Dear Fathers, Partners, Friends, Family,
This is an open letter to you all, about birth support, both during birth and in pregnancy. Although it is addressed to everyone, it is written as if speaking to a husband, because to address everyone would make for a much longer read, and the people most commonly called upon to support births are in fact, husbands. If you are someone other than a husband and you’re reading this, perhaps you’d like to add any suggestions in the comments section to encourage other people as well!
You probably don’t frequent birth support groups like your wife does, which means you probably don’t know how much birth matters to women. And why would you? For many of us, there’s pregnancy, then there’s this irritating bit in the middle where the baby has to come out, and then there’s parenting until said baby moves out on their thirtieth birthday (I know you’re hoping that’ll happen sooner ….). But believe me when I say “That irritating bit in the middle” is really important. Like REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT. You should sit up and listen carefully when she talks about it, because if you want the mother of your children to be a competent, confident new mother, “The irritating bit in the middle” needs to become THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT.
“But birth is just secret women’s business, it’s icky and gross” I hear you say. And you’re right about the first bit. Birth IS women’s business, but you’re invited to the secret ceremony. As for birth being icky, you’re not in second grade anymore are you?
As things stand you’re busy, you might have older kids, you have a job, you want to catch up with your mates now and again, and you have responsibilities at home too. Finding time to learn everything about “the bit in the middle” might seem like it’s just pushing the limits. Someone is being paid to take care of it all, why do you need to know all this stuff?
Because she wants you to. It’s that simple. Because the woman who is preparing to bring your baby into the world, wants you to know how it works so that you can support her. You’re her main birth support person, no matter how many people are exchanging money in anticipation of this birth, you’re the main one.
So here it is, all broken down. Birth support in six easy points.
- Birth really matters: Birth isn’t just about getting the baby out, it’s about creating a mother. Even if she’s already a mother, she’s never been a mother to this new baby. Your wife knows that birth doesn’t always go to plan, she doesn’t need you to tell her that. What she needs is for you to have her back the whole way, even if you don’t understand it all.
- You can trust her: No one anywhere, cares about the wellbeing and safety of your baby more than the woman who is pregnant with your baby. Anyone who says otherwise, or who would seek to undermine this fundamental truth is deluded and has an ulterior motive. Trust her to make the right decision for her health, and for her baby’s safety. Trust her before you trust anyone else. Marriage is about trust, right? So trust her.
- She’s the boss: The law says so. The law says that pregnant women are the sole decision makers during pregnancy and birth. Not doctors, not hospitals, not midwives, or nurses, and not you. What she says goes and when birth is left to women they are known to be sound decision makers, and as we said above YOU CAN TRUST HER.
- Her hormones aren’t making her crazy: They’re making her pregnant. She wouldn’t be pregnant without hormones, but she’s not crazy. Emotions don’t mean someone is crazy, they mean that they are human. What separates us from chimpanzees is our emotional capacity for relationships and responses to other humans. Plus we take baths.
- Don’t fall asleep when she’s in labour, and stay off facebook: When she’s in labour she needs your undivided attention. Say you’re running for president and on the night of the election, your wife sits on the couch next to you, but surrounded by countless other involved parties. She’s scrolling through facebook and showing you grumpy cat memes. Then she falls asleep and snores her head off. Not very supportive is it. No one in the room would think she’d put in a stellar effort to encourage you, that’s for sure. You’d be pretty mad at her, and rightly so! Don’t be like that. Be the one who sits on the edge of their seat, and knows what’s happening every step of the way. I promise you that facebook will still be there after the baby is born. You can’t support birth if you’re asleep, and you can’t support birth if you’re on facebook.
- If she asks you to speak to people, do it: If she wants you to meet a midwife, a doula, a birth photographer, a famous motivational speaker, just do it (for your sake, I hope she doesn’t know any motivational speakers ….). Meeting people is unlikely to cause you any physical pain, right? But don’t just meet them and sit on your phone, or snooze through the meeting. Politely engage with everyone at the meeting. She didn’t ask you to sit in the same room as them, she asked you to meet them. Show them why she loves you by being the person she loves at that meeting.
Take it from me, I run a large birth trauma support group. There are countless women in there whose husbands are the reason they’re there. They didn’t listen, they overruled pregnant women, they knew better, they were lousy birth support, and many of them find themselves at meetings with divorce lawyers because they wouldn’t meet midwives or doulas. I’m not even kidding about that sadly. Birth matters to women a great deal, and husbands who ignore that, ultimately lose more than they bargained for.
When a woman gives birth it’s your time to shine. Ironically the way to shine in birth support, is to stand back and let your wife steal the limelight. You’re the usher, she’s the leading lady. Be her protector, not her ruler, be her lover, not her boss, be her rock, not the waves that smash against her, be YOURSELF. Because she married you to do that. And you married her because of who she is.
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