By Regina Power
In today’s day and age, there is the expectation that men will attend the births of their children. If we look at the origins of men at birth in Australian culture, the Aboriginal people saw birth as strictly, “women’s business,” and actually demarcated areas where women gave birth with symbols to restrict the entry of men into the birthing space. This demarcation of men and women’s business is very common in traditional societies around the world. It has been no different in Western cultures, and it is only until recently that men have been welcomed into birthing rooms. Today, many men are only the second or third generation of fathers who have attended women at birth. This short history of birth attendance may mean that men may not yet feel comfortable or confident in being present at a birth and how to best support you during such an important life event. Therefore, it is important to find a way to help your man feel prepared and capable as your birth support.
You may wish to consider discussing with your partner how you would like to be supported at your baby’s birth. Up until this point in time, he may not have deeply thought about what would be required of him during the birthing process and may be ambivalent about his role. Men can provide fabulous and caring support at birth because there is no one in the room who will know you better and love you more. However, if men are not prepared and feel scared, their fear, anxiety and adrenaline can slow down your labour or even make it stop altogether.
Adrenaline is equivalent to hitting the brakes at a birth. Women are designed to give birth only when they feel it is safe to do so. This comes back to millions of years of survival instincts that are still inbuilt in the mammalian brain, the part of the brain that women go to when they birth. Therefore, if your man is losing the plot, your body will have greater difficulty letting go and progressing easily through the birthing process.
On the flip side, a man who feels prepared to support his partner, and who is confident in his role, can be a real asset in the birthing room. His loving presence and support can increase your levels of oxytocin, the hormone of love, that allows the birth to progress and will ultimately ensure heightened feelings of love and ecstasy after you birth your baby. These hormones are designed to bond mother, father and baby together so that they literally fall in love with each other at birth.
You yourself may have done a lot of preparation for the birth, but the take home message here is that your man also needs to have done some training too for this important life-changing event. Consider providing him with some resources that appeal to him. An excellent book for men is called, Men at Birth by Australian author, David Vernon. He also wrote an online article entitled, “Men at Birth – Should Your Bloke Be There?” If your man is just not going to sit down and read a book, a great piece about this topic is written by Kelly Winder, the BellyBelly Website Creator, called, “A Guide to Labour and Supporting Her for Dads-to-Be.”
I often say in my classes that your father may have attended your birth, but you may be the first generation of men in your family to be a useful birth support. I have been teaching the Calmbirth program for the last ten years and the beauty of the course is that it gives men the tools they need to know how to be a caring and useful birth supports. I am always deeply touched by the end of the weekend class, how men are often the first to respond when I ask, “What have you gained from the Calmbirth course?” Men are typically bursting with enthusiasm and excitement as they are now so clear in their role at the birth. Mothers feel a surge of confidence by the end of the weekend. They are clearer as to how to stay calm through the birthing process and work effectively with their body to birth their baby with greater ease. What is beautiful to witness is how couples leave the class feeling like they are now on the same page with an understanding of how they will work together to welcome their babies.
Birthing is not one of those moments in life when you can just wing it or leave it up to chance. Like other important life events, you want to be prepared and make this birth the the best moment of your life.. This is the day you become a family, so being well prepared can be the key to having a positive start to your life together.
Regina Power has a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology, is a Certified Doula and Calmbirth® Practitioner. She runs weekend classes in Berry, NSW just forty-five minutes south of Wollongong and two hours from Sydney.
www.southcoastcalmbirth.com.au ph: 02 4464 2244