The Struggle No Father Dares to Discuss

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I almost fainted while my wife was giving birth to three of our kids.

Go ahead. You can laugh.

I thought I had a pretty good excuse the first time. The anesthesiologist instructed me to stand facing my wife while she sat at the edge of the bed. This was apparently his favorite technique for administering an epidural. I think he was setting me up. Either way, as my wife leaned forward and squeezed my waist, my knees locked up against the bed. I suddenly found myself staring directly at an enormous needle sliding into her spine. Before I knew what was happening, the edges started closing in, and I heard someone say “Dad is going down!” In my defense, I never completely fainted. But it was close.

You can’t blame me for that one. But when I almost fainted during two more births for no apparent reason, I found myself without a good excuse. Clearly, there was no legitimate physiological reason for passing out. And I’ve never fainted before or since. So what’s really going on here?

I believe there’s a deeper psychological issue involved that all fathers go through. But none of us dare to discuss it.

Before we get there, a caveat is necessary. I fully acknowledge that no man will ever understand the physical and emotional pain women endure during pregnancy and childbirth. Many of us are lovingly reminded of this fact frequently. And we collectively agree that we’ll never get it. However, one of the consequences of this truth is that men are fearful of discussing the difficulties we endure as our wives struggle through pregnancy and childbirth. Clearly, our issues will never be equal in value or intensity. But they exist nonetheless.

So what’s our biggest struggle? Powerlessness. 

The average Christian husband wants nothing more than to make his wife happy. We’d bend over backwards to comfort her, solve her problems, and give her what she wants. We’d basically do anything to make her life as pleasant as possible. That’s why pregnancy and childbirth are so hard for us
My wife and I are only a few days away from the birth of our fifth kid. That means her back is killing her. She can’t bend over. Sleep is elusive. Her internal organs are being punched. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Sure, I can buy her ice cream. I can let her rest while I do chores around the house. But those things don’t remove any of her discomfort. I’m completely powerless to make her feel any better.

Then there’s the delivery room. She’s in excruciating pain for hours, and all I can do is stand there and look like an idiot. Holding her hand doesn’t stop the intense anguish. Any lame attempt at encouragement or “coaching” is annoying at best. I’m basically unable to do anything of any substance or value. For any normal guy, being powerless to help the woman you love is absolutely unbearable.

Your husband may not hang on the edge of consciousness like I did, but there’s no doubt that he’s having a hard time dealing with your pain. He’s frustrated, angry and overwhelmed. He isn’t experiencing anything even remotely as difficult as you. But he’s a wreck watching you suffer. He’d do anything to help you, but he can’t. So he’s standing quietly on the sidelines admiring you for your courage, strength and endurance. His love for you is growing exponentially by the second.

In the end, I believe God uses pregnancy and childbirth to remind men that we are powerless. And that’s a good thing. The more we embrace our inability to control the direction of our families, the more we’ll surrender our lives to God and let Him lead. 

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