I had turned 16 just two weeks before my son was born and his father was several months younger than me. In consequence while I was in hospital giving birth he was at school preparing for his mock GCSE's! Our two year relationship had ended during my pregnancy but we had decided to maintain an amicable association for the sake of our child, even so, it was never really an option for him to be there at the birth. I wanted someone there who I could rely on to support me, and that person was my mom. The first time his father saw him was a few hours after he was born, though I am told that from the moment he got the news that he had a son he announced it loudly and excitedly to everyone who would listen.
As a young, single parent-to-be, the staff at the maternity hospital where my son was born treated me appallingly. When I arrived at the hospital in labour I was given sleeping tablets and pain killers and marched off to a room in an isolated ward where the midwives left me on my own for roughly seven hours. They had sent my parents home when we arrived, implying that I probably wasn't really in labour I just thought I must be because it happened to be my due date. I slept for less than two hours, despite the medication they'd insisted I take, and spent the next 3-4 hours of labour alone. A midwife popped in about an hour after I called for help, confirmed I was in labour then disappeared. I didn't see anyone else for approximately 3 hours. They finally called my parents at about 7 in the morning and my mom was able to be with me for the last two hours of my labour. I am convinced that had I arrived at the hospital with my 'partner' I would have been treated very differently. He would have been encouraged to stay with me for starters and I would not have been left to cope alone, nor would I have been treated as foolish simply because my labour began on my due date - I'm sure this perception derived from my age and single status both of which were taken to denote low intelligence. I would like to hope that things have changed and single parents are treated with equal respect and consideration as those who are part of a couple in 2012 but I suspect that some prejudices persist in society despite efforts to overcome them.
Shortly after my son's third birthday his father stopped seeing him and they didn't reconnect until two years ago when my son tracked him down at the age of 22. I don't know whether the link between father and child would have been stronger if my son's dad had been present at his birth but I think my experience of childbirth may have been better had I had a partner by my side. I know also that the relationship between my own parents and my son was stronger than that between 'normal' grandparents and their grandchild and he consdiers them to have made a significant contribution to his life and experience of growing up.