because we were in a birth center, there would be no unnecessary third stage aggressiveness. These were MIDWIVES, after all!

    Nope. My husband regrets that he didn't speak up. All was resolved within ten minutes and DD was at the breast.

    You posted your birth center post two months after she was born. I wish I had read it first!!

  15. My twins were born via c-section 11years ago as well and as I recall never left my sight. It's such a shame that so many hospitals have such archaic policies and bully patients into compliance. Luckily I chose carefully.


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