We all love being helpful, yet it can be difficult to tell if we are actually accomplished something. I spoke at the Empower Your Birth conference last year, and I didn’t really know if what I was saying was meaning anything to anyone. Well, my experience of speaking at the Nashville event last year was a unique experience for me, because I received a very special call afterward. Here’s how it went:
“Hi, Joe. I loved your talk last year. My husband was so inspired that he went full into supporting homebirth for our baby. He knew we could do it. And we did it. And we couldn’t be happier.”
How great is that?!! I mean, that’s exactly it, isn’t it? Here’s a dad who was feeling concerned about a certain birth choice and then found the inspiration to dissolve his concern and transform it into confidence. That’s the magic right there.
I am so excited to speak again this year at the Empower Your Birth conference, and my focus will be on this way that dads transform their concerns into confidence. So, without further adieu, here are my quick thoughts on the matter:
5 Conundrums men have about getting involved with birth of their kids and what they can do about it
1. Birth is Women’s Business
Yes, birth is women’s business. Yet, it takes both a man and woman to create a new life, so I’d say it’s man’s business, too. I’d make the argument that a dad’s strong presence in the birth of his children is a factor in the bonding he has with his them. Not every dad gets an invitation to be involved because his active role isn’t necessarily culturally supported. However, he can have great confidence knowing he is forging a path for the sake of his children.
2. Showing up at childbirth education classes is a sign of weakness
A dad is in the conundrum of wanting to be the protector of his family while also not having a lot of experience of birth. In order to learn more, he must present himself as someone who doesn’t know very much. See the conundrum here? I didn’t want to go to the childbirth ed classes because I didn’t want to be seen as someone who needed to learn stuff; I wanted to be seen as a guy who already knew it. I overcame this problem by presenting as someone who already had confidence in himself, yet needed specific information in order to be truly prepared. It’s a subtle shift, yet it worked well for me. Asking good questions helped. Building good relationship with the birth professionals helped. And learning more about the birth process definitely helped, because it satisfied my need to understand.
3. My own birth was traumatic
This is probably the most challenging factor, because the story of our own birth has details in the preconscious parts of our being. I met a guy who was adopted, and he explained that the birth of his daughter healed the unresolved parts of his own birth story. In a way, he re-wrote the story of what birth meant to him. How powerful is that? A good place to start with your own birth story is to write it out. If your parents are available, then ask them about your birth. This is the time to stare at your navel for a little while and come to peace with your physical connection to your place on earth.
4. The births I’ve known about were traumatic
All I can think about is this scene of a mom screaming in labor as she bursts through the hospital doors on a gurney. The year is somewhere in the 90s and the show was ER. For some weird reason, that was my entire image of childbirth FOR A LONG TIME. So sad. That is not my image of birth anymore, thankfully. One thing that really helped was watching beautiful YouTube births. I’ll never forget showing this birth video in one of my dad childbirth prep classes. The guys and I were all crying at the end of this one birth. Imagine if you’d gone your whole life thinking that birth was like that ER scene. And then imagine that you saw a mother give birth to her baby and scoop him up in her arms with the purest of joy. Everything in your mind has to shift.
5. I don’t know any other dads making this kind of choice
Gentle birth choices are still statistical outliers. However, there is an entire culture of families forging a gentle path ahead. When Andrea and I were expecting our first child, I didn’t know any dads who were choosing things like waterbirth or homebirth. Now, I can count at least 10 dads I know personally who have made these kinds of birth choices. Furthermore, I know of hundreds of dads just like them, which has completely normalized gentle birth for me. When it was time for our second baby, I felt quite a bit more confident knowing I wasn’t alone. If you’re feeling the pangs of isolation, then grab yourself a copy of Jim Gaffigan’s book, “Dad is Fat.” You’ll see a dad who knows the ropes of gentle birth enough to even laugh about it.
So, there you go. I hope this inspires a man’s confidence in supporting himself and his partner for the birth of their kids. Here’s to dads everywhere connecting with their wisdom and confidence! And if you’re at the event this year on March 7th, I can’t wait to continue the conversation.