Monday, August 19, 2013

A Post For Dads-To-Be About Taking a Natural Birth Class

This is a post for dads.  Childbirth classes would not be nearly as fun without the men!  Our materials at Birth Boot Camp were created with him in mind because we want birth to be an amazing experience for him too. It often seems that while the moms are excited for class, a lot of dads are less than excited and don't really see the point of sitting through a 10-week class.  I have this concern voiced every-now-and-then, so I wanted to take a minute to talk about it. I will be very honest, as usual. No beating around the bush.

First of all, 10 weeks is a long class. If your wife is looking into Birth Boot Camp classes, she has likely researched enough to know that Birth Boot Camp statistics are some of the best when it comes to unmedicated births. This is very cool that she wants to birth your baby without drugs -- which is better for her and your baby. The majority of women are so afraid of this experience, so it's great that she wants to embrace it. You should be proud of this, proud of her! Let's help her do this!

Only about 5-10% of women give birth without medication. This statistic matters to you because it is very likely that your care provider does not know what to do with a woman who does not want to be induced or have an epidural. I have a lot of dads question, "If women have done this since the beginning of time, why do we need a $300 class to teach us what to do?" Valid question. Here is my answer:

Women didn't have a lot of choices until about the last 100 years when it came to childbirth. Once birth moved from a woman's bedroom into the hospital, she gave up a lot of "control" in her birth. Drugs, surgical instruments, and drugs to numb her body and mind were/are readily available. Doctors were/are trained in abnormality and how to "get the baby out" by augmenting labor and birth. Cesarean birth has become so acceptable, no one questions its use and it is presumed safe, or even safer than vaginal birth by many people, including many doctors. Women today face issues that women in previous generations did not. Truly, a couple often finds themselves fighting to have an unmedicated, intervention-free birth.

A Birth Boot Camp class teaches about the process of birth, when intervention, medications, or surgery really is necessary, nutrition and exercises to stay low-risk, and possibly the most important - relaxation techniques to help her through the process. You both are so prepared for this amazing event that you will never forget. It is not just another day in your life. It does matter how the baby gets here.

Dads, let me tell you some things I've seen in couples that seem to be obstacles in this process and even a lot of relationships.

1. Money - When money becomes the issue - not paying for a doula, or a birth tub, or for classes that will empower you with the skills and knowledge you both need - this is a problem. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. She is looking down, watching her belly getting bigger and bigger, as the reality sets in that this baby has to come out, whether it's vaginally or by c-section. A lot of women have a deep fear of being cut open and know that the best way to avoid this is to not have medications. She has a need to talk with other women who have been through this and who are going through the same thing. She needs information. Everyone around her and in the media is telling her how awful childbirth is and she is afraid of the unknown. When you say that you not willing to spend the money on her "road map" you are telling her that you don't care. It is selfish.

I've seen the look on women's faces in class when she says that her husband won't pay for a doula. Embarrassment and disappointment best describe the look, but it's followed up quickly with justifying his answer. I've seen the same women end up with a c-section. You know that they will always wonder if their husband had paid the $500 for a doula, maybe she wouldn't have had surgery. She will be the one to reflect on that for the rest of her life, not you. A woman's birth experiences mean everything to her. I know you may not understand that, but please be respectful of it. Help her on this journey. Don't place money above your wife's needs/desires when it comes to childbirth. It will be a wonderful thing for your relationship. Trust me. It shows her that you value this experience too and that you will support her.

2. "I'm too busy." What does this say to your wife? "I don't have time to do this with you. Figure it out on your own. Read a book." Again, women need to be encouraged by and learn from women who have given birth without medication. That is the entire reason I became interested in natural birth -- I had a girlfriend who gave birth without an epidural and I thought "If she can do it, so can I."  I know that everyone's lives are busy. Nothing is more important, however, than welcoming a new person into your family. Labor/birth serve as a bridge between pregnancy and parenthood.

I have seen relationships grow through the course of the 10 weeks. It is a privilege to be a part of a couple's life at this time as they work together to bring their baby into the world. I attended a birth several years ago where he was in her ear, talking to her, loving her, the entire labor. The room was dark. He was attentive and knew just what to do. I had left the room for a moment, and on my way back, I walked past a brightly lit room where a laboring mom had just arrived. Lots of nurses were gathered around her, hooking her up to the fetal monitor, placing her IV, etc., while her husband sat in a corner watching TV. This event had nothing to do with him. I walked back into the almost dark room where this laboring mom was leaning on a birth ball with her husband rubbing her back. It was such a beautiful birth. I was so struck by the fact that this couple truly brought their baby into the world together, in every sense of the word.

3. Accountability. I believe that many dads would be happy if their wife just wanted the epidural. I've known lots of dads who wish this was the case. It would make their job easier. Yes, that is true. It's easier to just leave everything up to the doctor, right? Been there, done that. Except that I was the one who wanted the epidural and my husband wished I had a desire to do it naturally. (He didn't tell me this until I actually did have #2 naturally.) He was so proud of me. It's that ignorance-is-bliss attitude. If your wife is wanting information, do not try to take this approach. Be accountable and be her advocate. The payoff is tremendous.

4. "I don't want to watch the birth. I think I'll get sick." You'll likely surprise yourself. Birth is only a few minutes. Labor is usually hours. This is when your wife really needs you. Birth is usually not really a bloody event, despite how it's portrayed on TV. It is almost impossible to work so hard for 20 hours, only to step out of the room at the time of birth. You'll be fine. Don't let this "excuse" keep you and your wife from being prepared.

5. "I can't see her in that much pain. I don't think she can do it without drugs." This is what she will hear from the whole world. Please don't let her hear it from you. You are her team! She needs your support and encouragement. And take it from me, if I can do it, she can do it. My husband says I could never have made it across the plains as a Pioneer!

I have taught classes for over 10 years and I have had many women sitting in my class that I have wondered if they could do it. They always amaze me. I have seen women transformed by this experience. Women who were shy and withdrawn find their voice and self-confidence. Birth is everything in a woman's life. She can do it!

Thank you for staying with me on this. I know this was long. I just want to see more men supporting their wives in having unmedicated births. You do not have to give birth to this baby. She does. Help make this a joyous experience in her life. One that empowers her, not degrades her or even causes her to resent you because of your lack of support. You'll be surprised at how it will transform your life as well, including the love your wife has for you as you support and encourage her. See you in class which starts November 8, 2013 and runs through January 17, 2014.