Some men are natural doulas, some men think labor & delivery is where they have a cigar in celebration after the nurse runs out of the Operating Room with the big news on gender. Mostly in our generation, men are ideally of the first ilk, though at the beginning of it all, the second sounds appealing to them. All that hospital stuff can freak a partner out and cause him to question his ability to be your coach and your support through the great mystery of labor & delivery. Here are a few steps that can help bridge the gap:
1) Read aloud . . .
From anything baby related. Expecting your husband to pick up your reading-about-pregnancy-birth-and-babycare habit isunrealistic (we’re talking men in general here). So as you peruse the Sears’ Baby Book, exclaim “Oo!” to entice his interest, highlight portions of a photocopied page and stick it on the bathroom mirror or fridge door, or ask him to take a look at a specific section or paragraph.
2) Share & make lists . . .
From your favorite blog, book, or post-pregnant mama. Making checklists of what to pack for hospital, what to say, what not to say during labor, what to do at home when in hospital (pet care, etc), or a calling tree to share the good news.
3) Attend birth classes.
Check out your local birth center for natural birth classes. Attend the hospital tour (if you’re birthing in a hospital) and any classes of interest. The tour is helpful to know where to park, what to expect in your room, what’s permitted, and what’s not. Even at the most naturally of hospitals, do not expect, in general, the same info you’ll get at the birth center about pain. A natural birthing class will prepare you, as best it can, for coping with pain. It will also prepare your partner for coping with your pain. The hospital class will address pain, but in the context of medicinal solutions.
4) Set aside “baby” time.
Make talking about and planning for your new family member a priority each week. Give him a chance to address concerns and fears without responding hormonally to him. Go window shopping at baby stores. Let him feel and touch the car seat, stroller, etc. Think hands on. As soon as your little one is regularly kicking & punching in there, make sure daddy gets to experience feeling this activity.
5) Talk with friends who have recently added to their family.
Let the guys talk to the guys. A great help for my husband was hearing from a good friend we visited out East about his wife’s unmedicated birth. He provided an honest male perspective on the pros of natural childbirth, and on the realistic fears of seeing your loved one in the pain of labor.
6) Consider some version of the Bradley Method.
Read a book, peruse the web about it, take the classes, whatever. We read the book and practiced for months ourselves without a coach or tutor, although I tried to get in touch with some. The class is a large time commitment and not for everyone. The general gist of the approach is that the partner acts as the woman’s coach through labor with a series of relaxing focused exercises. In the end, we had a blend of Bradley + doula, but didn’t regret having practiced Bradley for a minute!
7) Attend major appointments together.
The first heartbeat (10 weeks on average), the gender discernment (20 weeks on average), and maybe the appointments wherein you have specific testing performed. The first ultrasound for us was at 20 weeks and seeing J for the first time together was incredible.
Especially for your first child, enjoy every moment, painful and joyful, of pregnancy together! Your lives will take such an amazing and indescribable turn after delivery!