Make maternity wards father-friendly

Maternity ward

My presence came out as a nuisance to other mothers who did not know me.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Whereas I was welcome company for my wife and a helping hand to the medical staff, my presence came out as a nuisance to other mothers who did not know me.
  • As far as they were concerned, I was a stranger, and sharing that intimate space made them uncomfortable.

I spent the first night in the maternity ward the day Brenda gave birth to our son, as narrated in my earlier article; Night in the Delivery Room. It is a life-changing experience, something I have been prevailing upon more men to embrace and be beside the fairer sex at this critical hour.

First, it makes you appreciate the struggle that goes into bringing forth a baby. Secondly, your presence makes the new mother more comfortable knowing she is in good hands, so she can sleep the exhaustion off while you watch over the baby.

I also noticed that the medics were happy I was there as I could take some of the instructions on her behalf, which eased their burden of repeating things.

I however felt that as much as the healthcare institution allows husbands into maternity wards, little has been done to make them male-friendly. It is a fragile moment for mothers who are recovering from excruciating labor, therefore having dads in this space needs to be approached with utmost care.

Whereas I was welcome company for my wife and a helping hand to the medical staff, my presence came out as a nuisance to other mothers who did not know me. As far as they were concerned, I was a stranger, and sharing that intimate space made them uncomfortable.

We were nestled between three beds; one to our left, one to the right, and another right in front of us. As in most wards, the beds were separated by blue curtains running on iron rods hanging from the roof, which could be drawn and pulled back depending on need.

The truth is, that provision was not full-proof as half the time there were gaps at both ends of the curtains, leaving room for a patient on one bed to see the neighbor.

The mother on the bed to our left was bothered every time she needed to breastfeed. She would crane her neck my direction to confirm I was not looking before taking out her breast to insert the nipple in the baby’s mouth. That made me feel like a stranger in Jerusalem, and I can tell you it was not an easy time for both of us.

In every maternity ward, there are women who stay longer either because they or their babies developed complications and the ward became a second home.

Sigh of relief

My presence saw the woman on the bed to our right hustle to pull down and hide her bras and panties from the bedside, something that had not been an issue before I was allowed into the room.

When she went to shower the next morning, she was cautious while walking back, afraid that my eyes would wander off from our bed and look at things not meant for me.

On the bed right in front of Brenda’s was a middle-aged man who had followed in my shoes and decided to keep the wife company overnight. The problem was that he could not stay awake the whole night, so at some point he dozed off and was soon snoring like a posho mill.

As you are aware, when a man snores, he snores until all the demons in the vicinity take cover, so I can tell you he interrupted the sleep of many babies and mothers who wanted to rest.

I could almost feel the sigh of relief from the other patients when a discharge note was brought to our bed. It was like breaking from bondage for me too.

Based on that night’s experience, I went home feeling that institutions which allow men in maternity wards should move away from the traditional curtains and make proper cubicles where only those who are known to the patient have access.

That would be accommodating to both the visitor and patient as it would eliminate the worry of prying eyes from the man on the next bed.

Apart from that, they could go beyond the allocated one bed and baby’s cradle and offer foldable seats that men can turn into beds at night, rather than sit upright or coil at the bottom of the bed the whole night.

Hillary has raised his son alone since he was six months. hillarylisimba@gmail.com

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