Fathers and Partners come to Supported Birth classes feeling nervous and excited.
Their most common fears are: not being supportive enough or correctly, wife’s pain, complications for baby or mom, not knowing what to do. Everything is UNKNOWN.
Supported Birth guides partners through the process of acknowledging their wives’ strengths, learning what to expect during labor and pushing, ways of supporting her through pain, understanding medical interventions, the option of a female labor support person for additional security. The couple participates in guided relaxations, pain and mental focusing practice, physical positions and movement practice, and talking through labor scenarios, from long labor to precipitous birth!
Our guided discussions include the PARTNER’S feelings about pregnancy, feelings about seeing partner in pain, feelings about life changes, relationship changes, attitudes beliefs about birth. We acknowledge that they are having a different experience from the pregnant woman and want to address these differences.
Our Dad film is made from interviewing 6 men and one woman (former Supported Birth students) who describe their own experiences of the birth, the postpartum period, changes in relationship, sex life, and roles, the newborn, fears and joys of fatherhood, and even the joys and challenges of having a child with disabilities.
Looking at the history of birth in America, we find that having fathers present during labor and birth (as opposed to women attendants) has been common only since the 1970s-1980s. It is still a relatively new, historical and cultural phenomenon! We take this for granted in our society but at the same time, many couples do not realize that their doctor and nurse will not be present in the L & D room for most of the many hours spent there.
Fathers and partners can be present in a gentle, loving way, supporting the mother by sensing her needs, being there, believing in her, maybe just holding her hand, rubbing her back, putting a cold washcloth on her head.
A birth guardian needs to be calm, yet sufficiently assertive; sensitive to dimming the lights or keeping distractions and chatter to a minimum. Protecting her privacy, while keeping those she trusts and feels connected to nearby. Protecting the birth environment is key.
Some fathers and partners are eager to play the primary support role and look forward to the adventure. Others have been burdened by the idea that their “coaching” is central to labor’s success, playing into romantic notions of bonding, as well as placing high expectations on a person who has never experienced a labor and birth, arguably the most intense physical experience a woman can have. They may feel more relaxed in a secondary role, as the “expert in the mom” as opposed to “the expert in birth.”
In this case, adding a female support person to the team becomes a primary way of supporting their wife. The Dad or partner is then free to have their own emotional experience as the birth of their child unfolds, as opposed to being in a possibly stressful unfamiliar role.