"We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful. It's that women are strong."
- Laura Stavoe Harm
So your partner is going to have a baby. Wow. There is a lot of information for her out there. But where can you go to answer your questions? Nobody really tells a guy what to expect. We've collected several resources here for you and your concerns, as a guy. If we haven't provided what you need, please feel free to ask us your questions. We'll keep it private. This is your baby, too, and we want to make you as comfortable as possible with impending fatherhood hanging over your head...JUST KIDDING! It's gonna be great!
I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this whole out-of-hospital thing. Is it safe?
If your partner is a normal, healthy pregnant woman, the answer is YES. Having a baby in a birthing center or at home is as safe as, and in some cases, safer than, having it in a hospital. Please see our safety resources for more information.
I'm not all about the money, but man, I gotta know about the money.
We know money is not the primary issue. But it may still be a very important issue to you. Be sure to check out our prices, our cost calculator (if you have insurance and are debating the merits of using insurance at the hospital), our payment terms and our refund policy. For most people, our services are much less expensive than their other birthing options. Remember also that this is the only time you and your partner are going to experience this birth, and sometimes it's worth paying more to get the birth you want.
What's the big deal about the birth experience, anyway?
While the experience of the birth itself may not be important to you (all you want is a healthy baby, right?), it may be very important to your partner. Most women have been dreaming of having a baby since they were very little girls. For most women, their sense of womanhood itself is tied up with giving birth. For women who are sexual abuse survivors, or who have simply suffered a lack of control in various areas of their life, it can be critical to feel a sense of control over this very intimate process. Pregnancy and childbirth can be tremendously emotional, and a woman may feel very vulnerable. Traumas (physical or emotional) she experiences during her birth may haunt her the rest of her life. On the other hand, the overwhelming sense of accomplishment a women feels when she delivers her baby under her own power and in the way she wants, feeling respected and in control, will liberate her into the future. It may heal past wounds. She'll know she is powerful beyond her wildest dreams and this newfound power will influence her forever. Many women have a sense of facing death at some point in their labors. To ask her to do that in an environment where she does not feel safe or in control should be illegal. Your partner will remember and tell her birth story for the rest of her life (women share birth stories when you're not around...a lot). It's important to make it the very most satisfying experience possible.
How about a sports metaphor? Suppose you are an Olympic athlete. You have been training and dreaming of competing in your event since childhood. Now here you are...you've trained and qualified for the event. You show up to start and the officials tell you they've cancelled it. But don't worry, you're going to get a gold medal anyway. Do you care? OF COURSE YOU CARE! Are you going to feel cheated for the rest of your life? OF COURSE YOU ARE. You really wanted that gold medal (a healthy baby). The gold medal is important. But so was competing in the event. And the loss of the competition is a huge loss, even if you do have the medal. You'll never know if you could have done it. All your planning and preparing were for naught... it matters.
I can't stand to see her in pain.
This is a common concern. There are many things you and your partner can do (and your midwife can help with) that will make a normal labor manageable. But sometimes there is pain. It helps to think about childbirth as pain with a purpose, much like you might think "no pain, no gain" at the gym or on a long run. Labor is like an intense form of physical exercise. Your partner is working to get this baby out like an Olympic athlete works to make it to the finish line. It's hard, physical work, and sometimes it hurts. But it's worth it. The ecstasy of success is absolutely worth it. Remember, too, if the pain really is unbearable, or if it goes on so long your partner can't deal with it, the option always remains to transfer to a hospital and get pain relief. It's not like you're chained to this one option. Remain flexible and you'll find your partner is more capable than you ever dreamed, and she will be thrilled when she's done it.
Dealing with your partner's expectations of you
It's important to talk with your partner about what her expectations of the birth are, including what role she wants you to play. While you're having this discussion, consider what role you want to play. With BetterBirth, you can be as involved as you want to be. Most often, women want their partners to be an emotional support to them during the labor. Many want their partners to attend childbirth preparation classes with them and practice (and later implement) the techniques they learn there. Very commonly women rely on their partners to provide physical as well as emotional support. You might spend several hours rubbing her back, pressing her knees, offering her water, supporting her in whatever position she adopts. She might want you to catch the baby as it emerges, or cut the cord. But every relationship is different. Sometimes a woman wants you to be in the other room for the whole thing. Talk about it with your partner. If you want to catch the baby, see how she feels. The more you know beforehand, the easier it will be to meet those expectations in labor and to have the experience both of you want.
Help! I don't know what I'm doing!
You mean you weren't born knowing how to support a woman in labor? What's wrong with you! No, really. It's very natural if you've never participated in a labor before. And it can be pretty nerve-wracking to know your partner expects you to help her get through it when you haven't got a clue what it will be like or how to help. Our best advice is to attend a childbirth preparation class with your partner. You'll learn not only what to expect during labor, but many techniques to assist her. You may also want to consider having a doula (a professional labor support person) to guide you. (We provide this service at no extra cost as part of your maternity care package if you would like.) The midwife will also help give you ideas for how to support your partner. Most importantly, listen to your partner. If she tells you to do something, do it now. If she tells you to stop doing something, stop now and don't do it again. She'll be very direct in labor. Just listen to her and she'll likely be pleased. Here are a few universal tips:
You're going to work very hard at the birth.
Think your partner will be doing all the work? No way. You're going to need every muscle and ounce of stamina you've got. She's depending on you. You may have to rub her back for hours...or just stay awake for hours. Ask your midwife or childbirth educator how to effectively help your partner while conserving your strength.
I'm squeamish. What if I pass out?
We have yet to see this actually happen, for a number of reasons. Most importantly, you'll be so involved with the process you likely won't have the psychological conditions necessary to get faint. But if you think you will, plan your involvement so you won't be exposed to your trigger. If you faint at blood, stay near your partner's head and focus on her face until the danger has passed. You should know that there is usually very little blood at birth anyway. If all else fails, leave the room and come back when you can. If you do pass out on the floor, we'll attend to you. It won't be the end of the world. Your partner will appreciate the sacrifice you made to be there for her.
How involved can I be? How involved do I have to be?
You and your partner can decide how involved you want to be. You can catch the baby, be her primary coach, cut the cord, whatever you want. Conversely, if you'd really prefer to leave all that to the professionals, that's fine too. Just let us know.
We take care of dads too...
So we've already told you you've got an important role in this birth, and you're going to work really, really hard. We hope it helps to know we'll be caring for you as well as your partner during the birth. You are an integral part of this birth, not an extra person who's "in the way." If you're birthing at home, we'll be encouraging you to eat, drink, sit, rest, conserve energy. If you're at our place, we'll encourage the same things. We have plenty of food and drink stocked in our fridge, and a bed big enough for the two of you to rest on. You won't be told you get to sleep on the broken-down recliner (standard sleeping facility for dads in the hospital). We even have showers for you to freshen up in if you'd like. If you need anything while you're with us, let the midwife know. Also, as long as mom is ok with it, dads are very welcome at appointments where we're happy to answer any questions you have.
What should I do/expect after the birth?
So you made it. The baby is here and now the whole thing is over. Nope. It's not over. Parenthood has just begun. Here are some tips that just might save your relationship: