My Birth Story – The Birth of Brock

P1070506After the birth of my first child, my son, I had been left feeling like I’d had no real role, like a spare part, and feeling guilty about not knowing how to support Steph through the birth… It was this experience which led to me founding DaddyNatal so other men got the support and information they needed to be the birth partner they wanted to be.

Several years down the road, this is the story of the birth of our third child, born at home, from my dad’s perspective.

Continue reading

What is the partner’s role during birth? Part I

What can dad do during birth?

This is the question I am probably asked the most, normally followed with a comment such as “apart from hold mum’s hand” or worse “keep out of the way!” These comments couldn’t be further from the truth… dads can do so much during labour and really make a difference. Unfortunately no, we cannot guarantee everything will go to plan, we cannot wave a magic wand and no, we definitely can’t swap places!

So again, what can dad do during birth?

Dads role in labour is really only about two things… So dads listen up, understand your role, prepare for your role and really support you partner!

Be Her Protector

Yep, you get to be her knight in shining armour! But what are you protecting?

Everything with regard to being her protector stems from one key factor, adrenalin. In my piece “men at birth” I explain about fear. Birth professionals the world over will agree, adrenalin is an enemy in labour… adrenalin can stall labour, make labour more painful and longer.

Your role as a protector is about protecting your partner’s environment and recognising anything that may cause fear, and get that adrenalin pumping around her body.

This image is of a typical delivery room,

What in this room could cause apprehension or fear in your partner?

Simple, just about everything! Even the clock on the wall can cause both of you to watch time pass and worry how long it is taking. Then how about the blood pressure band hanging behind the bed. What about the alarm call button or the baby station? Maybe the IV tree sitting just at head of bed? All of these things can evoke anxiety in either of you, which can start the process of adrenalin production.

DON’T PANIC!!!

Simply by recognising these things can cause anxiety is first step. Now you are aware you can talk about them, understand them and accept that they are there not for you but simply because they are always there. If you spot something in your partners eye line you feel may cause a problem, move it! Think about how you can take the emphasis of the medicalised delivery room, with dimmed lights, music playing, etc.

So these are tangibles that you can spot and deal with, but also think about the walk in to the hospital, checking in, being examined. Just actually walking in to the maternity suite can be scary, as it all becomes very real for both of you. Is it any surprise that the majority of women when arriving at hospital, will state that “typical, my contractions have slowed down”? That’s caused by that surge of adrenalin… So be aware, once you get there make your partner as comfortable as possible and the environment as relaxing as possible as quickly as possible. Reassure her and follow my labour dos and don’ts.

OK, now what else was missing from the picture? Simple, people. So who will be in the room? Well, probably you, also the midwife. That will be the minimum, but depending on your circumstances there may be more.

Do you need to protect you partner from the midwife? Absolutely! But no, before the outcry, not because the midwife is bad or dangerous! Your partner just needs to feel comfortable with her midwife. To keep adrenalin down, your partner needs to feel surrounded by people she can trust and feels relaxed with.

Your role as protector does not stop there though… you also need to protect your partner against YOURSELF! During labour, your partners senses will be heightened, Mother Nature gave this as a gift to labouring women so that they can sense dangers around themselves, so they can protect themselves. During labour, your partner will sense any worries or tension coming from yourself, in a nutshell, she will smell your fear. If she senses you are afraid or worried, it will trigger her fear and thus her adrenalin. This is why YOU preparing for YOUR role during labour is so important. By being better prepared and informed, you will be calmer and more confident during labour and birth.

So focus on her, keep reassuring, use that extended vocabulary you now have prepared. Overall, trust in both of your abilities and instincts. Simply by reading this you will be better prepared. Keep preparing, and allow yourselves to enjoy the experience, as it is a truly wonderful time when you meet your child for the first time.

However, being your partners protector is only half of your role… my next blog will cover your other essential role – that of advocate.

 

What you scared of?

Come on guys, admit it… You found out you going to be a dad and since you have had all sorts of thoughts and fears going round in your brain! Don’t worry, it’s totally normal and what’s more, I doubt you have any that are unique to you.

Fear release, is a very important part of we do at DaddyNatal. No, blokes don’t all have to tell me their deepest darkest fears, but I do explain the common ones and where they stem from. We do then discuss some they may be having if they feel like sharing, and of course, all done in true male style complete with humour! And this is the essence of why it is crucial that DaddyNatal is entirely men only – let’s be honest, do you really think men will feel comfortable to discuss their personal fears in front of their partners or other women? Of course not!

Why is it so important we deal with fear?

The why is simple, and something I discuss in my piece on “Men at Birth” but in a nutshell, fears that are not released can be picked up during labour by the laboring woman. This can lead to prolonged or even stalled labour through the production of adrenalin. Worse is, if some fears are not dealt with, they can linger post birth causing friction, resentment and delayed bonding with their newborn child.

So what are common male fears?

Guys, listen up, these are some common ones, but in no way all of them. If yours isn’t on here feel free to email me and I will talk to you about it.

First for the bomb shell, research has shown up to 6 out of 10 expectant fathers at some point in the pregnancy will suffer doubts and fears regarding the paternity of the unborn baby. Definitely on each course I teach, at least a couple of blokes, have been, or are dealing with this. It is so common, yet of course, often not spoken about. This is an important fear to deal with because it can affect the expectant fathers’ behavior during pregnancy, attitude at birth and relationship with the baby.

Ok guys, if you are dealing with this fear, I want you to now listen to the likely reason for having it, accept it and get rid of the thought! The reason for it in 99.9% of cases has absolutely nothing to do with the fidelity of your partner. It stems from perfectly normal fears and anxiety you are having and manifests as this thought. It can be because you have doubts about your own ability to have achieved the miracle of creating a new life. Maybe you are in denial because you’re not ready to be a dad. Maybe you have had concerns about you own fertility. The list goes on but the pattern is clear, it is solely linked to our self-doubt and not our partner.

Fortunately most men have this thought and instantly or within few days are able to move on. For some though it sticks, they obsess and it is extremely destructive. This is why you need to acknowledge it is about you, not your partner, deal with it and move on.

What else? Well we men also worry about how we will support our family. Or worry about handling a baby and not knowing what to do. Again, both purely natural. I am convinced that if we all waited until we were in right financial position to have children, man would be in danger of extinction! There is never a right time, whatever your situation you will find a way to support your family. If you are worried about knowing what to do, well take control and prepare yourself, attend classes like DaddyNatal, talk to friends, research and maybe spend some time with friends or family that have children. One thing though, you will learn what to do and if you put a little effort in you will do just fine.

Men also have the worry of their relationship changing with their partner. Nope, sorry not going to tell you ‘don’t worry it won’t hardly change’, and anyone that does is talking ****. Yes, it is going to change and probably, quite dramatically. If this is your first baby, then you are no longer a couple, you are now a family. In the early days and weeks, there is the possibility of feeling like spare part, unless you have put some work in preparing for what you can do. Read my blog on “When Does a Man become a Dad” for some tips.

Some of us are petrified at the thought of the birth and some will even feel sick at the thought. Again, this is not as unusual as you may think, and through preparation and understanding this fear can be eliminated. For some though, the fear might remain no matter how much effort they put into preparation. If this is the case, then you have to question if you should be there or at the very least, be the main birth partner. You do have a choice, you could see if there is a close family member or friend you both would feel comfortable with who would support you at the birth, or see if you can find and afford a doula you both like.

These are just some of the more common ones, there are plenty more. What is important is you acknowledge your fear, there is no place for macho behavior here. Failure to acknowledge you have a fear and deal with it can have a big impact on YOUR family. I will help anyone that contacts me so please do if you wish to discuss a personal fear. Talk to your midwife, she is happy to work with both of you and is not just there for your partner. Maybe you have maternity helpline which is also there to help and support expectant partners. Do something!! Don’t let fear spoil the best day of your lives.

 

Men at birth, good idea or not?

I was asked to write a piece on this subject by a fellow birth professional and midwife. Why I haven’t written it before I dont know, it is something I feel very passionately about.

Michel Odent was famously reported as saying men shouldn’t be at the birth, he even went as far as to blame them for the increase in Cesarean rates. At the time I was incensed by his comments. It was at the time when I was coming to the end of my training and was really passionate about supporting families, but especially in supporting men to prepare for their journey to fatherhood. I used the reflective practice I had learnt through my studies to really look at his comments and my reaction to them.

In truth, I actually found that in a lot of respects I agreed with him! The difference is that I don’t want to take dads out of the birth and I think there is another, more empowering way of looking at the issue. I want to see dads (and mums) being made more aware of the importance of the birth partner at birth, giving dads proper support and information to fulfil this role (if they wish to take it on) – after all the benefits will be far ranging and crucial for the whole family.

Dads-to-be themselves need to understand that in general their partner does wants them there, there is nobody they would rather have with them. But with this comes responsibility, responsibility to understand what is happening and to prepare to be the best support they can be. Preparation for the birth is not just the domain of the woman, and a dads role at birth is not just about being a spectator.

So why should men be there if they can?

The biggest enemy at any birth is fear; fear causes the production of adrenalin. This can slow the production of oxytocin and in turn this can slow or even stop contractions, which is often referred to as failure to progress. So logically, having someone in the birth room who makes the mum feel secure and safe is really important, and with the right preparation, arguably there could be no better support than having the person she loves and chooses to go through the ups and downs of life with, to support her. There is nobody she would rather have there, nobody that knows her better or she feels safer with.

Another reason for the man’s presence is in his role as an advocate for his family. A key part of his role can be to make sure his partner’s wishes and desires are listened to. Sometimes in the intensity of moment, mum can lose sight of these or be in a vulnerable position unable to advocate for what she really wishes, so the man’s role is to do this, so she can focus on the work of birthing and stay in the zone.

By being present at the birth, a man will almost always feel an immediate bond with his baby. Bonding with the unborn child is quite difficult for men, often it doesn’t occur until after the birth, and this bond can sometimes be harder to achieve if they are not there to witness and participate in the birth. This bond is crucial to the family in the first weeks and months following the birth, so certainly where men want to be present, telling them they shouldn’t be is not going to be helpful to what follows.

Are there any risks to the man being at the birth?

Unfortunately yes, the support that can be so important and desired can be undermined by dad’s own anxieties during the birth. This is partially what Odent was referring to when he made his claims. An anxious father who is fretting and worrying will cause mum to be fearful that something may be wrong (this is often subconscious but has a very real impact). This fear which mum picks up on can cause her body to increase her adrenalin production, inhibit oxytocin, and as described earlier, therefore start the chain of events that potentially will lead to a stalled labour. Unfortunately stalled labour is the most common reason for the cascade of interventions to begin, as soon as interventions start the likelihood of them escalating increases.

There is also the risk from the man’s “fix it” instinct. If the man is not understanding of the birth process he is in danger of overriding his partner’s wishes or doing something detrimental to the natural processes of birth. For example, if a man believes his partner is in pain, he will want to stop her being in pain; at this point he may suggest and even promote interventions. However, the reality may be that his partner is coping well and just making the normal sounds of birthing… but if he suggests she needs pain relief, it can bring in a seed of doubt and lead again to that negative cycle of fear. Dad’s in the birth space need to control this natural ‘fix it’ instinct, but this can only be done through first being aware of it, and then having the ability and tools to control it… This is crucial to making sure he is not one of the reasons that interventions are being suggested!

So dads listen up, if you want to be there and your partner wants you to be there, you need to put in some effort and be the best birth partner you can be. You have the potential to truly affect the whole experience and outcome, and with understanding and support you can reduce the need for interventions. Your presence WILL impact on the birth experience one way or another!

Finally, it is a helpful idea to discuss as a couple the role of the birth partner. You and your partner may decide you are not best person to act as a solo birth supporter. This is absolutely fine, it is not a requirement that you HAVE to be the only birth partner (or that you even need to be there at all, if it doesn’t feel right for you and your family).  You could both consider another family member also being there, or using the services of a doula. Doulas are professionally trained as support for expectant parents, and they can act as a birth supporter alongside dad, or instead of dad – whatever suits you as a family. I would always suggest interviewing a couple of doulas to help you find the person who is right for your family. ANYONE in the birth space can have positive or negative impact depending on how they make you feel, so it is imperative that you are comfortable with them and they are also comfortable with you.

But please, can we empower families to decide what THEY want for their birth, and to allow mums AND dads to prepare, rather than be telling them who should and shouldnt be at their birth. Anyone can bring good and bad into the birth space, men/fathers are not by default ‘poor’ birth partners, and a bit more support and encouragement would go a long way.

LFP_willow_002

Dean Beaumont is a leading expert in working with fathers and founder of antenatal programme DaddyNatal which supports fathers-to-be to prepare for birth and parenthood.

He is also author of The Expectant Dad’s Handbook published by Random House.