How did it happen? When did it happen?
The birth partner was resigned to being just a hand.
A hand that would be held hard. Very hard.
‘Oh…she almost broke my hand’…guffaw…
Is that it? Is that all the birth partner is meant to be? Are we saying that the predominantly male experience of being the partner to a birthing woman is a sore hand?
No. I think not.
The birth partner is the protector, the fact finder, the remover of negativity, the limiter of bad news, the stopper of all poor comments and the defender of the oxytocin. Not a bad job all in but a detailed and active one.
It is vital then that the person whose role is to accompany and support the birthing woman knows what is going on. That they understand the process of labour and birth and the birth of the placenta. That they fully appreciate the role of oxytocin and endorphins in labour and how easily this flow is interrupted. They need to understand what a mammal truly needs to labour and birth and they need to know how they fit into this process.
When we ill-equip the fathers-to-be we certainly let down the mothers.
It is of little surprise that we see men on programmes such as ‘One Born Every Minute’ sitting in the corner playing on their phones while their partner labours. Well, what else do they have? They do not know how to assist, they do not understand the sounds and noises and movement of birth thus they need to protect themselves. So they distance themselves and hand over any responsibility to the midwives present.
I very much doubt any dad to be, or birth supporter wishes to be in this position. We know that men can suffer from PTSD and depression following the birth of their babies. We know that it is healthier for them to be an active part of the birth, that they then know they were needed and of real support to their loved ones.
So we need to engage the birth partner. Teach them. Support them to be the best that they can be.
When I visualise an image of the mother she has her arms around her baby. When I visualise the father he has his arms around them all. A father or birth partner who actively understands the needs of the labouring woman will help to bring about a calmer and happier birth. Mum will feel safe and supported by her continual care giver. Her loved one.
So let’s change the language. Let’s alter the role. Let’s allow both partners to expect more….and let’s ensure that all ante-natal teaching spends time ensuring that the birth partner, be they male or female, knows how to fully support and protect their labouring partner.
That beautiful photo is courtesy of @awphotography.yyc on instagram - a wondeful feed to follow.