by Dany Griffiths
Long before I got into the ‘birthy business’ I used to say to my friends that I felt sorry for the dads when it came to birth.
They used to look at me in dismay, like I’d gone mad – “surely it is the mum you should feel for”, they would say.
Back then I felt that I had good reason.
To me, a man potentially was left watching his partner dealing with something immense, maybe seeing her struggle in some way and feeling like there was nothing he could do about it.
Now I may have been too generalist when it comes to personality but I think you would agree that on some level all men are ‘fixers’ aren’t they? Give a man a problem and he wants to make it right, doesn’t he? If you are a guy reading this can you relate to that?
I want to be clear, I am not saying that a woman in labour is a problem, but to a man potentially the fact that his partner might be struggling, or even worse dealing with a birth that isn’t going as hoped it can be – would you agree?
Then when I got pregnant – I found out just how right I was. Because you see, my husband had loads of guys sharing their horror stories with him, with regards to how they felt about the birth of their babies. In the main their negative feelings came from feeling unable to help their partner in some way.
Luckily for my husband he’d had me in his ear for a number of years, telling him how much I loved hearing mums sharing what a great support their partners were during the birth of their baby.
You see by the time I became pregnant I had been teaching women and their partners how to prepare for birth for quite some time, and here’s the thing…
You can actually be of the utmost support to your partner on a practical and emotional level. Working collaboratively together as a team.
It is important to understand that this isn’t about just ‘giving you a job to do, to keep you busy’, but really making a difference, having a very real role offering genuine support.
A big part of that role is about simple nurturing, some of it may involve a form of advocacy, and a lot of it is about supporting your partner with feeling emotionally calm, relaxed and in control.
Having read this you may be thinking how do you do that, and to be honest with you none of it is rocket science. But I have found, that often whereas guys wouldn’t think twice about fulfilling these roles in other situations, that when it comes to birth they are fearful that they might mess up in some way.
If you are reading this and your partner is currently pregnant, you might well feel that your emotions are not important and it’s best not to share your concerns with her.
But to be the best support for your partner it is important for you to let her know how you are feeling.
Which is why one of the first things I do with my couples is have them carry out something I call the ‘Feeling Focus’. Each separately exploring how they feel about the pregnancy, becoming parents, be it for the first time or as parents of a growing family, and really anything else that is going on for them.
Now I’ve got to admit that for many guys when we get started on this they are not sure if it’s going to be for them. But it always culminates in a fantastic way for them as a couple to share EVERYTHING they are feeling. The good, the great and the scary, and you know it may well surprise you to learn, that sometimes mums share from this exercise that they didn’t realise some of the great stuff their partner was feeling too.
It is always an eye opener of a conversation for both of them, no matter how open they are with each other generally.
In relation to the birth it really helps make sure that you can offer the best support possible, because you have each discussed and explored any fears, and you each understand what is important to you both and why.
It sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? A simple exercise in sharing how you feel, but I’ve found that every couple who have been through this exercise have found it incredibly useful and insightful.
Which is why I am sharing it with you.
So you may well want to have a think about it and if you feel it would be useful to you, set up a time when it is just the two of you and enjoy exploring all of your feelings together.
You may well be surprised at where that leads.
To end I will say that I don’t feel sorry for the dads anymore. I know that there is no need for them to feel helpless, in fact just the opposite, as dads have an invaluable role to play as birth companion and support to their partner.