Birth Film for Traumatized FathersMadeline Holler
But a Missouri filmmaker has turned her lens on fathers and their babies, who, as this eight-minute clip shows, are having traumatic experiences of their own during birth.
What could possibly compete with the pain of a dilating cervix?
Standing by while their babies and partners are assaulted in the hospital.
Filmmaker L. Janel Martin’s as-yet unfinished The Other Side of the Glass — she’s still looking for funding to complete a full-length film — covers quite a bit of ground: trauma from early cord clamping and being unnecessarily suctioned, etc.; mother’s trauma of being unnecessarily separated from baby; father’s trauma from being unable to do anything about any of it and forced to stand-by while their babies and wives are abused, assaulted and ignored.
“Assualt” is strong language and it’s tempting to dismiss this notion of father’s being traumatized in birth, but for some fathers there is real pain.
One guy, a real estate developer in California, couldn’t bear to stand on the other side of the glass panels, watching a nurse and doctor handle his baby (it’s unclear from the clip what they’re doing).
“I start pounding on the glass and causing a disturbance. I stopped when security came. I’m not the one harming the baby … arrest the doctor … that nurse needs to be shackled.”
Another carried the guilt of having been powerless in the hospital home. And still another — a soldier! — cried because he couldn’t protect his family.
Still another dad talks about how his wailing baby stops when he hears his father’s voice. Cut to a delivery room scene when a nurse dismisses a baby’s screams — “see, you’ll live” — when that baby was so obviously comforted by daddy’s touch, smell, voice, whatever.
If you’ve seen the Business of Being Born or Orgasmic Birth, you’ll recognize a few of the experts in this clip. If The Other Side of the Glass gets made and released, who knows if it will have the impact on the discussion of birth that these films — especially the BoBB — have had.
I hesitate to get behind notions like “birth trauma.” One father at the beginning of the clip — and also a guy who appears to have made a career of birth trauma therapy — seem to link it to all problems or life’s unhappinesses thereafter. That’s a stretch for me.
That said, I would agree with some of the points the clip illustrates about power dynamics in hospital births (parents finding it difficult to assert themselves and be in charge of their own damn babies right from the start) and how fathers have a role of just kind of standing there taking pictures and then asking permission to hold their own kid. I like the idea of father (and mothers) feeling incredibly protective of their newborns — why shouldn’t they?
Also, regarding the birth trauma for babies point of the clip, among my irritations with my hospital birth was how vigorously the nurses rubbed at my daughter to get all that gunk off. She was wailing already (having been taken away from me and sent off to the French fry warmer) and that just seemed like the most unnecessary thing they had to be doing (that and the routine suctioning/nose hosing). I know she had the rest of her baby days to be gently dabbed at with a Downy soft towel, but still. What’s wrong with a little funk on the baby?
Let’s hear it dads and partners? Did you feel helpless and powerless or totally included in your baby’s birth? Would you consider your baby’s suctioning an assault? Did you have to stand on the other side of the glass (do most hospitals still HAVE nurseries?)