My husband is pretty fantastic. He’s super supportive of my doula work – making me breakfast-to-go in the middle of the night, listening to detailed birth stories, going with the flow of an on-call job. He’s a Math teacher, but he knows what a Foley bulb is and how to try to turn a posterior baby.
One morning, I came home after an all-day, all-night birth and handed him a bloody, plastic-wrapped bucket.
“It’s a placenta, ” I said with half-open eyes. “Can you put it in the freezer?”
He smiled, (At least I think so – I may have been asleep already.) and turned toward the kitchen, no questions asked.
But he’s come a long way. I remember sitting on a birth ball when the contractions were starting to come on strong with our first baby. We had been watching West Wing on our laptop in the early hours of labor when it was easy. But now I was moaning, rocking, and slumping my head against the chair in front of me. At the peak of a contraction I felt a half-hearted, distracted back rub.
“Good job, baby. Good job, baby……..Baby, good job.” I heaved myself up. His eyes were glued to the screen.
Needless to say, I asked him to shut it off (politely and graciously, I’m sure), and we kept laboring until we had a baby. And he was great.
For dads, birth is a pretty mysterious event until they are in the thick of it. Not only have most dads never witnessed a birth, but they have no way to relate personally. The physical sensations of pregnancy and birth are completely outside their experience.
If you’re planning a natural birth, your partner will likely be an important, if not the most important, member of your team. It’s important that they’re prepared for the intense reality of birth and ready to support you. Here are some ideas for helping them.
- 1. The obvious one – take a (great) birth class.
Often, it’s helpful for dads to get information from someone other than you. Especially if they’re new to the idea of natural, non-medical birth, hearing from an experienced teacher adds credibility and helps them make the paradigm shift.
Good teachers also create their classes with learning styles in mind. Men are often visual and kinesthetic learners, and taking an engaging class will help him (and you!) absorb more ideas and information. I also see that dads are more likely to engage in discussion and ask questions when they see other dads doing the same thing.
Birth classes can be a great platform for you and your partner to work through dynamics and personality conflicts that will come up during your birth. Having this kind of prompting come from an objective source makes the discussion easier.
What makes a good birth class? I recommend taking an independent class – not one taught at the hospital. While there are many good hospital teachers, these classes tend to center around hospital protocol, and often teachers are hesitant to present information that conflicts with policy, even when it’s backed by research.
I recommend private classes from Lamaze, Birthing from Within, Informed Beginnings, or Bradley. If you’re working with a doula, get her referrals – the caliber of teacher matters more than the method.
- 2. Connect your partner with other men who’ve experienced natural childbirth.
If you have friends who’ve had a baby recently, have them over for dinner and ask them to share their story. It’s always fun to hear both sides of the story, and it helps to demystify labor and birth. You can also ask your partner to watch some birth videos with you. The birth of Moonbeam is a new favorite of mine. Dad actually catches the baby!
- 3. Watch The Business of Being Born.
This 2007 documentary is a great eye-opening conversation starter. I’ve seen dads fired up (sometimes more than moms!) and excited to support their partners and advocate for the best birth possible.
- 4. Have him do some reading.
Ask him to read chapters of birth books that are helping you. If he’s got the time, The Birth Partner is awesome. I’ve known dads who bring it to the birth and use the index to help them. It’s a great resource.
- 5. Get a doula
One of doula’s main roles is to help dad help mom. Doulas possess skills earned at numerous births that no man (or woman!) can pick up from a book or video. In my doula interviews, I like to talk about the power of a doula to free dad to be what only he can be. For most women, their partner will be their closest friend and most intimate ally in the birth room. A doula can focus on the details – acupressure, position change, etc. – so that your partner can whisper encouragement and give you hugs in a way that only he can. Often times, I find myself behind mom doing the hip squeeze while she fully leans into her partner chest, her arms wrapped around his neck.
A doula can also help dad relax. Birth, especially the first time, is intense and can be scary. If the doula is acting normal and calm, partners feel assured that everything is, in fact, normal. I had a client whose husband was pretty freaked out by her blood loss immediately after birth. Blood was gushing a bit, but just in the way it normally does. He kept looking to me with huge eyes and mouthing, is she okay??? He felt assured by my happy smiles and nods. His wife knew nothing of our exchanges, but he was put at ease.
Doulas are available at every price range based on experience, and costs vary a lot by area. Doulas-in-training will often offer a complimentary package. Here’s a good place to start a doula search.
Dads can feel overwhelmed at the prospect of supporting their partners without the help of medication. But when prepared, they’re empowered to offer a real backrub, arms to lean on, and maybe even hands to catch your baby.
Lindsey lives on and loves the west side of Chicago with her husband Mike and her kids – Caleb, 4 and Lily, 2. She works part time as a doula and childbirth educator and is fascinated by all things birth. In winter she likes to bake with sourdough, and in summer she likes everything. In all things, she is covered with God’s grace.