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Are we asking too much of fathers at birth? - Page 2

post #21 of 59

Bradley dad here.

My dh was a marvelous Bradley dad. He did all the reading and helped me pratice all my new skills.

Did he hinder any of my births? No, his presence was calming and my labors very quick.

Did this affect our sex life? No. We were back at sex within two and three weeks of natural childbirth. If he found me unappealing, he never let on.

Duration of marriage... married 17 years and counting. Bearing children together has made us more of a team, not less.

I tell folks, a well-trained hubby is all the doula I will ever need.
post #22 of 59
My own thoughts are that it depends on each individual father.

It is important to respect and protect his participation in the birth of his child.

My own DH, who did feel it was a personal experience between he and I, appreciated those who interfered as little as possible with our experiences.

I would have liked a doula, but at that time, there were none, at least not in my area. My DH says he would not have minded a doula, if she was a doula who has a quiet presence, and instinctive. I know in the short and arduous birth of our third son, he was grateful for the two L & D nurses who acted as doulas, and essentially "held the space", and kept the door shut while I walked around, stood, squatted, etc, never once offering anything in the way of "medical" assistance, no monitor, no drugs of any kind, not even a hep lock. They taped my birth plan to the door and made sure it was followed.

I don't think we are asking too much from fathers in birth, we just need to remember that like us, men are all different, we should not generalize, we should try to be a "quiet presence" and individualize our care to meet the needs of the mama and her partner.

At least that is what I believe...




P.S. His participation did not hinder the process, I wanted him there and he wanted to be there.

Did not change our sex life at all, I think he wanted more. :LOL

He is pretty good at keeping any "reactions" to himself. The birth process does not scare him.
post #23 of 59
Oh and I just wanted to add too, because I have been thinking about this a lot with the upcoming birth of our first baby.

At the risk of generalizing, I will say that I have observed a culture in which women are taught that it is selfish to express their needs, which creates an environment where they don't express their needs...

When we partner, I feel that sometimes (again, just generally) we naturally assume our partners will automatically know our needs, and be able to meet those needs.....yet often times, while the desire to meet our needs is there---our partner simply doesn't know how---whether that is due to simple lack of knowledge, or to their cultural experience of being taught to be *fixers* instead or nurturers (I am speaking of men particularly)...

A very nice online friend of mine and I discussed this early on in my pregnancy and she gave me a simple, matter of fact piece of advice. She told me:

You need to tell your husband EXACTLY what you need and what you want during this labor and don't feel badly for it, or like he doesn't *love* you less for being as clueless as you are. He WANTS to be there for you, but women often will tell their partners---"I need you to be there for me"...and most men are thinking...okay, but what the hell does that mean???

Seriously, I think it is true. I think a lot of men---again, probably societal, maybe biological...need to have expectations clearly laid out...and I have given my husband the benefit of knowing exactly what I need (or think I will need, I have never done this before either!!) ...to me it is proactive, instead of just being like "I need you to love me" ...(or whatever) ...he DOES love me...he just needs to have a general outline of what exactly to direct that love during labor....and I am okay with that.

I think women have a much easier time helping women (in most areas, not just birth) because we are taught that it is okay to be nurturing and hands on and loving...(it begins with our doll *babies*)

Sadly, men aren't often taught that as a rule
post #24 of 59
I'll answer first wihout reading the article, in case it makes me afraid to answer.

My answer is YES. I think it is completely crazy to suddenly expect men, after so many years of evolution going one way, where birth was a female-guarded experience, to suddenly jump in there and know intellectualy and instinctively what to do.

With every birth my instinct was for my husband NOT to be there, but what I was "supposed" to do was somehow expect him to be a fabulous labor coach and partner.

My opinion is that the fewer men (including OB and medical types) who are around a birthing woman, the better.
post #25 of 59
oh-- but let me add-- I think the presence of a husband/ partner is vital in the hostile hospital atmosphere. Husbands can be useful if the woman is being mistreated in the institutional setting, functioning as an advocate for her. It can be very scary to be in a hospital alone, surrounded by (male and female) strangers.

but that's a different issue altogether.
post #26 of 59

baby daddies as birth partners

This is a very interesting conversation!
I truly think it depends on the man. I've attended births wehre the dad wanted nothing to do with anything and was greatful I was there to births where I played almost no role because of the father himself. I, personally, do not think it is always impairative for the father to be present for the birth. That's not quite what I meant, let me try again: I think that powerful things happen when a baby emerges and for those moments, I don't think it's so bad for a dad to be there. For labor itself though, I don't think it is necessary for him to be a part for it to be a "normal and good" experience for everyone else involved. I think there are plenty of couples that are strong and "together" that labor and birth beautifully together.

ON many levels I do think we ask far too much of our children's fathers when we ask them to attend births. My husband is the one who advised we get a doula for our first birth. He didn't know what to do and one of the first reasons he cited is because he wasn't a woman and women instinctively know how to care for women. Does that mean he was uninvolved? No, he was exactly as involved as he needed to be. Yes, I joke about how he took a 2 hour nap while I was up walking the halls of the hospital. You know what though? That's exactly what he needed to do to help the birth process along. I was surrounded by women (my mom, sister, and doula and intermitantly a fabulous nurse) and my DH was doing his part in his own way. I was never concerned about him missing the labor, only the actual emergence. I absolkuytely wanted him there but only as much as he wanted to be. Same the second time around. He did what he knew to do and wanted to do during the labor. FOr the emergence, he caught the baby, which he now advocates that all fathers should do

As a doula I sometimes feel uncomfortable asking fathers to do things. Some are very hesitant even though when I meet them prenatally they are very gung-ho "get me in on the action!". It's one thing to say it and quite another to be there in the moment. Most dads seem to know beforehand what role they want during a birth. Some seem rather conditioned to being there. "Of course I'm going to attend my wife's birth, where else would I be?" they say with their eyes when I ask if they plan to attend. Something that seems to work well as a bridge is to find tasks for the dads to do, which is anthropologically speaking a natural thing to do. What I mean by "do" is I find him errands to run, small tasks to accomplish that don't necessarily involve backrubs or labor dancing. They are all willing to run out and get more water or juice, freshen a rag to put on a mother's head, light another candle or two...those types of things.

I know I'm getting a little long... This is one topic I think about quite a bit actually. I think that if a dad is willing to be at a birth, that's fantastic. I don't think that we as a society should make him feel bad for attending or not attending, and we seem to do both. It's conditioned into us over the past few decades. With an increase in the numbers of women seeking doulas, I think that we (as a society) are little by little saying how we want women to attend us when we birth. Dads can be there, but we want women to tend to our needs. I don't think it's a bad thing for dads to be there, to be involved, I just hope they are comfortable with what they are doing. Oh, one more thing: I do think that if we are going to have dads attend births we collectively really need to support them more emotionally beforehand and afterwards, make sure they are fine, "mother the father" so to speak.

Namaste, Tara
post #27 of 59
The things I hear over and over are that dad wants to be there, but when mom is actually laboring:

1) Dad panics.
2) Dad is unable to see his wife in pain.
3) Dad sides with the nurses or doctors- against what mom wants.
4) Dad is supposed to run intereference, but doesn't.
5) Dad spends the ENTIRE time running interference, and isn't able to support mom.
6) Dad tries, but does all the wrong things.
7) Dad doesn't listen to mom.
8) Dad isn't flexible/ can't deal with a change of plans.
9) Dad is frightened by the birth.
10) Dad is disgusted/ grossed out by some aspects of birth.

I very RARELY hear of a good experience- even with friends whose partners were very involved, and did a lot of prep before the birth.

I don't know why that is. I hesitate to say that it is inherant in being male, and not understanding birth. Because to say so would also negate women who have not birthed. And I think there is more to it than such a simplistic explanation.
post #28 of 59
I totally agree with philomom. I had a bradley-style birth ( I call it Bradley-style because we didn't take classes, but did read and practice from the McCutcheon book), and the midwife and nurse at the birth center agreed that DH would make a great doula!

His calm voice in my ear was exactly what I needed , and we had a fabulous birth. I do think in some ways he was working harder than I was, since I was concentrating on relaxing and getting out of the way of my body doing the work, and he was noticing all the things that were going on, rubbing my back, talking to the midwife on the phone, etc.

We are planning on having this birth be as close to the last one as we can manage it.
post #29 of 59
Quote:
The things I hear over and over are that dad wants to be there, but when mom is actually laboring:

1) Dad panics.
2) Dad is unable to see his wife in pain.
3) Dad sides with the nurses or doctors- against what mom wants.
4) Dad is supposed to run intereference, but doesn't.
5) Dad spends the ENTIRE time running interference, and isn't able to support mom.
6) Dad tries, but does all the wrong things.
7) Dad doesn't listen to mom.
8) Dad isn't flexible/ can't deal with a change of plans.
9) Dad is frightened by the birth.
10) Dad is disgusted/ grossed out by some aspects of birth.
That's something I do a lot at a birth, help dad be okay with what is going on. It's hard to see someone you love in pain, especially if they know that that person doesn't want you to do anything to stop it (i.e. give drugs). Daddies need doulas too
Namaste, Tara
post #30 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by kama'aina mama
Yes! All so true! I gave birth at home and did get pretty primal... which I'm not sure I could have if I hadn't educated the piss out of my DH before hand so I could sign off mentally and say... "Okay: making decisions isn't my job today except for what I want to have happen/ feel in the next 60 seconds." I really can't imagine choosing a doctor for birth.

Yes! Yes! Yes! I agree with this sentiment entirely!

I loved being able to dialogue with my husband for the duration of my pregnancy and explain to him--if this happens, then THIS. If this happens, then THIS. When it was time to labor primally, I was totally "in the zone" and he was there to protect my space.

I agree that it is sad that he had to do that, BUT HE DID HAVE TO. I needed to lose myself in the workings of labor, and unfortunately, I was in a hospital. (Risked out of HB, but not this time )

He did a stellar job, but if he had been anyone else, or I had been, things would have been different.

Now that I really begin to process it, though, I wonder if he knew he had any other option than to be who he was for me. Hum.
post #31 of 59
I think that men are probably indeed not naturally inclined to understand what women need under any circumstance, but especially when we can only communicate what we need by moving or moaning or not saying or doing anything, as in labor. I think that most women I know, myself included, try desperately at some point or another to get men to be everything we need, and they just don't have it hardwired into them (not even the most loving and sensative men that I've met, like my husband) to read our minds. Men do not have it (huge sweeping generalizations here) hardwired into them to be nurturing, to know how to nurture. Women, generally speaking, are more inclined to know how to nurture, to talk soft, to ask where it hurts, to know how to stroke and when. Certainly women who have labored before are going to be the best at understanding what other women need during labor. I think though that there is the possibility of a man (though women are more likely to be like this) to be open and sensative and nurturing enough to be a good support, and that this has to do more with individual personality than anything.

I still believe overall though, that we're not short-circuiting anything we didn't already screw up years ago with all the other accroutements of birth (hospitals, doctors, machines, etc.) and that what women really need are trusted people at her labor for her to lean on. And, my husband did do the labor dancing with me, and he's still not a great nurturer and can't read my mind like I want him to, but he's really quiet, so he was able to as he described it, "be a bench" without interfering with my process at all. He did what Kama described, in a big way, as did everyone else around me - dealt with everything else so that I didn't have to think at all, so that I could tune right into my body and out everything else. I'm making preparations for my upcoming (any second now) birth so that there are fewer people around creating any minor distractions so that I can be as primal as I need to be. My plan is to do this myself, catch the baby and everything.
post #32 of 59
In all honesty, I think women are better served during birth by other women. Our society unfortunately has become so that we don't have that as a norm- but I think more work should go into making THAT the norm, not spent training husbands.
I have a feeling ( and haven't had the interest to go crazy researching, but I'm willing to say it anyway) that the idea of men becoming the "labor coach" was a mans idea. Through obstetrics etc.. men have taken domain over pregnancy and birth. I think the movement toward men being the primary "coach" is just one more way for men to take womens power away.

Certainly, I know that many women love having thier male partner with them during their labor and birth. There are also LOTs of women who really "secretly" wish they could just have thier baby with their womenfolk, but don't have the heart to tell their male partner because now it has become expected that they be there. I think that expectation puts pressure and resentment on both ends. Many women really dont' want their male partner there, and many men really don't want to be there. The women who don't want their men their feel like they have no choice, and vise versa.
post #33 of 59
I think that birth is really all about ritual. Humans no matter what the culture create rituals around the beginning of a person's life = entry into human culture. In our dominant culture at the moment, that ritual takes the form of medical care/interference, i.e., induction, c/s, epidural, pit, etc. In the sub-culture of homebirth, as I have experienced it, the rituals are different and more focused on interpersonal interaction w/the midwives, getting the supplies ready, etc.

Most tribal cultures *included* men in the rituals around birth by *excluding* them from the actual labor and birth and postpartum recovery in various ways.

In our culture(s), men are included in the rituals around birth by being given certain roles to play. I think that whether a woman feels good about how her male partner behaves at her giving birth depends on whether he conforms to/respects the ritual being performed. Protector, coach, etc. are all possible conformations to modern birth ritual. Some of the conformations are probably less comfortable for many men than others.

My own experience was a homebirth and my DH did an AMAZING job and I think it was a good experience for him, and us, too. He honored the ritual I/the midwives/my mom were performing and conformed to the role we assigned him: i.e., I am the one giving birth and I get to tell you what to do and then you do it.

He is an intuitive, feeling, non-linear, kind of guy so his ability to go with my flow didn't surprise me. But I do quite see that expecting that kind of behavior from men who are more concrete, thinking, linear kinds of people might be unrealistic.

Great discussion, thanks!
post #34 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Breathless Wonder
The things I hear over and over are that dad wants to be there, but when mom is actually laboring:

1) Dad panics.
2) Dad is unable to see his wife in pain.
3) Dad sides with the nurses or doctors- against what mom wants.
4) Dad is supposed to run intereference, but doesn't.
5) Dad spends the ENTIRE time running interference, and isn't able to support mom.
6) Dad tries, but does all the wrong things.
7) Dad doesn't listen to mom.
8) Dad isn't flexible/ can't deal with a change of plans.
9) Dad is frightened by the birth.
10) Dad is disgusted/ grossed out by some aspects of birth.

I very RARELY hear of a good experience- even with friends whose partners were very involved, and did a lot of prep before the birth.

I don't know why that is. I hesitate to say that it is inherant in being male, and not understanding birth. Because to say so would also negate women who have not birthed. And I think there is more to it than such a simplistic explanation.

I had an experience like this with my first DH with the birth of our first child. We were planning for a natural birth and were young, teenage sweethearts and pregnant in our early 20's with no real world medical experience. Stupidly we chose (is it a choice if we didn't know we had another option?) a hospital birth. My birth ended up being the first 4:

1) Dad panics.
2) Dad is unable to see his wife in pain.
3) Dad sides with the nurses or doctors- against what mom wants.
4) Dad is supposed to run intereference, but doesn't.

I think he was overwhelmed by the medical situation and those in positions of power (doctors, nurses) we weren't old enough to comprehend that we hired them to be our servants, we thought they were gods, knew more than us, etc. So he didn't run interference. We didn't realize how demanding a task it would be. He saw me in pain and when the nurses said the baby would die if I didn't get an epidural he of course sided with them.

BUT, a hospital birth is so un-natural to begin with it is hardly fair to clump this kind of birth in with the general question. Or is it? I don't know actually.

But yes, I think sometimes we ask too much. Of course there are different kinds of men. Like take my current DH. He is very sensitive, intuitive, etc. But he is a man. During my birth he slept most of it, but didn't panic, but didn't really try to involve himself. He knew it was women's work and left it mostly up to me and the midwives to know what to do. He had a deep trust in my body to know what it needed to do and in me as a woman to know how to respond to my body. He also had a very strong trust in the midwives, them being women and all, to know if they needed to step in. Which they never had to do. He sat back and took it in and I don't think he was a hinderance. I think if he had tried to do what our culture expects men to do, be a coach and help me breathe and all that crap he would have bugged the shit out of me. He was fine as a mellow spectator and a hard body for me to hang from in transition.

I don't think the current trend of "coach" is right, but that is just me. I think it is up to the individual couple. I don't think men should be pressured to take on any particular role. Especially if it is out of his comfort zone, the last theing a woman needs at her birth is some messed up energy of someone feeling forced to perform.
post #35 of 59
I haven't read any of the responses or the article yet... I just wanted toget my thoughts out -- yes, I do think that we ask too much of some men. My husband was amazing during my last birth but at least in part I think that was because ummm I expected nothing from him. I wanted him to be there, that's it. The fact that he offered a lot more than that was a pleasant surprise LOL

I think it's also unfair to women to give them the impression that their husband or partner SHOULD be the only help they need -- if a woman WANTS another woman (be she doula, mother, or friend) she shouldn't feel like she's violating some sacred space for her husband by relying on feminine support.
post #36 of 59
I completely agree with Philomom. I can honestly say, after 5 beautiful Bradley births, that there is NO ONE on this earth who could do a better job of helping me through birth than my husband. We are a stronger couple for it. Our sex life is astoundingly good and has only improved with each birth. We are a team, and we love each other all the more for each experience.

I have never liked this article, though I have a deep respect for Odent. I think he misses the mark in a big way. Why does this have to be black or white? Why does it have to be a choice between a man "instinctively" knowing what to do or "reading his wife's mind" or being completely excluded from birth altogether? What about the middle ground in which a father is educated and a wife is willing to speak up and tell him what she needs.

If we're going to expect a man to think like a woman or somehow know without being told exactly what we need, then OF COURSE, we're asking too much. BUT if we're willing to say, "This is what I need from you," I don't think we're asking too much at all.

I have assisted at births as an apprentice for 9 months now. I have given birth 5 times. I STILL have to listen to each mother to know what she needs from me. One will want to be touched. Another will not. One will want soft voices. Another will do better with a strong, in her face presence. They all tell us what they need and we provide it. If I tried to give to all women what I "instinctively" think they needed, I would be a poor labor attendant, indeed, because it's not about me, but her.

Whatever a woman needs from her partner is what she should get, be it backrubs, loving words, or space and distance. As long as a man knows that (read: as long as he is TOLD), I think he will do fine and he cannot help but enhance the birth process.

Sarah
post #37 of 59
Thread Starter 
See, I don't think he is saying men shouldn't be at the birth at all. I think he's implying that what we as women and a society expect from him is outside what men normally feel comfortable with.

I would expect the biggest opposition to come from Bradley couples. Definitely. But, I also feel that Bradley brought in men as protector, director and advisor...something that does fit in with their innate biology, but doesn't fit in well with the feminine work of labor and birth.
post #38 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by reader
. . .
He is a fixer, as most men are. He wants to make things better. And he has that mentality of, "What can I do? Tell me what I can do to fix this for you! Do you want something to drink? Here, you're hot! Let me see if I can get the ceiling fan to work for you! Dang, the ceiling fan is not working! Well, then I will FIX IT!!!! Don't mind me, I'm just going to fix the ceiling fan here... ignore the beeping. I will have it up and running soon!" That's what I mean. He was well intentioned, but had no primal knowledge of what I needed. I was hot, but I definitely did not need him climbing all over trying to fix the stupid fan.


I so related to this with my first labor and birth! My DP exactly. but in our case it was moving a fully-loaded bookshelf out of the bedroom to make room for the birth. "I just want to get this out of here"...

There's a lot in this wonderful thread I've been thinking about but no time to reply just yet... will be back after dd is in bed.
post #39 of 59
hm...lots of good points here. I think that I'm glad I was born when I was born, and that husbands are now present for births. I've never been comfortable around most other women (even as a child, my friends were mostly boys), and I can't think of a single woman I know who I would want in the delivery room with me - maybe my mom, but that's about it. I don't want nurses there, and I'm sorry my family doctor quit doing prenatal care, and I had to switch to his wife. He was much more understanding, and far less "by the book" than she is. (I'm not saying this is true of all female caregivers, but I've honestly found myself very uncomfortable around most of them.)

I agree that one of the reasons men became a fixture in delivery rooms is the loss of tribal culture. We went to a system where the woman didn't know anybody who was in the room with her (eg. the early 60s) from an older system where women in the community supported her. I think many women lost out a lot when the change happened, and bringing the spouses into it was an attempt to regain some feeling of connection to what was going on around them at such an emotional time.

(But, for myself, I'm glad. Having a bunch of women I know in the delivery room would be very uncomfortable for me. I suspect many of you will find this bizarre, but I have generally found male caregivers to be much less judgmental and condescending.)
post #40 of 59
Thread Starter 
on the contrary, Lisa, I think having a bunch of ANYONE in the birthing area is uncomfortable for many people! We've really turned birth into a huge spectator sport, with many adverse outcomes because of this. Births have turned into parties where women often cannot find that deep, intimate space to let go in.

My dream birth, I've realized, is me alone. When I think of having someone else there, it always comes back to my almost 11 year old daughter, not my husband, who I love so much.

My dh was great at my daughter's birth, but he has said that he was overwhelmed and felt so out of his element. Not to mention the rage he suffered from me because he didn't "save" me from the medical establishment. (Not that it was his job, but I sure was led to believe he could do it!)
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