Dads Supporting Birth

What a Dad should and shouldn't do during birth is such a big topic these days.  It sort of drives me nuts (and I was there at one point myself).  Let Dad be Dad, I say... birth is a woman's work…. Ok, ok, before all the dads get mad that I’m saying they don’t belong and the mom’s get mad that I’m saying they need to do it on their own…let me back track for a minute...

The problem with this "Dad is the Birth Partner" approach is that dads just aren't built for birth.  This is quite an unpopular approach these days.  We've went from forbidding dads to be in the birth space, to requiring them to be there.  It isn't OK for Dad to be fearful or just not interested anymore.  Why?  Because we are trying to change the very nature of our being in every aspect of our lives.  No more manual labor - let's let technology do the job.  No more working through problems to learn and experience and make sure we're doing things right - let's let technology do the job.  No more mom's at home taking care of the babies and gardening while Dad is out making a living.... oh, wait wait...  see - that's where this always comes to...  What we forget is that the "mom does the woman thing" and "men do the men thing" perspective is already a change in our biological nature.  We were meant to do things together - dads likely taking on some harder tasks and protecting the family while mom is nurturing the babies and other daily chores.... but they weren't separated.  Dad would step in when he was needed, and mom would might trap an animal for dinner just the same.  Likewise, children help in all aspects where they are needed and to the extent of their abilities.  This is what we need to get back to in birth.

What better way to bond than to help mama latch! This dad loves getting involved with breastfeeding. Postpartum is a dad's time to shine!
photo by alliebphotography

Dad isn't meant to be 100% in the birth any more than he is meant to be 100% out of the birth.  Women typically help other women through the perinatal stages because they've been there before, or at least have the same organs – but they also guided Dad so he could be involved as needed… having a strong arm to support mom squatting.  Gathering water or simply protecting the space from unwanted people/predators/visitors.  And, just like a woman doesn't turn into this crazy lady during birth like Hollywood would like her to believe (and medicalized hospital birth may make her) - a Dad doesn't change his personality either.  So, no matter what book you read, no matter what birth video you watch, and no matter what class you take – Dad is going to be Dad.  He is going to be himself, only amplified.  His senses will heighten, and he will do more of what he normally does in every other aspect.

Even for a dad that may not want to help catch the baby, they can have a great time reliving the almost-unassisted birth that just happened, where dad stepped up where he was needed.
photo by alliebphotography

HE should follow his instincts just like mom should follow her instincts.  He will feed off her oxytocin and her pheromones.  He will sense when he needs to actually do something - and suggestions from outside sources will interfere with his instincts just like they will interfere with mom's instincts.  His fears will increase with horror stories just as they will increase mom's fear.  You need a birth environment that is supportive of both mom and dad.  And above all, mom needs to listen if Dad is just not interested in the birth process.  This is OK.  It doesn't matter how many stories you hear, how many books you read, and how many amazing birth partners you see in empowering birth stories - you are with YOUR partner... not theirs.  Those partners didn't magically turn into this super-doula - they were probably nurturing from the start.  It doesn’t mean ditch Dad – it just means stop making him something he is not.

Another perfect way for dad to help. Run and grab something to eat, get some water, heat up some water for a water birth... dad doesn't have to be right by mom's side whispering sweet nothings in her ear
photo by alliebphotography

What does Dad do when your feet hurt?  What does he do when your back hurts?  What does he do when you need to cry?  Does he cry with you?  How does he communicate with you?  How does he communicate with others?  Does he manage the bills and manage the decisions?  How does he act when he is uncomfortable?  How does Dad act when he is scared?  How does he act around authority?  Around groups of people?  Does he get intimate in public?  In what ways?  Does he hold your hand a lot?  Does he get embarrassed easily?  Do you pay attention to these any more than he pays attention to your needs?  Look at all these questions, and you'll know how Dad will act in the birth space (especially depending on who is around him).  You know Dad, right?  And no matter how that is - he can be "awesome" he can be "normal" or he can "suck" as a birth partner (if you have this idea that he will magically become a doula - or that he can learn how to be in a few weeks).  But, he's Dad...  he's YOUR partner...  work with it.

Where's the next best place for baby to be besides mom's arms? With dad, of course. Mom can use the bathroom, midwife can gather the placenta, doula can watch over mom, and the rest of the family can comfortably chill.
photo by alliebphotography

Hire a doula to step in where he isn't interested.  Hire a doula that he is compatible with so they can enjoy the experience and you can enjoy the experience.  Hire a doula that encourages dad to be involved, and teaches him how as needed.  Know that maybe he won't say all the right things, but maybe he will.  Don’t stop learning – take a class…he will learn a lot about informed decisions, risks, benefits, various procedures, relaxation, support techniques… though the bottom line is to listen to each other.  Know that if you choose a birth environment that is truly supportive of biological birth - all these birth methods and birth techniques aren't really necessary... your body will do amazing things... and Dad can protect the space to let you labor biologically.