Women and babies are the stars of childbirth, but dads play an important role, too. From massaging an exhausted mother-to-be's back, to reminding her of her strength when she is at her most vulnerable, a supportive partner can make an enormous difference in labor and delivery.
So in honor of Father's Day, we asked the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers for photos that capture the important emotional and physical support dads-to-be provide their partners, as well as the utter magic of fathers meeting their babies for the first time. Here are 35 of them, with captions from the photographers.
(Note: Since the photographs below depict women in various stages of childbirth, some may not be suitable for viewing in all situations.)
Photo: Art By Jessica
"This mom told me: 'Having Josh hold and support me helped me focus. He was like an anchor -- something to hang on to and hold me together.'"
"This dad was injured severely in an accident in Afghanistan just three months before the birth of their second baby. He wasn't able to support his wife physically, but he found other ways to help and hold space."
Jennifer Mason Photography
"This dad labored through intense contractions alongside his wife. Sometimes I'd look at him and know he was feeling her pain, too!"
Lane B Photography
"This mother was determined to have an unmedicated birth in the hospital. When I asked her if she was hiring a doula she said, 'I don't need one, my husband is my labor coach.' With every contraction, he would remind her to relax and help her slow her breathing. It was so moving to watch the two of them working together."
Isabell Steinert Photography
"After a rather traumatic birth experience with their first child, this couple's birth was filled with moments of love and peace. I loved how they were working together, holding hands while she was circling on a birth ball."
Coastal Life Photography
"Fatherhood begins long before babies make their appearance. Endless love and unwavering support during labor and delivery is just one of the many ways!"
Emily Gerald Photography
"This mom told me: 'Joe was my rock. Steadfast, calm and strong. He knew exactly how to support me without me telling him what to do. It's like he was telepathic!'"
Light of Mine Photography
"This father was so incredibly supportive through the delivery process. He held his wife's hand in between contractions and massaged her through the back labor. And in the moments she was unsure if she could get through this, he reminded her of how incredibly strong she was."
Erin Shepley Photography
"This father never left his wife's side during the entire birth experience. He was completely focused on getting her through each contraction. I have never seen such an attentive and supportive birth partner."
Bonnie Bee Photography and Events
"This mother is in transition -- that intense period of time just before pushing -- without the use of epidural or pain medication. She had a doula present, but her husband was her true anchor."
"This dad told me: 'My wife had gone through 20-plus hours of excruciating induced labor, most without anesthesia because the only anesthesiologist on call was tied up in a long surgery. There was a complication placing the epidural that caused her to start leaking spinal fluid ... pain on top of pain! Here, before her C-section, I was thinking about the three pregnancy losses we had prior and all the hurt and pain we felt. I thought about all the things that my wife had to endure physically, emotionally and mentally up to that moment. It felt like a streak of bad luck. So I was angry, and I was sad because I wanted my wife -- my best friend -- to win. I wanted us to win!'"
"This couple had an unplanned C-section. More than anything, the dad brought a place of stillness and focus in the midst of all the busy-ness."
"Dad catching baby as his son is born in the water. These two were so connected through the labor process."
Blossom and Bloom Photography
"This dad wasn't positive he wanted to help 'catch' the baby and was rather nervous about the entire process. But after speaking with the nurse and doctor he was reassured he was going to do great -- and he did! He actually pulled his son up and onto mom's chest."
Jessica Mehu Photography
"After a long labor by his wife's side, this dad woke up from a quick nap at 2 a.m., scrubbed up with the midwife and eagerly delivered his beautiful baby boy!"
Little Leapling Photography
"This daddy helped deliver his son who was born en caul
during a home water birth!"
Francesca Marchese Photography
"This dad is a firefighter and paramedic. Part of the couple's deal was that if they were going to have a third baby, he'd get to help with the delivery. The amazing OB-GYN was super supportive of him being involved and when it came time for mom to push, basically walked dad through the delivery. He was completely hands-on, delivering his baby boy!"
Rachel Demand Photography
"These parents were having their third child and didn't know the gender. They had two boys already, so there was a lot of chatter about what this baby would be. I caught the dad's expression when the doctor said it was another boy. He was overjoyed!"
"Complete happiness! This was the couple's second daughter, born at home."
Lindsey Scholz Photography
"This couple opted out of knowing the gender before their baby arrived, so this is the very moment this dad got to tell his wife they had a perfect little girl!"
Laura Beck Photography
"This was the couple's sixth child, so the father was familiar with cutting the cord -- but he still used guidance from their midwife to be sure to get it right. All their boys were there and watched as their little sister was born. It was truly a full family moment."
Three Plus Photography
"This dad was so supportive throughout labor, and when a C-section was called for, he continued to advocate for his wife and baby every step of the way."
Holly Michelle Photography
"The moment in this picture was so beautiful. While the dad went in to be with his wife and meet their girl, I stood outside the OR doors with his mother. Then she watched as her own baby proudly burst through those OR doors with his baby, tears streaming down his face. He kept repeating over and over 'She's perfect! She's just so perfect, Mom!'"
"This was baby number four for this couple, and the dad is as excited as if he was becoming a father for the very first time!"
"This father was across the United States for military training so he was unable to come home. They started to Skype around the time she started pushing, and he was able to watch the whole thing sitting right there on the table next to her. When they moved the baby to the warmer, the doula took the computer over and held it over the baby so dad could see her up close. I cried!"
Public Kiss Photography
"This couple had really, really wanted a baby for several years. While I was waiting for the baby's father to come out from the OR, his sister said, 'I can hear him crying from here!' One minute later, we saw him -- covered in happy tears and holding his baby girl."
Jessie Fultz Photography
"Fathers play a very important role during C-sections. This dad provided comfort and a calming touch to his wife and his brand-new baby boy."
Photography To Remember
"This is from a twin delivery of his two boys born a week before their planned C-section. They had oxygen masks on as they needed a little assistance to breathe, and dad just stayed and stared at them the whole time!"
Julie Isaac, Sylva Photography
"This contented father gives skin-to-skin contact to his firstborn twin boy in the OR after the NICU nurses attended to him."
Brittany Brooks Photography
"This was a family-centered Cesarean with a clear drape, delayed cord clamping and immediate skin-to-skin. It was beautiful. I've never witnessed a hospital let a dad be so hands-on after birth. Here, he's helping with the weighing and measuring of the baby right after the C-section."
Shoots and Giggles Photography
"This father is holding his daughter for the first time with his wife and gestational carrier in the background."
Steph Jones Photography
"This proud and doting dad introduces his eldest to his future partner in crime -- the one he will forever pick on and protect! At just 16 months apart, these two are now inseparable."
Brooke Walsh of Peace Love Babies
"These dads waited for so long for their baby -- born via surrogate at a birth center -- that they were just completely overcome with joy when they finally got to hold him."
Welcome Baby KC
"This daddy and his first son are meeting and having a chat."
Birth is beautiful-Captured by Ina
"This dad's pregnant wife and unborn daughter tragically passed away years ago. He has their names tattooed on his ring finger, which is visible in the photo. Later, he met and fell in love with his wife. This is their first son, Jude. Holding him for the first time skin-to-skin was a very emotional moment."
* Captions have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.