American fathers began making their way into the childbirth picture in the 1950s, according to Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room, historian Judith Walzer Leavitt's 2009 book. Birth had migrated from home to hospital by that time.
Two developments helped bring dad into the birth process, Leavitt writes — the growing influence in this country of British obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read's 1933 book Childbirth Without Fear and the "natural birth" movement it helped launch; and the development of regional anesthesia for childbirth.
Dick-Read's book inspired couples to begin exploring ways to experience childbirth together. The introduction of regional anesthesia meant that women were conscious during birth, but often alone for long periods during labor.
Women asked for their husbands to be allowed to attend their births, and doctors and hospital officials eventually realized that the fathers' presence could make birth safer and more satisfying for mothers.
The phenomenon of fathers attending their children's birth was not just new, it was news. For the June 13, 1955 issue of Life magazine, photographer Burton Glinn snapped reporter John Stouffer gaping in amazement at the birth of his son at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.