In the history of birthing it’s the men who joined the party last. Up until the 1970s their place was well away from the birth, possibly pacing up and down in the hallway listening for a cry?
It was the NCT who campaigned for the man to be in the room. And these days, I find myself wondering whether this change in circumstance was actually a good thing or not.
I remember it being an assumption when it was my time, that the father of the baby would be the birth partner regardless of whether they were the best person for the job. I watched useless men on “One Born Every Minute” (it’s not birthing it’s entertainment, remember) and rolled my eyes. Then suddenly it dawned on me: it takes a braver man to opt out of being in the room.
It’s seen as a sign of weakness, a sign that you’re not up for being a Dad.
How many women complain that their partners haven’t read a single thing going into labour? Or drag them unwillingly to antenatal classes? Antenatal classes do an excellent job in my experience of involving them and catering to what they might need, but you can bring a horse to water and all that.
Some men come out of labour in a complete shock. And it’s not always from being unprepared. Labour is a one way street with an inevitable outcome and sometimes things can go wrong along the way. Intervention can be swift, emergency c sections are done under a general anesthetic and the birth partner left in the labour room with the hospital bag exploded all over the room, waiting for news of his wife and new baby.
There’s new research out from last year that suggests that many men are left bereft by birth. The expectations from them to step up and take care of the family are huge. But they’ve probably spent a night in labour without the hormones to adjust to the sleeplessness. Deep sleep helps our brains process trauma and, with a newborn in the house, this can be a bit lacking. Before they know it, they have to return to work after the briefest of time adjusting to fatherhood.
One of the main themes of unease was men feeling ‘stripped of my role: powerless and helpless
I am absolutely not saying that a man’s role is greater than a woman’s in labour, but he does deserve some space to process it. One of the main themes of unease was men feeling ‘stripped of my role: powerless and helpless’, which can resonate deeply, especially where there were already insecurities.
Getting men to visit my clinic is like pulling teeth. It does happen, although I won’t take bookings from wives! They come and sit, arms folded. If they do manage to get through the door, I gradually see an unfolding of the arms and a re-balancing of the emotions. Details of how I work can be found here.