Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Supporting Dads

I just finished reading "The Father's Home Birth Handbook," compiled by Leah Hazard. I found it very easy to read and a manageable length, too. Although it is aimed to answer the questions and concerns of fathers, I am already starting a mental list of women that I'd like to give this book to. The author doesn't assume that the reader knows much about birth and addresses questions that might seem trivial to birth "experts." I think the basic, straightforward content and the question and answer format would be a great way to introduce the concept of home birth to friends of mine who find the idea unusual, dangerous, or extreme.

I think this book does a great job of presenting the benefits of home birth and of comforting the expectant father that a home birth isn't dangerous, without neglecting to address the fact that, if complications do arise, being at home doesn't mean the mother or baby will be harmed. The book includes testimonies from a few dads who had to call ambulances or whose partners were transferred to the hospital, without giving the idea that this is the norm.

The book ends with a quotation from a dad named Geoff, "Be sure to share your story. There is no shortage of fear-mongering and simply unhelpful advice when it comes to birth. As fathers, we need to make birth a part of the masculine dialogue."

This sentiment reminded me of similar statements from
Patrick Houser, who taught a workshop here in Austin last month. Patrick is trying to create more opportunities for fathers to share their stories and to support one another through the life-changing experience of a child's birth. Until I sat through Patrick's workshop, it had never occured to me how redundant a father might feel in the birthing room. He is surrounded by professionals who know what they're doing and a wife who is busy laboring and he may even be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar hospital environment. He may feel unable to ask his questions and he may not voice his concerns for fear of distressing his wife or unnecessarily alarming the care providers. He may feel unable to protect his wife and saddened to see her in pain. For all of these reasons, it is important for doulas to take time to address the concerns and questions of dads, too. Perhaps there is even a local peer network that the dad can join.

Here are some things that Patrick mentioned:
- warn the dad of the variety of emotions that he may experience - nervousness, jealousy, helplessness, tiredness, joy, pride, etc.
- let the dad ask his questions
- welcome the dad to the experience and especially into the delivery room, do not allow him to feel unwanted or "in the way"
- trust the dad to do tasks and to hold the baby. If he does not feel needed, he may withdraw.
- impress upon the dad how his presence makes a difference
- encourage the dad to have skin to skin contact with the baby and to cuddle the mom and baby during nursing

Having attended births and felt unnecessary, I can imagine a little bit of what it must feel like for a dad to enter the birth environment and feel like a stranger. Hopefully I will be more sensitive to these feelings in the future and will be better able to support dads. I encourage dads to educate themselves and to voice their questions and concerns. And I definitely recommend reading "The Father's Home Birth Handbook," no matter what kind of birth you're planning.


Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

An article on MSNBC about the father's role, postpartum.
"When moms criticize, dads back off of baby care: Women's nagging or support dictates men's involvement, research shows"

Ann said...

I am so glad that you found the Father's Home Birth Handbook. It's essential reading for every father-to-be!

Calin Bleu said...

I came across your site when I was looking for that book. Your words explain exactly what I thought when I finished it, very good information not just for dads but mums and relatives as well.