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ABSTRACT

In this study, ethnographic interviews were used to identify first-time fathers' experiences of the birth of their first child. Fourteen fathers were interviewed, and prenatal expectations of the experience are compared with the fathers' perceptions after the birth. Although the fathers expected to be treated as part of a laboring couple, they found that they were relegated to a supporting role. Initially the fathers were confident of their ability to support their wives, but they found that labor was more work than they had anticipated. They became fearful of the outcome, but hid these fears from their partners. Later, they found that their focus moved from their wives to their babies at the time of birth. The men all completed the experience with an enhanced respect for their wives. Fathers should be included in labor management plans and need support for their role as coach, particularly when their wives experience pain. They also need to be encouraged to eat and take a break from their wives' labor when appropriate.