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Birth stories: a dad’s view

Father-of-three Mikael gives us an honest and genuine account of what it’s like to be a bystander during childbirth and how it feels to become a dad. Is it really the happiest moment of your life?

Newborn and totally oblivious to their parents’ overwhelming emotions.

The other day, my eldest daughter (Stella) asked me what the happiest moment of my life was. I automatically told her that it was when she and her two sisters were born. This got me thinking and I realised that I’ve never really focused on my own feelings during their births.

Read Amélie’s birth story about her unplanned home birth

I hardly need to tell you that they’ve been my three most life-changing experiences. Sitting there with a life that you’ve helped to create. Feeling relief and joy that everything went well. The huge sense of pride. But did I truly experience my happiest moment right then and there?

But did I truly experience my happiest moment right then and there?

Nothing appeared to change on the delivery ward during the ten-year period that my children were born there.

The ward’s decor was oddly unwelcoming to new life: anaemic colours, depressing institutional artwork and bland textiles. Uninvitingly shaped furniture in pallid wood. The coffee machine, the only attraction the delivery ward had to offer us sidekicks, was located at one end of the main corridor. It was a faithful old workhorse whose bitter liquid I enjoyed on many occasions, accompanied by muffled agonised screams.

Read Emma’s birth story about giving birth in week 26

I feel the warmest admiration for those who choose to dedicate their lives to delivering other people’s children.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the hospital staff: the professionals, the heroes, the angels. I feel the warmest admiration for those who choose to dedicate their lives to delivering other people’s children. I always had to swallow a lump of sadness when it was time to go home. Not just because I was so profoundly grateful, but because I realised we’d probably never meet again and they were almost certain to forget us. When all’s said and done, it’s just a job to them. I have never felt such faith and trust in professionals in any other context before. At the same time, I’ve never felt like such a bit player in my own life.

The pain had made her “vanish” and come back again.

My three daughters mean everything to me. Stella’s birth took 20 intensive hours before she was delivered by emergency caesarean. I was in a state of shock and I vividly recall the panic I felt as I sat with a nurse outside the operating theatre and noticed the doctor was wearing rubber boots. Tintin took the best part of one whole day and night to make her appearance. We had to stay overnight and I remember how surreal it was to eat breakfast on the maternity ward among all the new mums and dads. Their ordeal was over. Ours was still to come. I remember thinking how brave Josefine was for keeping it all together. Sammie arrived after just a few hours. But they were intensive hours and I remember how, at the crescendo of one of the strongest contractions towards the end, I heard a cracking sound and met Josefine’s surprised gaze. The pain had made her “vanish” and come back again. It was terrible to just sit and watch helplessly. But all the while I was trapped in an emotional vacuum.

That’s when the dam has burst and my tears have flown.

It’s only afterwards that the feelings have come. When I’ve been handed my child, wrapped in a blanket, and held her in my arms. When she’s lain there and gazed up at me with a wondering expression. That’s when the dam has burst and my tears have flown. When I’ve found myself in the eye of the emotional storm. It’s not easy to put into words. But to be totally honest, I wouldn’t call this the happiest moment of my life. It’s a very strange state made up of equal parts joy, relief and extreme rawness. That happiest moment only comes later, once the emotional storm has blown over and you’ve arrived home with your tiny new miracle. Once you’ve landed and feel that it’s real, and your new life can begin.

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Photo: Claes Pettersson

Name: Mikael Andersson

Age: 40

Family: A wife (Josefine) and three children (Stella, Tintin and Sammie)

Lives: Hisingen in Gothenburg, Sweden

On parenthood: The most important thing for me is that my kids grow up as strong and independent people, that they feel free to be who they are, and are fearless and choose their own path. I want them to be nice and kind people, naturally. But most of all, I want them to live secure and happy lives. I want them to have as much fun as possible and never settle for less than they deserve.