This is where the real action happens and when most dads experience their transformation of becoming a father. I remember being a little kid and my dad telling me about when I was born. His face was full of amazement as he recalled my birth. Most of the dads I talk to share a similar feeling while describing the birth of their children. Even for the toughest pregnancies and births, dads recount sublimely wonderful moments of holding their children for the first time.
Quite a bit has changed since our dads had kids — and the the most dramatic shift has been the attitudes about dads at birth. We are no longer expected to stay in the waiting room, wring our hands and wait for the doctor to proclaim the gender of the new baby. Today, dads are getting involved in every aspect of the birth of their children and we are showing up at the births with high value. Women making empowered birth choices are asking for their partners to take a starring role in their support while giving birth. Many of the families I work with now tell me that they couldn’t imagine not being together every step of the way.
What does it mean to be a dad showing up with high value at the birth?
It means a willingness to allow the powerful force of procreation to move freely. A woman’s body knows how to give birth. You provide the environment that allows a woman to feel safe, where she can move with the contractions. Advocate for this kind of freedom. Amazing things will happen.
How do I create an environment in which a woman feels comfortable and free to birth?
Since you will have already talked about your birth plan in detail with your partner, you’ll already know which kind of environment helps her feel safe. In the birth time, put your focus and attention on the birthing mama. I remember my wife, Andrea, asking that nobody move during the contractions when she was in transition. She told me later she could feel the air pushing against her when people were moving through the room and hearing people talk was bringing her out of her concentration. She needed absolute stillness, total silence. So I stood there and breathed with her. And our birth team was able to do the same because we chose birth attendants that were in line with our birth philosophy.
What if we’re in a situation where the birth attendants don’t share our philosophy?
If you find yourself in a situation where interventions are being suggested that don’t seem necessary, then take action. The birthing mama needs you to step in, ask questions, and get involved. Unnecessary medical interventions in a hospital setting can start a cascade that can turn a normal birth into a c-section very quickly. The C-Section rate in the United States is a whopping 32%. Are we to assume that ⅓ of all births require major abdominal surgery? I think not. The tremendous work of the modern, gentle birth movement is likely to make that number decline considerably over the next generation, and you are part of that movement when you advocate for safe birth choices. If you are choosing a hospital birth, then you have the greatest opportunity to present knowledgeably about birth and to hold fast in your birth vision. Stand tall and congruent in your decisions to get whatever it is that the birthing mama requires to respond to the procreative force within her.
What if we are choosing to birth at home? What can I do to be present and supportive?
Choosing a home birth means you will be involved in the midwifery model of care, in which a birthing mama is given plenty of freedom to birth in her own way. This is why many families are choosing it. Over the months of the pregnancy, you will have formed a close relationship with the midwife and the doula, and this is the time when you all come together to be a powerful support team for the birthing mama. Your support could look like breathing through contractions with her, organizing the birth pool and managing the water, offering physical assistance through the labor in different positions, or organizing food for the birth team and birthing mama. Being present is simply about keeping your attention and focus on her needs as she goes through this amazing process.
*This is part two of a four part series: Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum, and Breastfeeding.