Supported Birth Covid Update: We are holding in-person classes (5 couples max).
Serving the Greater Los Angeles area
Serving the Greater Los Angeles area

DADS HAVE INSTINCTS TOO

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birth-coach

It’s so exciting to me to come across new and fresh ideas after decades of teaching and working in the birth world. A recent presentation from Midwife Whapio Diane Bartlett (The Matrona) has added another facet to my childbirth classes in L.A. 

For many years, I have observed the relief and understanding that comes when couples hear that it is a pretty “tall order” to expect a husband or partner to be the sole support person at a birth, especially if the woman is hoping to be unmedicated or have a normal physiological birth. I describe the history, in a social, cultural context, of birth being a “women’s event” and the relative newness of having husbands as “coach.” I’ve ascribed to Pam England’s approach in Birthing From Within that “fathers have been burdened by the idea that their ‘coaching’ is central to labor’s success; an unfair position to put fathers in.” She warns about the “romantic fantasy” butting up against the lack of experience/credibility of a partner who has never attended a birth. We are reminded that women tend to need other women (who have proven trustworthy) during labor and birth.

I still believe all of the above and will still present it in my teaching. But I have an alternative concept now, that I think belongs as well.

As we remind women that they have instinctive responses in birth, and can learn to trust them (hard in the face of medicalized childbirth in the U.S.), Whapio suggests we ask dads/partners: Do you think you know your partner pretty well? Do you think you have instincts about this too?

You as father may be the perfect “intimate advocate.” Your instinct is to protect her (disturbances, disrespect, interruptions, unwanted things). You see what she wants and doesn’t want, just by looking at her face.  

In a well-supported environment, dads run oxytocin too (if threatened, they produce testosterone). When men feel safe and are treated as the next most important person in the room, their instincts are profound. Let’s tell them: Be Yourself. Show up as You. No script, no prescribed role. Just listening to, and expressing your instincts.

You are not stepping out of line. It is lawful for you to be her advocate. The system will/must listen to a confident you. Do not be adversarial; be collaborative. It is unfortunate but true, the male voice is commonly heard over the female voice. “I know you need to do your job, we appreciate it, but we just don’t want that right now.” If she’s not comfortable, if they are bugging her, pressuring her, he can trust his instincts to protect her. His instincts that something is right or something is wrong.

My favorite part of the talk: “I think I heard her say no; so let’s not do that” is HOT.  ?

We’ve come away from the myth of the bumbling father but we’ve perhaps also been dismissive, albeit with good intentions, by “freeing him up” (by having a doula) to emotionally experience the birth of his child. Let’s elevate fathers, even as silent advocates, by encouraging their instinct of what she needs. Doulas need to support fathers too.

Be prepared that your instinctual responses may not be respected or agreed with.

Midwife Bartlett tells a poignant story about a woman who had a sudden inexplicable seizure during her labor. Staff rushed into the room, alarm bells sounded. The woman was ok, but the atmosphere was chaotic. After a bit, the Dad spoke up. “There are too many people in the room right now, I would like everyone to please leave” and asked the doctor to remain. The mom said she did not want not go through that again! He asked the doctor what she thought and the doctor replied I think she should have a c-section. Dad turned to the doctor and firmly yet gently said, “I want you to give my wife the best c-s you have ever done.”  Doc said “I will,” held the mom’s foot, and said “I’ve got you.”

Not all partners are the same, but I love this idea and can’t wait to start presenting it. Well-versed in encouraging women to trust their instincts, I look forward to telling men to trust their instincts too. This of course includes hiring a doula to give you both physical or emotional support, but not a relegating of partners to the inexperienced, therefore deferential role. Men have Instincts too!

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