“I told my dads that they were their partner’s lover and that their most important role at the birth was one they did everyday without classes, books or practice: Loving the mom. You could literally see the dads relax as this thought sunk in and took root.”
~ Lois Wilson, CPM
I don’t use these exact words, but I share something similar with the dads in my classes—your most important job is just to love her the way you love her, not to try to be anything different or more “special” than you already are…
Helping Men Enjoy the Birth Experience, by Leah Hazard
Nearly 70 years ago, Grantly Dick-Read wrote in Childbirth without Fear that laboring women often experience a cycle of: Fear > Tension > Pain. This is a cycle with which many of us are familiar, and we’ve developed a myriad of ways to break the cycle since Dick-Read first published his seminal work in 1942. However, less attention has been focused on the emotional roller-coaster fathers experience throughout pregnancy and birth, and it’s this area that I’d like to explore in greater depth.
Although a man cannot feel the same pain as a laboring woman, I believe that many men experience a similar cycle of emotions in the birthing space to that which Dick-Read described, with a slightly different end product, namely: Fear > Tension > Panic. A man who is not confident in his partner’s birthing abilities, who is poorly informed, and/or who is poorly supported, becomes increasingly tense; and if this tension is not eased, then he spirals into an irreversible state of panic. This panic manifests differently in different men: some men become paralyzed by their fear (the familiar specter of the terrified dad sitting stock-still at the foot of the bed), while others spring into hyperactivity, bringing endless cups of water or becoming obsessively concerned with the temperature of the birth pool.
The root of this panic is fear, and it’s a fear which often begins to grow long before the first contraction is felt. As such, we need to think about ways that we can address and minimize this fear in the days and months preceding birth…
[Please read the rest of this article excerpt in the full online version of E-News: http://www.midwiferytoday.com/enews/enews1221.asp ]
Excerpted from “Beyond Fear, Tension and Panic: Helping Men Enjoy the Birth Experience,” Midwifery Today, Issue 95 Author Leah Hazard is the author of The Father’s Home Birth Handbook. For more information, visit www.homebirthbook.com .
I really think the fear-tension-panic cycle makes a great deal of sense and it brought me to this quote:
“Fear is completely intertwined with what we experience as labor pain…And it is the fear in our physicians and nurses as much as the fear within ourselves.” –Suzanne Arms (Immaculate Deception II)
I think sometimes women underestimate the power the attitudes of other people in the birthplace hold over outcome (the nocebo effect, possibly)—while being prepared, confident, fearless, etc. as a birthing woman is excellent and she can sometimes manage to triumph over the fear of the others around her, I more often see the fear of others overriding the preparation and confidence a mother has tried to develop in herself. I think it is important that we actively cultivate coping skills and resources within fathers-to-be as well, so that they are less likely to get into the fear-tension-panic cycle and are better able to be present for the birthing woman (fear-tension-panic within doctors and nurses is a subject for another post!). Here are some other posts I’ve written specifically for fathers:
(P.S. Yesterday this was a much more developed post and WordPress erased it accidentally and to my great dismay 😦 )