Expectant fathers expected to ‘do something’
What’s an expectant father do at birth? Who shows him what to do? What do women want? Everyone expects fathers-to-be to know what to do as though being at a very dynamic and infrequent, intense experience somehow is so important that he should do something but not important enough to give fathers the right skills to help. That’s shocking but no surprise. There is no societal expectation that pregnant women should learn skills much less birth-coaching skills for dads. No one has taught you how to help a woman give birth. If you ask your partner who taught her how to give birth, she’ll probably tell you ‘no one’. For such a big experience you’d think we’d have more skills-based education know-how. Birthing Better Childbirth Preparation Online Course wants to change your approach to your baby’s birth.
Expectations changed for expectant father
Since the 1970s, fathers have been permitted to be with their partner during labour and delivery. Actually women wanted their husbands to come and help. Before that, most birthing women were left alone but really wanted someone to help them cope with the natural occurring contraction labour pain. It took a while longer for fathers to be permitted into a cesarean delivery. Birthing women wanted their husband/partner to be with them at a Caesarean as well.
If you’ve paid any attention to your role, you’ve probably heard that you should support your partner. Again, it may be that no one has defined the term support to you.
In the 1970s fathers were expected to ‘coach’. That term went out of fashion in the early 1980s because some people thought that was telling women what to do, sort of like a sports coach screaming from the sideline and shouldn’t be done.
Coach or support
Let’s really think about these two terms (support and coach). You can decide for yourself which role you would like. When you support someone, you are there. Some support actions are: holding hands, wiping the face with a wash cloth, being hung on, massage or even breathing along with the woman. This is if she is labouring. If she is having a surgical delivery, a cesarean, then supporting her means sitting by her side, holding her hand and being there.
Coaching someone will use the same actions as support, as well as give guidance, work together with and share a set of skills. Coaching is supporting with the ability to really help.
Pregnancy is the Time
It seems the appropriate time to learn these skills is during pregnancy. In fact common sense would suggest that pregnancy, preparing for birth and learning birth skills go together.
Until 24 weeks no one is really thinking about the birth itself, but after 24 weeks time seems to fly by. Each week gets you closer to the Big Day, so it’s a natural time to prepare for birth whether your partner will have a labour/delivery or a cesarean delivery. There are wonderful coaching skills to learn such as Directed Breathing, the Pelvic Clock, Hip Lift, Sacral Manoeuvre or Deep Touch Relaxation.
Our shared human body
Men and women have pretty much the same human bodies ones so learning a set of ‘common language skills’ based on our human body is quite simple because the skills are easy to feel inside your own body. Birth is the same worldwide because 100% of pregnant women will give birth.
A birthing woman will always breathe and you can help her do so in the most relaxed manner. Her body will always be in some posture or position and you can help her remain relaxed. Women’s brains work overtime during birth even if they don’t do a lot of talking. So coaching your partner during labour and birth will help her feel more in control and an active participant. She’ll be able to work with your baby’s efforts to be born which leaves everyone feeling empowered.
Not only does your partner want you to help her, your obstetrician or midwife absolutely wants you to help as well. They just don’t want you to get in the way of their need to do any medical care.
As a father, and being a great birth coach, you’ll get lots of pride, gratitude from your partner and praise from your birth provider. This will be great and create great memories you’ll have about the birth of your child.
You already know that pregnancy is an action word, with your partner’s body changing and your baby growing. Birth is an action word too. Your partner has to do the work and you have to move beyond just being there, to taking an active role as a great birth coach who supports and offers skills as well.