dad sleep-over

For most American fathers, it’s a no-brainer: you stay with your wife in the hospital the night your kid is born. Usually it means pushing a couple of chairs together to stretch out or sleeping sitting up. But across the pond, England has had a long-standing struggle with new dads and their desires to be involved in their children’s first nights.

For example, a new father from Dunstall, England was sent home from Samuel Johnson Community Hospital because the hospital says it doesn’t have the facilities to accommodate fathers overnight. The dad, Gareth Howes, insisted that he merely wanted to sleep at his wife’s bedside but was still denied.

“I had to leave my wife and newborn son who I was so excited to hold and bond with during his first hours,” Howes told The Burton Mail. “It was very surprising. I got home and was furious. How can this still happen in this day and age?”

Rules are rules, the hospital answered; New fathers are allowed a 12 hour window to spend with their wives and new babies, from 8am to 8pm. After that, dads are turned away to go home. Or, as I’m guessing some dads may do, sleep in the parking lot.

The policy doesn’t just apply to Samuel Johnson Community Hospital’s “small midwife-led maternity unit,” and not everyone thinks it’s a bad idea. Laura Perrins, writer for The Telegraph, wrote a piece in May about this very topic. Her opinion? “Only a bloke could think this is a good idea.” Well, I never.

Her feelings are based on English Labour Party’s policy review chief, Jon Cruddas, who had mentioned in May that the Labour party encourages hospitals to allow new dads to spend the night with their wives, and is looking into offering new fathers paid leave for antenatal classes during their wives’ pregnancies.

Quoth Perrins:

Now this bloke Cruddas may be some genius policy wonk but I know he has never and will never give birth. So he will never have an episiotomy, or a third degree tear, or leaking nipples, or leaking from other parts of ones body. Now we have to do this parade in front of every man and his dog not just during the day but at night too, and have some strange man snoring on a chair next to us. Cheers Cruddas.

Comments on Perrins’ article vary from agreement to disgust from both mums (that’s “moms” to us yanks) and dads – further evidence that England can’t decide on a policy.

There was no accompanying photo along with Perrins’ quote in The Telegraph, but 8BitDad has it on good authority that Perrins was flipping the double-bird as she said it.

A program, however, was launched in 2010 in the Bath region called “Partners Staying Overnight,” with Royal United Hospital being the biggest name to take on the initiative.

In 2011, we mentioned that a midwife manual entitled “Reaching Out: Involving Fathers in Maternity Care,” was released by the Royal College of Midwives, the Department of Health, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Fatherhood Institute. In November of 2012, University Hospital of Hartlepool started allowing new dads to spend the first night with their wives and babies. England’s National Health Service is also considering putting in double beds in maternity wards for dads. But you can find this issue brewing in earlier years – England’s Fatherhood Institute has reported on programs aimed at fathers sleeping at the hospital as early as 2002.

In 2008, The Fatherhood Institute also published a survey caled “The Dad Deficit: The Missing Piece in the Maternity Jigsaw” (PDF) where they reported (among other things):

  • 70% of men and women agree that dads should be able to stay overnight with their partner in hospital when their baby is born.
  • 79% agree that dads should be encouraged to stay overnight with their partner in hospital when their baby is born.

Clearly, England has been struggling with involving fathers in the birthing process for years, but making progress.

Fathers – spoiler alert – want to be involved with their babies lives. And no longer are new dads hanging around the hospital waiting room with cigars for family members. Most dads want to be in the delivery room for their childrens’ births – and no matter the comfort and conditions, be in the room overnight when their children are born. Most dads would say that they don’t need a bed – a bare minimum recliner would do.

Hopefully England will hear the call of its fathers and continue to expand overnight hospital services for new dads.