Monday, January 31, 2011

What are Men Really Supposed to Do??

Everyday I get inquiries from pregnant women about my services as a private childbirth educator. They ask if their husbands won't go kicking and screaming, refusing to sit through hours of classes. And I tell them that's why Ready Birth was born so many years ago.

Men intuitively sense that childbirth preparation is about how women's bodies work, so they can manage delivering their babies. They insist that they really can't do much at the actual event other than cut that cord, a task handed to them in the modern age to make them feel more a part of the event. They just hate the idea of sitting through hours of information that doesn't have much relevance to their role.

They are right. It doesn't have to be hours and hours and there a few things their husbands may be interested in after all. A partner's main concern from an evolutionary point of view is keeping the mother and her newborn safe. Literally. Women delivering are very vulnerable. They can't defend themselves or their baby from the predators who hang around outside the "red tent" or the cave waiting for their next easy meal. The translation in modern times is simple.

Partners need to know what a woman feels like emotionally and they learn that by being instructed in what to expect before, during and after the process. Then they know that their role is much more than cutting the cord. Men learn that the best comfort measure is presence. Back- rubs are nice and so are foot massages, encouragement is appreciated more than being told what to do, but mostly, laboring and delivering women need to know that their partners are there. Protecting them and their baby from anything or anyone that will interfere with their goals for a safe outcome. That means today, not keeping the bears out of the cave, but rather making sure that the mother of their baby knows she has an advocate.

We all know that in this time of change in our delivery system of health care, it is common to fall between the cracks. We are told that we should bring someone with us to office appointments and to the hospital as a second set of ears and another "head" to ask questions and get results. So, when childbirth is the issue, it's not about the bears anymore: it is about making sure the epidural is coming, requesting a lactation consult ( perhaps multiple times ) and making sure that visitors are appropriate and welcome and passing that information on.

When it comes to childbirth, let us continue to allow our partners to do what they do best: Hear the problem and fix it. Communicate the needs of their babies moms. Because she is busy doing what she does best: birthing a baby. And dads can still cut the cord. It won't hurt because it has no nerves and that scissors is mighty sharp.