View Full Version : Fathers in the Delivery Room - Late 60s

Brett Marie
10-13-2012, 03:48 PM
I have a scene in my novel in which a father is in the delivery room when his child is born. The scene is set in New York in 1968. I can't find a source anywhere to tell me if this would be common, unusual or unheard-of at that time. Does anyone have a quick answer to that one?

10-13-2012, 04:10 PM
Hopefully someone who had a child at that time can answer. It's a little before my time, but ...

I recall an 'All in the Family' TV episode, circa 1972 or so, where Gloria, Archie's daughter, gives birth and her husband is present.

It was about this time that women were taking childbirth classes with their husbands. (Or boyfriend, sister, or someone close to them.) I was teaching in 1974 and this was all the talk whenever a teacher was pregnant - did you want your husband with you? Why or why not? Oh, I'd never do that! Or yes, I want him with me, why not?

So if not 1968, it was shortly thereafter that this (dad in the delivery room) became more common in the US. Prior to that men were often found (on TV, movies) pacing in the waiting room, waiting for the news: is it a boy, a girl? Is it healthy, that's all I want to know.

I did have an aunt who had a baby in 1967 and she had it (her) the way I mentioned above, husband not with her, but outside in a waiting room. It was her fifth child though, and possibly she just continued having babies the way she had the previous four.

Sorry for so much digression and hardly a positive answer.

Drachen Jager
10-13-2012, 09:24 PM
It would depend on the hospital, but IMO it would be unlikely. I know when I was born (a little after your plot) and all my contemporaries the fathers were not present.

10-13-2012, 09:26 PM
My brother was born in 1968 and at that time, here in Ireland, the father wasn't allowed into the delivery room.

10-13-2012, 09:43 PM
My sister was born in 1967, which is close to your setting, but my father wasn't allowed in the delivery room. As mentioned by jaksen, the practice may have started to be more common in the 70's.

10-13-2012, 09:52 PM
In New York City of 1968, I see no problem with the father in the delivery room. And it would have been a delivery room and not a private birthing room like they do now a days.

The father would have been taken aside and made to scrub up and then dress in a gown, a hat, and even disposable booties on his feet right before the expected delivery. More than likely he would have stood along side the bed holding the mothers hand, but unable to see the birth due to the sheets covering the mother for privacy.

In the early eighties, the doctor had to keep pushing my head out of the way as I wanted a full view of my daughter being born. By time my son was born a few years later, I actually got to help with the delivery. Coolest thing ever...

10-13-2012, 10:09 PM
I think it would probably be unusual, maybe unheard of in certain hospitals. You mentioned that your story is set in New York--do you mean in the city? Perhaps there would be more chance of it being possible in NYC than in upstate NY. Still, I think it would probably be unusual. Jaksen mentioned an episode of All in the Family from the early 70's in which Archie's daughter, Gloria, gave birth with her husband present. I don't remember seeing that episode, but I imagine the fact that Michael (Gloria's husband) was present for the birth was probably a big element of the episode. Michael was considered to be very liberal, while Archie was more conservative. I'm guessing Archie thought it was completely out-of-line for Michael to be there for the birth. Perhaps the episode was about the "new' way of doing things--which kinda suggests that in the late 60's it wasn't common. My siblings and I were all born in the mid/late 60's/early 70's and my dad wasn't present for any of the births.

10-14-2012, 10:33 AM
Common in NYC at that time, from what I know, from people within a year or so of that. There were Lamaze classes, natural birth, etc. You're talking about a big, coastal, liberal city in the hippie era.

Brett Marie
10-14-2012, 11:50 AM
jaksen, Drachen Jager, muse, BenPanced, thothguard51, ArtsyAmy, cornflake, thank you all. The scene is in New York City (Upper East Side), so it sounds like the timing is just on the cusp of the new era of childbirth. I think I'll add a sentence or two about the 'novelty' of sharing the birth experience, and let the scene stay as I'd planned it.

It's quite interesting to know how much things have changed in forty-some years. I watched my daughter being delivered, and I wouldn't give up that memory for the world. In fact, I can hardly imagine a father wanting it any other way.

Anyway, thank you all once again. My mind is made up. If a mod wants to lock this thread, that's fine. I won't be returning to it. You all rock!

10-14-2012, 01:17 PM
I know that in the 80's when my brothers were born it was still really uncommon for fathers to be present - they tended to wait outside while a sister, mum or friend went in with you.

10-14-2012, 02:21 PM
I know that in the 80's when my brothers were born it was still really uncommon for fathers to be present - they tended to wait outside while a sister, mum or friend went in with you.

Where are you talking about though? It's been common all over the U.S. since the '70s and in places like NY and areas of CA and other more 'progressive' areas since the mid-60s.

10-14-2012, 02:35 PM
shaldna is in Ireland, cornflake. Perhaps she's reflecting the experience of her own country and not yours.

10-14-2012, 02:58 PM
shaldna is in Ireland, cornflake. Perhaps she's reflecting the experience of her own country and not yours.

I know it's not the U.S. (nor did I identify my own country); the location is Ireland but that doesn't necessarily mean he or she was speaking about Ireland when talking about what happened 30 years ago, hence I asked where...

10-14-2012, 03:52 PM
This jibes with my memories:


" At that time, and for a couple of decades thereafter, most men remained isolated in hospital waiting rooms while their wives labored and delivered. There was a closed door between the waiting men and their laboring wives. Some hospitals allowed the men to briefly visit their laboring wives; most did not provide this access until the 1960s. During the 1960s, most hospitals, under pressure from birthing women, laymen, the women’s movement, and childbirth reform groups, admitted men into labor rooms, but not until the 1970s — and in some hospitals the 1980s — were the doors to the delivery room open to men."

I would find it highly unlikely but not impossible. I think if you included some statement that the hospital and or doctor were unusual in their practice you could get away with it. In 1968 it would be remarkable, pioneering, and perhaps a bit controversial. It was a big deal to let men into the LABOR room - let alone the DELIVERY room.

My son was born in 1982. In order to be IN the delivery room - you had to have taken a course Lamaze or similar. My son was a little premature. The doc asked "Have you seen the video on premi births and C-sections?" I lied - "Absolutely" - They weren't going to keep me out. This was in a major medical center - in Houston, Texas - the fourth largest city in the US and a major teaching hospital.

10-14-2012, 04:09 PM
By 1982, in Boston, not only were fathers expected to be in the room when their partners gave birth, we were allowed in for C-sections. Quite the experience to be chatting with your wife and the gas passer as a surgeon splits your wife's stomach open. I was glad to be there, but would have been just as happy not to have been. But seeing your child being born is unforgettable.

By 1982 they had identified a problem with having the fathers in on the birth -- fainting. Seems like a significant number of fathers fainted at the critical moment. Beyond the comment from one of the other members in our Lamaze class about what did you expect from a man, big emphasis on the men to remember to keep their blood sugar up by remembering to eat. My wife is still not happy about me abandoning her to get food while she was in labor.

But while this was the norm in advanced hospitals in Boston, in most hospitals I would not have been allowed in for a C-section. Boston, NYC, and other big cities with advanced hospitals were definitely allowing men into the birth by sometime in the 1960s.

And scarey as it is being in the room as they slice and dice your wife, it beats the hell out of waiting in another room.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

10-14-2012, 04:24 PM
Common in NYC by 1968, and in the delivery room, not birthing room. However, not all fathers could take it. At least one I know of fled to the nearest bar.

10-14-2012, 04:34 PM
My sisters and I were all born in the sixties (1960-65) in hospitals in Detroit and Philadelphia. At that time, my father still waited in the father's waiting room (the only non-smoker in the room, he always adds) while Mom did the dirty work. There were no options for him to have joined her, not that it ever occurred to him to ask, honestly.

When my best friend gave birth in 1972, her husband (who was an EMT) still had to take Lamaze classes to be with her in the delivery room, which understandably irked him. When their next child was born in 1973 in the same hospital, there was no mention of Lamaze classes for any of the fathers.

It really depends on the hospital's rules at the time, more than anything, I think.

10-14-2012, 05:10 PM
jclarke - Funny, when the Doc asked if I had seen the video on Premi birth and C-sections, he said "We don't want you fainting" - My wife replied "Oh, he's seen car wrecks and plane crashes." The Doc laughed, "Nah, it won't look THAT bad."

My sibs were born into the mid sixties - and fathers weren't allowed in the delivery rooms. So by 68 - Unless you can specifically site that it was common practice in NYC delivery rooms - I'd not believe it as a reader. Just my point of view for my age group.

As far as 'fictional reality' goes - Mad Men has them in the waiting rooms - going into the late sixties in NYC.

10-14-2012, 05:32 PM
it was a new thing back in 1972 when i had my first. most fathers waited in the waiting room. it was considered almost dangerous by many older doctors. my husband was invited in but i said that if he came in i was going out. the man was a screamer--s6

10-14-2012, 06:47 PM
This was a new thing in the mid to late sixties. Fathers who attended 'birthing class" were allowed to be present at the birth(s). Those who had not been to class were allowed to be in the pre-op room and immediately after the birth in the recovery room. Prohibitions against fathers holding a healthy new-born were not enforced as they had previously. Gowns / caps were also required.

I have a scene in my novel in which a father is in the delivery room when his child is born. The scene is set in New York in 1968. I can't find a source anywhere to tell me if this would be common, unusual or unheard-of at that time. Does anyone have a quick answer to that one?

10-14-2012, 11:54 PM
Where are you talking about though? It's been common all over the U.S. since the '70s and in places like NY and areas of CA and other more 'progressive' areas since the mid-60s.

Sorry, I was talking about Ireland.

Even now it's still common enough for a woman to have her mum, sister of a female friend with her instead of a partner though - I guess ti depends on the person and how they feel - some women just really want their mum with them.

My cousin, for example, has five kids and her husband wasn't with her for any of them, she insisted that she wanted our aunt with her instead.

Edited to add - I've come across a lot of misconceptions about labour among men - I think it's because for a lot of men the only time they come into contact with labour and childbirth is on TV - my ex partner arrived for the birth of our baby expecting to be scrubbed and gowned, he was pretty shocked to find that wasn't the case. He also expected me to be screaming non-stop for the duration and for the whole birthing process to last about five minutes - because that's what he'd been conditioned to think it was like.

Mr Flibble
10-15-2012, 12:02 AM
I don;t know about NYC but in rural Sussex (not so progressive perhaps? lol) when I was born in 1969, the doctors finally* agreed that for the first time my Dad could be in the delivery room. Except he took my Mum to hospital, they said 'Oh, she'll be ages yet, go home and have breakfast/sort out your other children and we'll call you when it's time.' 10 minutes later he stepped through the door to find the phone ringing. 'Congratulations, you have a baby girl....'

Poor Dad. Anyway, yes it was happening even in rural parts of the UK that far back (Ireland may be somewhat different - culturally etc. But even now, here, some women prefer to have their mum/friend/sister with them)

*MY nearest sibling is five years older than me and they turned him down flat for both that birth and the previous one.

10-15-2012, 07:14 PM
In San Francisco, CA, my father was not present when my brother was born in 1968. He was present in 1970, when I was born in Santa Clara, CA.

So I'd agree that it's plausible, but would be sufficiently novel that someone would probably comment on it.

Also, yes to the fainting problem. My dad had to sit down and put his head between his knees for all three births he was present at.

10-17-2012, 06:08 AM
I was born in 1982, and my dad was not allowed in for my mom's c-section. This was in a smaller town in Texas. Someone else in my family mentioned that she was put under when she went into labor and woke up with a baby. Her husband wasn't allowed in. I would guess this would have be early 70's at a small town hospital.

10-17-2012, 01:36 PM
I'm not sure on this one, but from what I've heard, fathers weren't in the delivery room.

10-18-2012, 12:15 AM
My dad was playing pool at a bar nearby, waiting on the phonecall :) He did this for all 3 of us, here in NC, from 1969 to 1974. The women played Gin Rummy while waiting things out, apparently :D

I so couldn't watch a C-section. I'm glad I'm not a dad ;)

10-18-2012, 07:18 AM
In 1968 in Los Angeles my friend gave birth at a hospital that was Lamaze friendly and her husband was indeed in the delivery room. They closed their maternity ward about three years later. In 1972 I gave birth in another Los Angeles hospital where they allowed my husband in the delivery room as well, though we had the impression they wished we weren't a Lamaze couple.

10-18-2012, 10:53 AM
I was born in NYC in 1986. The doctor asked my dad if he wanted to go in with my mom. He declined.

Richard Paolinelli
10-18-2012, 11:31 AM
Born in 1964, dad not there. My sister was born in 1971 and if memory serves, he was not allowed in.

My wife started working in hospitals in 1978. I asked her and she thought that very few hospitals started to let the fathers in by the late 70s (yes, she is a couple years older than I) and it became common by the early 1980s.