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Barry, father of two (born 2004 and 2006), hometown Sheffield

My son was two weeks late and my partner was induced, so we were not surprised by the timing. We were prepared and she was calm, in Jessop's for 8pm on a Sunday. I was told to go home because the induction drug would take some time to take effect. At midnight I was called at home by a midwife because my partner had started contractions. At that point I was excited but suddenly nervous, which I hadn't been before.
At the hospital I was surprised by how much pain she was in, which was upsetting (little did i know that it would get far worse!). I tried to help by talking and making her more comfortable. At that point I felt useful because between the contractions she was 'normal' and rational so we could communicate normally and I could time between between contractions. After a couple of hours I remember starting to feel impatient - i have sympathy for people who suffer with long labours!

The hardest part was standing by, relatively useless, while my partner endured so much pain. At times I even wondered if she was exaggerating the pain - which is clearly ridiculous. I carried on trying to help but my efforts were increasingly futile and clearly weren't helping at all. At that stage I don't think anything I could do would have eased the pain for made the experience any more pleasant for anyone.

After 3 hours, following an inspection by the midwife, there was a change in the mood in the room and it was clear that it was crunch time. From then on I felt like an outsider, as midwives busied around getting ready, speaking to my partner.

During 'push' stage I felt involved because there was some purpose and I felt like I was helping. At that point she seemed to need assurance that all was okay and encouragement to keep going. It was still difficult to see her in so much pain.

Our son's heart rate was fluctuating so he needed some assistance coming out. After having a couple of calm, supportive midwives in the room, it turned into a frantic scene for about 15 mins when loads of other people came in. All I remember from that period is a slight sense of panic and an image of the doctor pulling the ventouse (stuck to my son's head) so hard that his forearm muscles were bulging and he had his knee up on the end of the bed for leverage.

When our son came out he was silent so he was taken to one side to clean his passages and get him going. It was probably only 30 seconds but I was really scared that he wasn't ok. I remember looking at my partner, telling her she had done so well, but thinking "cry, please cry..." for what felt like an eternity. When we did finally her him cry we both burst into tears, mostly relief I think.

After the birth I held our baby while my partner recovered. I was told that skin-to-skin contact was best so sat down with him on my chest and we both got some sleep - that was amazing and I'm getting a bit teary now just thinking about it!

In summary, for me it was difficult to watch my partner endure so much discomfort and pain but it was an amazing experience. Any dad who misses the birth of their child is missing out on something special. It certainly gave me a lot more respect for her. She was so strong.

With my daughter it was all plain sailing and by the book. On the due date, I went to work as normal but my partner rang about 9:30am to say she thought it was time. We dropped our son at a friend's house, and went to Jessop's again. Everything went quickly and smoothly, and our daughter was born before lunch time. The only sad thing for me is that it wasn't quite so memorable because it was so straightforward. Again, I remember being so proud of my partner for how she dealt with the pain. An hour after our daughter was born my partner was up and about, tidying the room. A midwife came into the room and asked us where 'mum' was because she didn't believe she would be back to normal so quick! We collected our son from our friends' before dinner time.

Looking back now, my over-riding memory of the births is immense pride and respect for my partner and what she did.