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Are we asking too much of fathers at birth? - Page 3

post #41 of 59
Actually, I remember being angry at my ex for that, too. I went in and had a very unexpected c-section. They prepped me in the delivery room, and the last thing I remember saying is "babe, I don't want a #&$*@ c-section. No - I don't want one. Babe - no...I don't want one". He didn't do anything - not that he could have - and I was really kind of angry afterwards.

Dh has been terrific. He says that he really doesn't understand how I feel about the sections (how could he?), but he does understand that it's traumatic for me, and he's come with me to the OB because he knows I'm more likely to speak up if he's there.

Now, we'll just see how many people the hospital thinks have to be around for my birth! I think alone sounds pretty good...but I think I'd prefer just me and my dh. Actually, my son being there would be okay, but he's 12, and I think he'd wig out...
post #42 of 59
My dh and I got very "psychic" during both births.

He was a calm island in a stormy sea. He never let on fear, or discomfort... he just let me slip in and out of labor land quietly and comfortably as he fed me drinks, held me in whatever position I wanted, and spoke quietly and gently when he needed to speak. I honestly wouldn't have felt as comfortable around any other woman as I did with my husband, not even my sister or closest friends. It was just my dh and midwife for both of my homebirths, except for pushing... we let his mom in for the actual baby catching of our daughter, and she and my daughter watched the birth of my second, my son.

I honestly couldn't imagine NOT sharing this most intense life changing experience with him. We still talk about it all the time; it's the most amazing thing we have ever done together. I say together because he was actually pushing with me; we sent out visualizations together when my second was born blue and I hemmorhaged; he was the only person I know who could keep me calm and anchor me.

Just my .02!
post #43 of 59
Interesting thread.
The only thing I have to add at the moment is that my absolute worst moment with the birth of my daughter was when they tried to send her dad out of the room for the epidural. I was a disaster at that point, and sobbing & begging him to not leave me, and he told them there was no way in hell he was going anywhere. They let him stand a few feet away from the bed while they put the epidural in.

And now, I can't imagine going through it this time around without my fiance--maybe it's selfish? I still can't imagine, though.
post #44 of 59
Originally Posted by pamamidwife
Are we basically demanding that a man go against his biological processes during labor and birth by requesting that he coach, be knowledgeable about the birth process, and advocate for us?

I'd love to get feedback on this article: http://www.michelodent.com/news.php?id=10

Keep an open mind, and really try to let go of your own experience and that of what we've been conditioned to believe is "best".
Back to answer, now that dd's in bed...

First I want to say that letting go of my own experience is impossible. That kind of impartiality is not possible when considering birth. However, I do think it's possible to think critically about the role of men and other birth attendants at birth without the illusion of objectivity. Oh, and I did read the article.

OK, to answer the first question:
I don't think it's biologically innate for anyone, man or woman, to coach/guide/advocate for a woman in labor. So you can't go against a process to coach and advocate and be knowledgeable. And I'm not so sure the division of labor is biological, either. At least in that protector/hunter (male) vs. processor/provider (female) way we all assume is innate. Nevertheless, I DO feel it is not right to expect someone who cannot experience what we do (birthing women) to intuitively provide birth support. I think it is possible for someone who loves you, man or woman, to support you no matter what. And to be receptive to what you need when you ask for it/describe it to the best of your ability. In a home birth, this is the only appropriate role for anyone who is not the laboring and birthing woman.

In another thread long, long ago another poster (fourlittlebirds?) theorized that midwives have been around for a long time, definitely since the beginnings of male-dominated societies. But that this doesn't mean that midwives are an inevitable part of our evolution, that women evolved to need midwives and other attendants to birth. That perhaps the idea of birth attendant is only a need of patriarchal societies who invest heavily in regulating the women-only activities of birth and labor, as other parts of society important in women (and children's) lives are regulated, monitored and controlled. This idea made SO much sense to me, and led me to part of what I think about the role of partners in home and non-home births: that when there is a male-dominated institution at work, such as hospitals, birth centers, even in the home, men and women are necessary or expected birth attendants. In the home without patriarchal control and rule, attendants are not necessary and/or expected because the woman and her physiological autonomy is not threatened at all during the process. She needs no buffers.
This is where the Bradley folks and I part ways, and where the hospital birthers and I part ways, and the nurse-midwives and I part ways, but that's OK.

I read the article, and think Odent's thoughts are applicable to hospital birth experiences primarily. And pam, I ask, who is "we", the ones you describe as "basically demanding that a man go against his biological processes during labor and birth"? Birth attendants? Moms? I ask because I think there are definitely cultural forces that expect dads to be present at birth and labor, at the expense of other, perhaps more appropriate, birth rituals for fathers and partners. And the sex thing is so wrong. But Odent implies something interesting: that by attending a Women's Mystery, a truly sacred event for women, that men are denied their own sacred mystery. That in our rush to include everyone men are told to participate without preparation, without a specific, non-dominating role to perform. Perhaps Odent's really implying that we need to consider non-male-dominant birth environments for women, without really suggesting alternatives because he doesn't feel that is his role.

Oh, if we had our tribes! Maybe we do in some relatively isolated religious communities, and some cohousing or other extended familial communities, but not for most of us. Then birth attendants could arise organically. Then perhaps we wouldn't need to think so hard about whether it goes against a biological process when someone else participates in birth.

My favorite author, Derrick Jensen, says that (paraphrasing now) when we (humans) still ourselves and listen to the land/animals/the world/each other, and hear the difficult parts, then we can start to hear ourselves. And that when we start to hear ourselves we can truly make decisions about what we need to do to support the well-being of others who share the world with us. That only then will our actions and choices arise "organically", from the nature of the situation itself. I feel this way about everything, but especially about parenting, birth, and wellness. This applies to the "necessity" of informed, active birth partners, midwives, or unassisted/free births.

Odent's article is useful because it helps us question the unquestioned assumption of men's presence and undirected "support" during most attended births. I have long believed that our dominant culture harms or diminishes men as well as women (the "patriarchy is bad for everyone" argument), and this is perhaps one example. On the other hand, it *is* important that women have advocates in hospitals and birthing centers! If a partner can be that person, wonderful. If it's a midwife or doula, great! But at home... not so sure.

I'll finish my long rant with a thought about my dp: he has been for me an amazing ally in all things important to me, including going unassisted for this upcoming birth. He is the anti-dominant male, the anti-racist white guy, the anti-fundamentalist, anti-sports and violence, the pro-queer, anarchist beacon of hope for gentle, thoughtful sexy men (and he posts regularly here on MDC...). Because of that, I firmly believe that my home is my refuge from the larger society, from the ugly and oppressive forces of dominant culture, religion, etc. I hold him to the same philosophical intentions that I hold because I would go crazy without another person who shares my values about family, life, work, everything. So... He has become my tribe, as others have described their DP's. In that respect I now trust him to be present in the house when I birth, without interference, without pressure. Not needing to fix anything :LOL , and not feeling like I need him to "deliver" my baby, he can focus on his role in our family: taking care of our dd, cleaning the house, feeding me, etc. This *is* how he is biologically wired. And, coincidentally, what I need. Go figure.

pam, thank you for starting this and all of the other "right" question threads... you rock my world over here!
post #45 of 59
And I forgot to add this apparent irony:

Odent is an obstetrician. And a man. If it's unreasonable to expect fathers to be ready to support their partners, why is it reasonable for a (male) physician? How would he remain calm, handle his emotions, remain still so the mom can bond with her newborn, etc.?

Is the obstetrician's participation at birth dangerous?
post #46 of 59
My first feelings - are we asking too much of fathers at birth? Yes. We're asking them to be well informed, strong advocates, intuitive labor support, not squeamish, as well as men about to become fathers (whether for the first time or the third.)

Related to the article... well, I don't think the nuclear family is a 20th century invention. We've a strong culture of the nuclear family in the US dating all the way back to colonial immigrants, following the frontier forward. We're a nation of people who've left their extended family and support behind them. This has shaped the strong national values we have of independence and self-sufficeincy. And men didn't enter the labor room for the first time in the 60s in this country either, only the hosptial ones. Following those frontiers, and the pioneer culture, men have been more intimately involved in the birth of their babies in that rural isolation, albeit probably in the face of simply having no one else available. Maybe it's never been a big cultural phenomena, but as I've read accounts of it, it certainly wasn't unheard of either. So I guess my point is - Odent can discuss the merits or dangers in it, but not so much in the context of it being an entirely recent development.

Now whether or not this is a good or bad thing - well, we don't expect all women to give birth, and those that do we don't expect to all do it in the same way. Fathers the same credit, I don't expect all of them to be required to participate in birth, and I certainly don't expect all of them to be able to be there in the same ways. In my own experience, I didn't really know what I'd need or how my husband would be, but I learned some valuable new respect for him during our hb. He showed so much fortitude, calm, and an amazingly strong bladder, lol. To repeat others - he was my rock. He was able to just be. Press here on my back and just hold and hold and hold. Hold me here and hold and hold and hold. He was able to be a supportive stillness, someone who could just hold me hand and be. And be, and be. Without questions or demands or distraction, or impatience, in a long shared understanding and intimacy. Heck, I'd get alarmed when he would just try to slip off to use the bathroom, so I know it was tough on him. When our daughter was born, there were tears in his eyes. And for my skeptic, atheist man of such stoic reserve, I feel safe in hazarding that is was as close as he's been to a purely sacred spiritual event. And if hadn't labored with me for the 30+ hours leading up to it, I don't know that it would have had the power of the moment that it did. And it's not something I would ever deny to him. In retrospect anyhow. So I think (some) dads can be completely amazing at labor and birth, possibly offering a degree of intimacy unmatched by any other birth attendant. And maybe men deserve that moment too, in their own way of experiencing it, if they want it.

Now my fears are that in a future birth, perhaps we'll find ourselves in the hospital, and I fear that I will need him to be my advocate, and that will be asking him to stretch to meet a role that is ill fitting for him, and won't allow him into that space of quiet strength and being. To demand that of him will completely change the birth for him, and is probably... asking too much. Hmmm.
post #47 of 59

TBH, my gut reaction is that I'm really uncomfortable with an article (by a MAN no less) asking whether women are expecting too much from men. Do we not hear that enough already?

That said, I wonder if the problem isn't so much that we expect too much of men but too little of ourselves. Even in natural-childbirth circles, I've found, women are depicted as being helpless or "out of it" in labor and needing a male to speak for them, stand up for them and essentially remind them to function. My exposure to the concept of UC was the first time I saw that there could be expectations outside that model.

Also, not only do I think that this question is impossible to answer given cultural influences, I think it's impossible to answer given the nature of medicalized birth. No, I don't think it's biologically normal for anyone to have birth occur as an adversarial event in which someone needs to protect the birthing women against a hostile medical establishment, you know? So there it ties into my last paragraph again -- I have a strong suspicion that if women were respected more, and intruded on less, in our births, we would need less in the way of "protection" from our men during them.
post #48 of 59
Skim, I loved your post! (And not just because you mentioned me. )

I have to go back and re-read the article before replying in detail, and it's too late right now to do so. But I can say that yes, I do think that our society does expect unreasonable things of men in birth, things that are largely artificial and contrived.

That said, I was very happy with my husband's actions and presence at my last birth -- he was calm, silent, and helpful. But even more importantly, there was something very deep, primal, and meaningful that passed between us, that was one of the most important parts of the labor for me, one of my most cherished memories. Speaking of sacred mysteries, women's or men's, we created a bit of our own, one woman's and man's.

We have an excellent sex life. I won't claim that his seeing my births didn't affect it, however, I suspect that had everything to do with how we, as well the other people present, each behaved. At one birth there is him seeing me bullied and harassed, suffering, and him feeling powerless. At another, he is directed, playing a role. At another he is uninvolved, observing. At another, I am in my element, powerful and goddess-like, and he is strongly and passionately at my side and in my service. How could these things not affect our relationship, including sexual?
post #49 of 59
Skim I think we have the same DH! He is totally the sensitive pro-gay, anti-racist, anti-sports, anti-violence, anti-organized religion, anti-patriarch male dominated culture, anarchist, artist, feminist. He makes a great partner.
post #50 of 59
Interesting article!

Looking back I am conflicted- I had a home birth and I labored by myself while in early active labor and DH slept (it was late at night when it started)and then I woke up with more intense labor and went into the living room to be with my midwife- I just wanted to labor near her for some reason. I didn't feel the need for DH to be with me at all- I was so deep within myself. So in a way, I really didn't ask anything of him in terms of labor support for about 14 hours of a 20 hour labor.

But as things started getting really tough and my midwife realized things has stalled due to some scar tissue on my cervix making it almost impossible to dilate fully- I NEEDED him- and he was right there- my midwives had told me that this may be a situation where the hospital is necessary unless I could try and push enough to get my cervix to finally open up. At this point I had been in labor for 18 hours and had no sleep for over 35 hours and only an apple and juice to eat- I was so broken down and weak- I kept saying "I think I need to go to the hospital Matt I can't take it anymore, this isn't working, it hurts so bad" and because of who he is and how our relationship is he knew that this isn't what I truly wanted, I was just doubting myself and giving up on myself- and he kept telling me that I could do it and that all I had to do was push and it would all be over and we would have our baby. I kept saying I couldn't and he kept assuring me I was strong and have overcome so much in the past, I could do this too. If it hadn't been for him holding on to the belief in my body and me, I would have transfered to the hospital.

For me because Matt and I are so open and close, and no one knows me like he does- I needed him there to feel comfortable.

And I know we both felt more attracted to each other than ever- we've always had a deep love and raw attraction but now there was a cosmic element added- and the afterbirth high was so unreal for both of us- we cried in each others arms about how beautiful the experience was and how we were so glad we worked together and ended up with a homebirth. Our sex life has certainly not suffered.

But one thing I did notice and agree with was that Matt did seem to experience some sort of depression about a week after the birth- it was like for the days after the birth he was in hyperdrive- doing everything around the house, going to the store, etc- and then he just crashed and felt physically ill for a while and just "off"- I never experienced anything like this- I was very emotional but other than that I felt amazing.

Anyway, long story, but for me having him there for me to remind me of who I am and how strong I am is what enabled me to have the homebirth I wanted.
post #51 of 59
My dh was my biggest support doing anything he could for me. I talk to him about what I want ect so he is my advocate.

And in the days following the homebirth he was managing the house, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the other girls and me and the baby.

It caused him to have a new appercitaion for me and what I do for the family.

And it didnt bother our sex life at all, actually its matured and gotten better.

My mw is very impressed with dh because of all he does. She has had her helper query her as to wether i would be doing to much after the birth with caring the family. She told her helper that I wouldnt be doing squat.

Dh takes a month off for each birth
post #52 of 59
In Answer to the OP, "YES."
post #53 of 59
I have mixed feeling about that article. In general, I think we do expect too much of dads, and thrust them into roles they are generally poorly prepared for, and don't even want. I dislike the idea of dad as coach, or director. I see a lot fathers who look like they'd like to be really about anywhere else, but I also see a lot of fathers who get sort of pushed out of the way in a medicalized birth especially - and end up feeling extraneous and unnecessary in comparison to all the technology and interventions that are pushed as necessary and vital.

I have a hard time separately my own personal experience in this, though. My dh is a wonderful labor partner. The first birth he was ever present for was our dd, my second child (his first) which ended up an accidental UC. Even in that short labor, he was wonderfully, intuitively supportive, and seemed to do exactly what I needed as soon as I thought it, or even without my being able to think it. I was really surprised, since he hadn't really prepared other than listening to me blather about birth all the time, and I didn't know what to expect from him.
Our second birth together was my longest labor, and it was like a beautiful dance as a family. His hand was always on my back where I needed it, I hung from his shoulders, and buried my face in his chest, and listened to his heart beat slowly and strongly, and felt safe, and loved, and supported. I don't remember telling him what I wanted, or even having consious though of it, but still he was able to do just what I needed. Interestingly, a friend of mine attended this birth also, as support to my oldest ds, and her outside view of our labor was much different than my inside view. She felt my dh didn't seem very sympathetic, or worried about me, and couldn't understand why he didn't. She actually seemed to find that offensive. I certainly don't want sympathy while I'm in labor. I much preferred his quiet support. Remembering my births is still I way I can instantly feel close to my dh. It definitely influences still how I feel about him. I can't imagine birthing without him. While I didn't expect him to be such good support, it is something I will always cherish about him.
I figure if my dh can be like that, it must not be completely a gender characteristic to not be involved with birth.
post #54 of 59
Skim I think we have the same DH! He is totally the sensitive pro-gay, anti-racist, anti-sports, anti-violence, anti-organized religion, anti-patriarch male dominated culture, anarchist, artist, feminist. He makes a great partner.
Ahem, I think you mean my husband! :LOL
(We are christian but against organized religion)...throw in nearly vegan animal rights activist and musical genius and I believe I have the perfect man....(as close as they come though!)

I think he is going to be absolutely wonderful in labor... especially if these last couple of weeks towards the end when things have gotten difficult for me is any indication... I mean, he is wonderful most of the time anyway, but these last couple of weeks he has been utterly AMAZING in his care for me, both physically and emotionally...
post #55 of 59

I love that he was so impressed!

My husband was a huge support to me during the pg. I had a challenging 3rd trimester as I wanted a HBAC of a breech! My husband was so supportive. He never ever doubted my ability or my intentions. That is the only thing that kept me sane some nights.
At the birth, I personally, don't want or need anyone or anything short of get me me drink and a straw! But honestly, knowing in the back of my mind that he was there thinking, "wow she's awsome" (or whatever he was thinking) made me feel like a star and the center of the universe. It felt good. Everything for the birth came from me. I take full credit. And that feels really good too. But I am so glad that he was there. I needed a few stitched, that was when I really needed him! He held one of my legs and kept me distracted as a midwife stitched. I knew that he respected the work that I had done. I think that I felt something similiar when I watched him complete a very challenging run. It was so hot and far. I remember when I saw him, I had shivers down my spine and I was filled with a tremendous respect for his effort and ability to endure. I hope that was how he felt about me.
post #56 of 59
Expecting too much out of a man? What, is a man a simple minded heartless dullard? I think not. It's such a stereotype...

My stance? Support me, and YOUR baby during labor, or you are only half the man I thought you were. The father of the child has a responsibility, to his baby and signifigant other, and if he cannot "hack it" then perhaps he shouldn't be in a sexual relationship, because obviously he is too emotionally immature to handle the consequences of sex (pregnancy.)

We the female carry the brunt of the burden of the pregnancy. The rib tickling, the weight gain, the puking, the unbelieveable amount of pain that labor brings... but heaven forbid we ask a guy to coach us and support us! *sarcasim*

Give me a break! You got me pregnant! Just because I carry the fetus does not mean you cannot share the burden!

Fortunately, my husband is not a jerkwad, in fact he is more kind and more nurturing than I am.
post #57 of 59
Setting high expectations helps people rise to their potential. My husband was an awesome coach, but after 10 weeks of a bradley course, lots of reading and lots of practice and preparation. It was well worth the effort for both of us and we even caught hte baby together.
post #58 of 59
another bradley couple here :

my DH was with me for my hospital birth, but we also hired a doula. she took care of the phone calls and fetching and she gave support and encouragement, and some suggestions via DH. i agree with the PP about the fact that our husbands may be the people we are closest to in the world... our tribe... DH was my grounding point throughout labor... i just squeezed his hands, draped myself around him... one of the most uncomfortable points of my labor was when i got in the jacuzzi tub - it just felt wrong - this discussion is making me wonder if it was partly because i wasn't in as close connection with my DH when i was in the water.

he didn't panic because he had been through the bradley class and knew what to expect from labor, and he didn't try to "fix" things - we've talked about his need to do that and my need to not always have things "fixed" he's also just by nature a very calm and steady person... there are many women in his life who depend on him for those traits, starting with his mother, so he has years of practice supporting the women around him.

we were also fortunate to have an excellent l&d nurse who respected our birth plan in letter and spirit. the only frightening/traumatic part came at the end when our least favorite of the OBs in the practice ended up being the one on call and her presence at the delivery and her treatment of me immediately post-partum was extremely unpleasant. i gave birth so quickly (20 min. pushing, 1st time mom!) that there wasn't time to talk over any disagreements with the OB. he is angrier with the OB than i am because he really saw things happening and i was in laborland... or afterwards - just in sheer pain.

the way i see it, and unprepared or overly-anxious father's presence could be worse than his absence, but for many couples the togetherness could be a beautiful and integral part of the birth. when i think back now on my labor i picture that constant physical contact between me and my husband...
post #59 of 59
I remember at one point reading that having a husband in the room during birth in no way affected the outcome. Whereas having a supportive, experienced woman in the room actually made births easier with less complications. I think the statistics were at the dona.org site but this was a few years ago I read this. It makes sense to me espacially at a first time labor/birth. Also while some men are very supportive they have no clue what to do and end up just being there but not directly helpful. My doula said one of her roles is helping the husband know what to do, if he is comfortable with doing it. Also some men cannot handle labor and birth. To force expectations on them that they have to stay in the room is also unfair and I think this is what leads to other issues later on. And it is not just men. My mother would never ever want to be in a room with either me or my sister in labor. And that's why I am a total doula advocate.
When I was in labor the first time I had a doula. I remember as the back labor got worse and worse it was her that I looked to. I knew my husband had no clue about it all anymore then I did. Though I must admit I was annoyed when I looked over and saw him reading rather then paying attention to me His job ended up being the errand man, fighting with insurance on the phone (yep I am in labor and he is fighting with insurance about it to get permission for me to give birth and have it covered), and he held me up while I sat on the birthing stool. For me just knowing he was there to make sure nothing horrible was done was all I really needed from him. I asked him later and he said that he felt I was in very good hands with the doula. He knew I was looking towards her for help and knew he would not be able to give the same support so he stepped back.
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