Tag Archive | fathers

Resources for Fathers to Be

“The transition to fatherhood is one of the most significant and challenging experiences a man will ever face. In order to have a satisfying and successful experience fathers must feel safe, supported and confident. To optimize the possibilities for our families, we need to provide appropriate educational, physical and emotional support for ‘father love’.

Patrick M. Houser (Fathers to Be)

I recently learned of a book for fathers called Fathers to Be Handbook. I always have my eyes open for resources for fathers and this  looks like a great one. I look forward to reading it soon.

Other books I’ve recently read and recommend for fathers to be are the nurturing, respectful, encouraging book Fathers at Birth and the practical and informative The Father’s Homebirth Handbook. In classes, I also hand out the short publication Dads Adventure. I love photos of dads and babies and one on the homepage of Fathers at Birth is priceless. I like the pictures in Dads Adventure also. There was also a great picture in the article in New Beginnings in which I learned of the Fathers to Be Handbook in the first place.

I have a smallish collection of other books for fathers and I also have the DVD Homebirth Dads (the resources mentioned above without “homebirth” in the title are for fathers in any birth setting, the homebirth specific titles have a special emphasis on homebirth, but are still useful to anyone preparing for birth).

If you have any other favorite resources for fathers please tip me off about them! I am constantly seeking ways in which to become a better resource to families.

I just wrote about this subject on the ICEA blog as well.

For other posts I’ve written about fathers, click here.

The Daddy Brain

Two media items caught my eye today that relate to fathers. One was a short clip from “DadLabs: taking back paternity” called “Are birth classes worth it for dads?” The clip debates whether men belong in birth classes–as a birth educator who strives really hard to “reach” men in my birth classes, I was holding my breath on this one! They talk to several fathers, mothers, and one doula. I think the conclusion seemed to be that birthing classes are important and dads can benefit from them, but I’m not totally sure because the two hosts were kind of arguing about it!

The second piece was an article from Greater Good Magazine called The Daddy Brain. The article is about a stay-at-home dad and also addresses biology and child-rearing. A section I liked explains:

“In researching my new book, The Daddy Shift, I read every word I could find in peer-reviewed scholarly journals about caregiving fathers, breadwinning moms, and the science of sexual difference. I also interviewed dozens of parents….Here’s what I discovered: Where once it was thought that the minds and bodies of men were hardly affected by fatherhood, today scientists are discovering that fatherhood changes men down to the cellular level. [emphasis mine] For more than a century, it was assumed that mothers, not fathers, were solely responsible for the care, life chances, and happiness of children. In recent years, however, we have discovered that father involvement is essential to a child’s well being, and that dads provide unique kinds of care and play that mothers often do not.”

Labor is like stairsteps…

I have a pile of things to blog about about and one of them was this quote from the book Fathers at Birth:

“Labor is like stairsteps. There is an incline, then a plateau. Another challenging incline, and another plateau. The inclines get steeper and more intense as labor progresses. The plateaus get shorter. However, in deep labor, the incline can go straight up, off the charts, without a plateau. Sometimes women are very close to pushing when this happens and do not know it.”

As a father-to-be, if you notice inclines with no, or very short plateaus, you will know that your baby is very close to being born. Reassure your partner about the wonderful job she doing, how great everything is working, and that she is getting closer and closer to meeting the baby!

More About the Three P’s of Birth

Some time ago I wrote a post about the commonly used “three P’s” of birth. The P’s most often referred to are the Powers (contractions), the Passage (pelvis and soft tissues), and the Passenger (the baby). In my post The Three P’s I came up with some different P’s that could be used instead–both P’s that help and P’s that hinder birth. In reading The Big Book of Birth recently, I came across another section about the three P’s. She uses: Patience, Practitioner, and Partner as the three things we need in labor:

“Everyone involved in labor needs a lot of patience….Partners need to stay focused on the laboring woman and often need just as much assurance that things are going well…Practitioners need patience because every woman’s body does this ever so slightly differently…”

She goes on to explore the role of the Practitioner and how while the primary role is clinical care for mother and baby, women “also need respect and reassuring language for their body and their experience. This has a profound impact on how we experience labor. If we feel undermined, ignored, violated, discouraged, condescended to, or made to feel stupid or as if we have not been acting in the interest of our baby…this tends to skew our entire perception of the day our child is born.”

Similar to posts I have made before about the role of fathers at birth, she emphasizes that the role of the Partner is important primarily because “our partners…[who] know us so well, are often the most valuable person in the room when it comes to ‘being there’ for us.”

No Right Way + Fathers at Birth

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a mother from one of my most recent birth classes. She told me something that her husband said to her in labor that I found very profound. Staff at the hospital were becoming concerned that this mother’s labor was “not progressing” and “not normal.” She, in turn, became worried that she wasn’t normal and that something was wrong. Her husband told her: “There is no normal. There is no right way. There is only your birth.”

This was so beautiful, and so true, that it brought tears into my eyes. Last week I finished reading a new book called Fathers at Birth by Rose St. John. In it, she addresses something similar:

“Of course your baby is the greatest gift of labor. but another great gift is you are pressed to your max or beyond, and you succeed. It expands who you know yourself to be…Labor is all about finding your threshold and learning you can go beyond it…If your partner feels, for whatever reason, that labor did not unfold as she had hoped, she needs your assurance. No woman should be judged or judge herself for doing whatever she has to to do to bring her baby forth into this world. And no man should be judged or judge himself for how he attends his partner or how he responds to birth. You are dealing with life on the edge. You do not know what will happen in it, and you are not in control. Together, you are participants in the mystery, and you do the best you can…On some levels, it doesn’t matter how you both get through labor. There is no prescription. No script. No right way. Its commanding power does not depend exclusively on you or your partner to do it. No matter how you get through, it alters and expands you…whether you are powerfully present, totally absent, or anywhere in between; birth deposits its power into your lives. The transformation is enduring. You can never go back.”

She also addresses the “weight” men shoulder when attending their partners in birth:

“Since men are not the ones doing the actual labor and birth, they may be embarrassed to admit how exhausted and relieved they are once it is over and all is well. they may also be reluctant to admit the amount of dedication and work it took them to attend their partner. I don’t think most women (or anyone else) realize the weight many men shoulder during labor and birth. What happens to a man’s partner and his baby, in effect, happens to him…[quote from father re: being present for his wife in labor] I don’t think anyone has any idea of the amount of effort it takes to be in a physically supportive role where you have to take action, yet be in a witness role where you have to be truly present…”

I posted more about this new book at Citizens for Midwifery:

Fathers at Birth

and More About Fathers at Birth

and also at the  International Childbirth Education Association:

Fathers at Birth

Fathers’ Roles at Birth

Fathers at Birth Book

Today, I was extremely excited to learn about a new book called Fathers at Birth by Rose St. John. I am really looking forward to reading it and I think there is a deep need for a book like this in the birth community. I am mindful of the need to include father-specific information in my birth classes, but I find it difficult sometimes to locate many good resources for fathers, or to develop class content that engages fathers in a relevant and connected way.

I will post more when I’ve read it!

Edited to add: I posted more about this book and fathers at birth here.

A Father’s Role

I recently finished reading the new book Labor of Love by Cara Muhlhahn and I was struck by this quote:

“Anyone would cry to see the way families interact around a homebirth. In a home environment, the intimacy and integrity of the family, especially the father or partner, often have pivotal roles to play. In the hospital, these key players are mostly cast aside except to hold the woman’s hand and cheer her on: ‘Push!” At home, they can support the mother in any number of invaluable ways, from regulating the temperature of the water in the pool to preparing food or choosing her favorite music.”

I have noticed this as well–I recently watched the new documentary Orgasmic Birth and was struck by the glaring differences in how fathers behaved at home compared to in hospitals. At home, they embraced their wives. They danced, they murmured, they stroked, they kissed, they held. At the hospital, they held her hand or tentatively stroked her back (with body at a distance–just a hand reaching out to lightly touch her). I’ve seen this in real life as well. I tell men in my classes not to be “scared” of their wives in labor, but to walk through the waves (of discomfort, anxiety, whatever) and just hold and love her. I tell them that they do not need to be “trained” to be more “special” or different than they are. They don’t need to be doulas. What they need to do is love her the way they love her and reach out to her to show her that. I tell them that hospitals can be intimidating and it can be awkward to show physical affection in that setting, but to do reach past that and do it anyway. I’ve read a number of posts and emails recently about whether fathers belong at birth–I think they do, but I also think that the hospital climate too often discourages them from having a real role or being valuable. I think they can be stripped of their position as “lover” and “father” and left feeling helpless and useless.

Ideas for supporting your partner in labor

One of my favorite handouts to give in birth classes is a “Cliff’s Notes” to labor support. It is a two page handout with a variety of reminders and ideas about supporting your partner or wife during her labor. There are small illustrations as well and a review of the stages of labor. The handout is available here from the website Transition to Parenthood. This site offers a variety of useful handouts for childbirth educators and for parents-to-be and I really appreciate the educator’s generosity in making her materials available online like this!

The handout referenced focuses primarily on physical support and comfort measures of the laboring woman. Some additional, less concrete things I like to remind fathers-to-be of are:

  • Follow her lead. Labor is like a dance and your partner is leading the dance! Anything I say in class or anything you’ve read about is less important than what she is actually doing and you responding to her.
  • The most important thing you can do is just love her. This is more important than learning “techniques.” Just love her the way you love her and she will feel your love and support.
  • Let it happen. I encourage women to “let birth happen” and to let it flow. As her support person, you can help her by letting her let it happen (instead of hushing her or telling her to calm down or asking her to do something different than what is working for her).
  • Don’t interrupt a woman who is coping well with a new technique or idea–if what she is doing is working for her, encourage THAT instead of trying to introduce new ideas or tips.
  • Remember that as a support person you may also experience the three “emotional signposts” of labor–these are excitement, seriousness, and self-doubt and they correspond to stages of labor. A woman in early labor shows the excitement “signpost” a woman in active labor tends to be very serious and “busy working” and during transition many women show a self-doubt signpost maybe saying they “can’t do this anymore” or “I can’t do this much longer.” It is okay to let your partner know that you are experiencing excitement and seriousness, but try to keep the “self-doubt” signpost under wraps and don’t show her that you are also experiencing that one! Be as calm and supportive and confident and trusting as you can as she journeys through the sometimes challenging time of transition in her labor.

Helping yourself while helping your wife or partner in labor

Giving birth is an intensely physical process for the woman giving birth and sometimes we forget what an intensely physical process it is to assist a woman giving birth! Here are a few ideas of ways to take care of yourself while you are helping your wife or partner labor and give birth:

  • Bring healthy snacks for yourself (avoid anything that is strong smelling, like garlic, and don’t drink coffee)–granola bars, sandwiches, trail mix, crackers.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
  • Dress in layers–the birth room may be cold or it may be hot.
  • Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting stained.
  • Use good “body mechanics” when providing physical support to your wife. Bend your knees slightly and keep your back straight when helping support your wife in a standing squat. If providing counterpressure on her back with your hands, keep your arms straight and lean your body weight down onto her back to provide the counterpressure, rather than using the muscles in your hands or arms to provide it.
  • Take breaks if you need to–it is okay to take a bathroom break or to get something to drink! If your wife or partner does not want to be left alone, have your doula or a helpful nurse serve as a quick stand-in for you. Use your judgment as to whether to announce to your wife that you are taking a quick bathroom break. Some women may be upset at being “abandoned” without warning, while other are so into the rhythm of labor that they will not notice you taking a quick break and it is better not to disturb their rhythm by making a big announcement that you are leaving.
  • If you feel yourself getting tense or anxious, take slow, deep breaths from your abdomen or do a few quick tension relieving stretches such as rolling your neck from side to side or rotating your shoulders.
  • I encourage women to use affirmations during pregnancy and then during labor to help them greet their labors with confidence and acceptance. Though it might seem silly or feel awkward, you may wish to develop some affirmations to use yourself as well as you assist your wife in labor–try things like, “I am calm and confident” or, “each contraction is bringing our baby closer,” or, “my mind is relaxed, my body is relaxed,” or, “her body knows how to birth our baby.”
  • Trust birth and the process–your wife’s body is well designed to give birth to your baby. She can do it! Believe in her and believe in yourself!