Through my practice as a home birth midwife, I have become increasingly aware of the HUGE journey that partners are on during the experiences of pregnancy, labour, birth and early infancy - becoming ‘father’ to a child.
Janet Balaskas (1990), one of western world’s renowned experts in natural birthing practice suggests that the baby’s father is also pregnant - that transformation into being a parent is not only for the women within our western society.
Janet also noted (as have I in my practice) that the father or partner role is as unique as the men that experience it: ’men differ in degrees to which they want to be involved in their partner’s pregnancy, labour and birth’ and there are no rights and wrongs (generally) on how fathers take on the task of transformation. It is a matter of choice: how you support your partner and how you support yourself during this time; how YOU embrace the experience is YOUR personal journey. So let’s get started…
Most men, during their life, develop values and behaviours that will (or wont) support this transition - these are generally based on previous experience, family/societal values and culture. And they include ideas about how their child should be born. Some fathers may have experienced difficulties when they were birthed (and this is often stored as ‘body knowledge’) or they may be acquainted with women or friends or family who have experienced complications (or lack of complications) of labour and birth. These can all result in fear and anxiety (or the reverse, such as excitement and no fear) which ultimately will affect their woman’s ability to trust her body; relax and allow herself to surrender and submit to the birthing experience.
It’s not surprising, upon hearing the news ‘I’m pregnant’ (and this in all situations, whether the pregnancy is planned or unplanned) that you are bombarded with thoughts, visions, emotions that may be new to you and seem to come from nowhere. When this occurs, take a deep breath and be grateful for the opportunity to explore them: As they present themselves to you during pregnancy so that you have the time to adjust and embrace the birth of your child in the most positive way - your unique journey into fatherhood.
Firstly, allow yourself to explore your thoughts and feelings, don’t run away from them. Preferably, talk to your partner or find a trustworthy friend who you can talk honestly and openly with. Talk about everything: thoughts, feelings, dreams, something you read or heard. Or you may want to start a journal. Or you might be fortunate to have a midwife or birth worker that you have come to trust and possibly, you have asked her/him to attend to you both in the birthing.
You might think you’ve already had these conversations and figure there is nothing more to say. Rest assured, the thought of becoming pregnant is one thing - becoming pregnant is another.
There will be LOTS that comes up for both of you and probably more so the closer you come to ‘the day’. In my experience, this sharing (and caring) brings you both closer - and believe me, when it comes to being a parent, this closeness will serve you (and your children) well.
Honesty (did I say HONESTY?!) is the best policy from my experience - don’t hang on to it, let it out - by sharing with your partner first and foremost (in a kind and loving manner) and then trusted and loving friends, family and care provider - you will gain the insight and knowledge to do a great job at fathering. All these people (and be discerning, if sharing information doesn’t feel right, then reconsider before jumping in) can lead you towards receiving the support you may need and the information you desire to fully embrace the birth in a positive, optimistic and wholesome way.
It may mean looking beyond yourself and your social group for the information and support.
So now would be the time to research, explore, ask questions, dig around… Some men hook up with counsellors for unfinished business or issues that they don’t want to take with them into fathering; it might mean long and deep conversations with your own father or people you trust (random conversations with the guy on the bus may not (or may, lol) be the most appropriate source of information). And if this doesn’t suit (and remember, you are on a journey and every day is a new day of self discovery) you might think you need other support on another day.
You might love to read so books are your go-to source; or can’t imagine reading and listening to podcasts is your thing; there might be personal stories or YouTubes that attract you - or local men’s groups might be the go… Consider books (eBooks, audioBooks), podcasts, social media support groups; local men’s groups that are specific to becoming a father. There is so much ‘out there’ and a simple google search might be a good place to start.
The list below (because to be honest, there is too much information for me to share here) are resources that include podcasts for men by men. And once you commit to exploring, the list will become so long that you will need to really focus on what will serve you. And remember to share the resulting thoughts and feelings with you partner - research is not just for you - it is for you as a couple and for your unborn child: to give the family the very best ‘you’.
Thanks to all the dads that have shared with me; have asked for my support; and who I’ve had the pleasure of watching as you walked the transforming walk to fatherhood. Wishing you the very best on your journey, Tere x
Usually partners are male and being that this article is for ‘e-male’, I will focus on the ‘men’ who find themselves as partners and husbands to ‘women’ who are giving birth.
“Men at birth” 2011 Edited by David Vernon, forward by Steve Biddulf Finch Publishing, Sydney Aust
Houser, Patrick 2007 ‘Fathers-to-be Handbook’ - a road map for the transition to Fatherhood UK
Balaskas, Janet; Gordon, Yehudi “Water Birth” - The concise guide to using water during pregnancy, birth and infancy 1990 Thorsons UK ‘The Father’s Feelings p 45 - 46; Books:
Houser, Patrick ‘Fathers-to-be Handbook’ UK’
Families Need Fathers www.fnf.org.uk
Fathers Direct www.fathersdirect.com
howisdadgoing.org.au - referenced by ‘www.Partners to parents.org’
Sam Parker: “Grab life by the balls” FB page - Men supporting men on the sunshine coast - men’s health stuff - monthly get togethers - Albury, Newcastle as well
Free-birth, Unassisted Birth, Homebirth Father's Support Group
Pic: Thanks to Matt, father extraordinaire to Killian - and super supportive partner to Indy (shared with permission). Matt and Indy operate “Human Design Coaching” located in Hervey Bay. You can contact them for on-line coaching or in-person firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Follow them on Instagram: https://instagram.com/human_design_coaching?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=