The Invisible Man: Isn’t It Time We Valued Men Too?

invisible-manMy three-year-old daughter was ill these last few days. What started off looking like a typical virus ended with my daughter in hospital and a battle under-way to lower a very high fever.

The difference in the way the hospital staff responded to me and my wife reminded me of what happened when my daughter was born. Below is that story, that I wrote at the time, but didn’t publish until now. My more recent experience shows that nothing has changed – men continue to be treated differently because of their gender.

Fatherhood: Misunderstood.

On the 23rd February I became a Father for the first time.  The greatest day of my life bar-none; the day that my only child was born.

So, what was my experience of becoming a Father?  Well, first we need to go back to the beginning.  Yes, I was there at the beginning, and still there 12 weeks later when my baby’s first growth scan was due.  I accompanied my wife to the Royal United Hospital in Bath, to have the scan.  I was not the only one, several proud Fathers-to-be waited with their partners for their first glimpse of their child.

Our turn came and we were called into a dark room to have the scan.  “Hello” said the nurse to my wife as she walked in.  She did not say hello to me, or even make eye contact.  In fact, she only made eye contact once, and that was when I asked a question during the scan, and she was unable to ignore me further. Off to a bad start.

Well, maybe this was a one off…Surely, this was a one off.

Over the course of the pregnancy we had many pre-natal appointments, and over half of the midwives we saw did not say hello to me. Neither did they make any eye contact with me. They basically ignored me, and made me feel unwelcome.

Only once did a midwife actually direct an unprompted question to me, while my wife was in the bathroom producing a urine sample. To my shock, I was asked how I was coping.  I was absolutely delighted to be asked. I smiled and had a short, but pleasant conversation with the midwife. This was eight months into the pregnancy.

When it came to the birth, I was acknowledged when we walked into the birthing unit.  I was asked to anti-bac my hands.  Then I faded back into the background.

The first midwife we saw ignored me.

The second was really nice and although she didn’t say hello, she did make eye contact with me and included me, somewhat, in the discussions. Long story short, my wife was a couple of centimetres dilated, and we were allocated a room, and I was allowed to stay with my wife.  There was a mattress on the floor for me, and a pile of sheets and a pillow.  I felt like a teenager staying at my friend’s house for a sleep over.  It wasn’t good, but I didn’t realise at that stage, that this was what the five-star treatment.

Within an hour, my wife had dilated to six centimetres and we were shown to a delivery suite.  Several midwives came in to see us over the next hour and only one in four acknowledged my presence.  Finally our allocated midwife (who had come in from home as cover) arrived and she not only acknowledged me but also asked my name.  I almost fell over with shock.  She was lovely actually, and looked after us until birth.  We did need some intervention late on and several doctors and other staff arrived to help with the delivery, including two men who were the only men we encountered the whole visit. Incidentally, they both said hello to my wife and to me, even shaking my hand.  Maybe men have better manners than women?

With everyone’s skill and experience at hand, baby was delivered at 05:33 am.

After the birth, I had to look after our new daughter while my wife was taken to theatre to have a lot of stitches (my daughter was not small).  My little girl is a little miracle and I can honestly say this was the best moment of my life.

My wife came out of theatre, and we were happy to be reunited on a shared ward.  It was noisy, as you would expect, but we didn’t care, we had a beautiful baby daughter to enjoy.  However, it wasn’t long before someone tried to spoil it.  “Visiting hours are 06:30-17:30 and Fathers go home at 21:00.”  “What?” I said, “I have to leave later today?”

I couldn’t believe it.  How could anyone ask me to leave my new daughter and her mother the same day of the birth?  Surely a Mother if asked would refuse – and quite rightly!  Why then, was I, the Father, being told I must go home alone?

Well, I wasn’t going to go. No way. I’m not one for conforming to unfair rules. If I was leaving it would be under arrest.

I’m not stupid though, I’m pragmatic; making a defiant stand is my last resort. My first plan was to put on my most polite manner and ask respectfully if there was anyway I could stay. I was told by the midwife that she would see if there was a reclining chair available for me to stay, though probably there wouldn’t be.

As it turned out there was.  Next to the bed in the ward was a heavy chair, which I was directed to. I was told that men weren’t allowed to walk around after 21:00 because women might not be fully clothed due to breastfeeding etc.  What kind of reason was that? Women, quite rightly, have the right to breastfeed in public, so why was this any different? I wasn’t interested in other women breastfeeding, I was interested in my hour’s old daughter. It did feel like a very anti-male rule.  I recognise that some new mother’s may be a little uncomfortable at first, but I don’t see why that should trump my rights as a Father. Would women put up with men’s rights trumping theirs? Quite rightly, there is a lot of campaigning for women’s rights being equal with men. But that’s the thing. Equal. Not more than. Not less than. Equal. Yes, men also have rights, though this isn’t something that gets much recognition in our modern society and I believe these rights have been eroded and continue to be. I wonder how men will be viewed by society when my daughter is all grown up?

Of course, being only interested in my daughter I mostly stayed put. But I did break the rules a couple of times to go and get my wife some water as the nurses failed to offer her any. I was just daring them to question why I was moving around.

Night time came and my wife and I did our best to sleep between looking after our new daughter.  I had to move the chair forward in order to recline it. It was extremely heavy and I couldn’t move it far because of my health issues. I simply don’t have the strength.  Worse though was that it did not recline flat.  It was not comfortable at all.  I was not offered a pillow and had to use my jacket.  I was not offered a sheet or blanket.  Surprising it did get quite cold through the night.

My personal child health record – ‘the red book’



We were sent home with a pack for our new baby, including a booklet called, “My personal child health record”, the ‘red book’ as it is often called, is a record of your child’s weight and other measurements, vaccinations and other important health information. It also has a section on child development.

Under ‘Your child’s firsts’ section, it contains a list of significant developmental events, including walking, smiling, laughs, and the first time they say “Mama”. But to my distress and bewilderment, the first time they say “Dada” isn’t even in the book!

I, the Father don’t even make it into the history book of my own child.  How do I explain this to my daughter when she grow’s up and looks through her own history and asks the inevitable question, “When did I say ‘Dada’?”

“Sorry sweetheart, you we never expected to.”

6 thoughts on “The Invisible Man: Isn’t It Time We Valued Men Too?

  1. This is interesting-one of my son’s was living in Norway when his first child was born. They had a ensuite bedroom allocated to them attached to the hospital. How lovely! If the attitude to fathers was different in the UK maybe there would be an improvement in the inter relationships.


  2. If I recall correctly, even though I was with my kids 24/7 (it seemed – Bill was working), they all said Dada first.

    Sorry you were not treated like your wife’s partner – I’m sure she wasn’t in a state to protest, but it seems very unprofessional of the rest of them not to include you in everything possible. Not fair. With our first, they insisted on me having a shower – but then Bill and I took our newborn and went home – I couldn’t wait to get out of there, so Bill held Jeremy until I was cleaned up, and we went home. That night the three of us slept like logs except for nursing the baby. I think that was the last full night of sleep for years!

    The other two – our middle son had to be put under bilirubin lights, but Daddy went home to be with our eldest, and the last time I had a C-section and was stuck in that horrible hospital room for a week. While somehow, with our moms’ help, the homefront was managed. I could not have done it without Bill – he was magnificent. I was already ill with CFS by our daughter’s birth, and the whole thing is a blur.

    I can see you would have had trouble moving a heavy chair – and exactly how were you supposed to get a blanket if you were not allowed to walk around? They don’t THINK, do they?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a difficult one, have heard horror stories about the doctor and father bonding over monitors and machines, leaving the mother feeling left out! Also midwives and health visitors encouraging mum to think about dad’s needs, surely he should be in supporting role?
    Depends on relationship, some women will want staff to include dad (or other birth partner) some not. Wide variety of needs and partners needs, just look at ‘one born every minute’
    I presume staff are concentrating first on safety for mother and baby, they are v overworked and maybe dad gets overlooked. That is unfortunate, but actually it isn’t all about him.


    • Of course staff should focus on the mother and baby’s medical needs, no question, but much of the time there is no rush and urgency, and the issue is not one of priorities or pressure, but simply of attitudes. Fathers should not be sidelined at the most important event in their lives, unnecessarily as a result of social attitudes and stereotypes. Not suggesting it is all about the father at all, only that it is about him too.


  4. Sorry about your daughter and hope she is feeling better.
    The women and children in that maternity ward were the patients. How would you feel if a lot of strange men, or mothers or other birth partners were wandering about disturbing your wife and child.
    Not nice being in hospital for any reason, dreadful regimented places, but some will find it respite from caring and household chores. Fact is, they have dads at birth but have not factored in families where the mother would like partner of any gender to be more involved.
    Just seen headline in telegraph saying William and Kate pregnant! Don’t think so.


    • Thanks, my daughter is fine now, I wrote this article three years ago so a lot has changed since!

      Why do men have to be strange men though? Can’t people just see them as men.

      Apart from the night time there were other men and other birthing partners there and it was fine, there really was no issue with it, no one being disturbed or anything like that. And hey, maybe the guy wouldn’t mind a break from the chores either.

      Nowadays I assume there is no issue with a mother having a same gender birthing partner. If there are then there shouldn’t be. I would be just as supportive of a female partner being allowed to stay with their new born child. It’s out dated and unreasonable to expect any parent to leave their new born child.


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