In the delivery room, men can quickly begin to feel like they have no purpose, as all the staff are focusing their attention on the mother. As a first-time father it’s a very intense situation, and even seasoned fathers get nervous because it is a stressful situation no matter how many times you’ve done it.
As the father-to-be you can easily feel very powerless — emasculated even — when your partner gets all the attention and you’re constantly asked to move aside, sit down, get out of the way or even told that someone will come and fetch you in a bit as your partner is being wheeled off to the operating room.
Men can easily — because they are scared and nervous — crack some inappropriate jokes, immerse themselves in the game on the hospital TV, go off to top up the parking meter in the middle of a contraction or generally just isolate themselves and seem uninterested.
I got in trouble because as the baby was taken out [in a cesarean], the doctor told me to stand up to look over the protective little cloth to see the moment of birth. As I did, my wife managed to say ‘How does she look?’ and I said ‘Like Alien’ and did my best chestburster hand impression. The doctor told me to sit back down. He remembered a few years later when he was delivering my second daughter.— Chewbaccaholic on Reddit
You can, however, take control of the situation and create the kind of experience where you are an essential and proactive participant in the birth of your child.
What is the father’s role at birth?
Giving birth is not just an event for the mother even though it focuses on her a lot. You are an irreplaceable part of the birth because it is your child being born and you have all the right in the world to be present and experience that.
You preparing yourself for the birth will make sure that both you and your partner, as well as your baby, have the best possible experience. It will also help you to get through any complications as a stronger, more solid unit.
Hold the space for your family
Your natural role is as the protector of your partner and your baby. Because she and the baby are both fully focused on the progression of the birth, it is your responsibility to protect the birthing environment.
Do everything necessary to ensure that your partner feels safe and relaxed; make the birth plan together with her (don’t just sit there and say “m-hmm” to everything; if you don’t understand: ask!). It’s your job to make sure the hospital staff and your midwife read it (as well as your doula if you have one), be present, touch her, hug her, massage her, be near her, oversee all the procedures done to her and make sure that your wishes as the parents, regarding how the birth should proceed, are respected.
Do not let anyone diminish your role as the main support to your partner. At its most primal, birth is a very intimate event. You know how cows tend to draw aside and give birth alone? This is a risky move because alone they’re exposed, but it also makes the bond between mother and baby stronger. Mothers return to the herd once the younglings (and the bond) are strong enough to withstand the eager curiosity of the herd.
In the hospital, the intimacy and privacy of it are disrupted by the clinical, foreign environment as well as unfamiliar and changing staff. Even so, you can provide your family with a safe and calm bubble in which the peace is not disturbed. When you hold the space and take control of the birthing room, hospital staff can come and go without disturbing, interrupting or hindering your birthing process.
The constructing of this bubble begins at the end of the pregnancy and continues right through to the onset of birth. It travels with your family and settles itself in any environment that you occupy. If you feel that you aren’t sure how to create this kind of a safe space, consider using a doula to help and support you in having the kind of experience you want to have.
Your courage and willingness to ask questions, speak up and confirm anything you’re unsure of, are irreplaceable. It is the single most important thing you can do to make your partner and new baby feel safe and cared for. Your partner will appreciate your participation immensely and respect you greatly for it.
When the baby is born
The moments after birth are critical in forming a relationship with your baby. The natural place for a baby is in skin-to-skin contact — either with mum or dad. Skin contact at birth activates the sensory mechanisms of your baby and gives her a sensory imprint of love and happiness, that she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
Also, consider that your baby will breastfeed for the first time at birth. Skin contact is an essential part of making your baby feel safe and feel like everything is as it should be. Especially if your baby is premature, skin contact becomes critical because it helps to stabilise her vital signs, and she will recover more quickly.
If your baby is born via c-section, make it your first Dad-mission to stay with the baby and hold her under your shirt and against your skin while mum is still in the operating room and in recovery.
You are an integral part of the care of your baby, and skin contact will give you a better relationship with her; you will be calmer yourself, you will learn her signals of hunger and stress more quickly, and you will sleep better.
The first eye contact
The moment of birth provides a unique opportunity to activate love in a way that is only possible in childbirth. Make eye contact with your baby as soon as you can after he’s been born. By looking into each other’s eyes you — father, mother and baby — will benefit from the neurochemical mix that is unrepeatable.
Eye contact strengthens and activates the love and happiness hormones released by the body (oxytocin, endorphin, testosterone). It will fortify your bond and reassure your baby that everything is fine because his parents are near.
That only women can experience a high of happiness at birth is a myth. When the birthing tribe is strong and cohesive, everyone in the room can experience that same hormone cocktail of utter joy — you, your partner, your child(ren) even your doula or midwife.
Your newborn won’t see further than 8 inches (20 cm) so skin and eye contact are a natural pairing because you need to hold your baby close in order for him to be able to see you.
How can you prepare for birth as the father?
The very first thing is to get informed about the stages of birth, hospital procedures at birth and their effect on mother and child: epidurals, vacuum-assisted delivery, episiotomy, c-section as well as immediate vs. delayed cutting of the umbilical cord, are all good subjects to get acquainted with.
An understanding of how humans have evolved to give birth naturally will grow your confidence and you won’t feel disheartened so easily if the birth doesn’t go as planned. Women are designed to give birth and your active participation will further and strengthen the natural progression of this process.
Knowing your partner and her limits will help you to evaluate if it’s time to accept external help or if all that’s needed is a pep-talk (sometimes the birthing woman just needs to hear how well she’s doing and feel that she’s not alone) or a hug and a massage.
By acquiring knowledge and preparing actively you can create the kind of deep bond with your partner that you will benefit from in the birth as well as afterwards.
Build a strong bond
A strong connection multiplies the production of the love hormone oxytocin, that will aid in the progression of the birth. Having the experience of creating this deep connection prior to the actual birth will deepen your relationship and create a strong foundation for your new family.
Preparing for the birth by regularly massaging, learning how to use a TENS-machine and understanding the latent phase of childbirth will decrease the time you need to spend at the hospital. It may even shorten the overall duration of the birth.
You understanding how important it is to create a strong bond with your partner as she’s giving birth will produce testosterone in your body, which will reduce your stress levels during the birthing.
Oxytocin is the key to your woman & 6 tips on how to maximise it
Oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, is a very important hormone for women — not just in childbirth, but in life. It affects her experience of your relationship and is essential in managing stress levels on a daily basis.
By understanding how oxytocin works you can not only improve how the birth progresses but also your day-to-day life as well as your relationship.
Oxytocin makes a woman feel protected and gives her a sense of security. It makes her more caring, responsive and collaborative. In return, caring and collaborating stimulates her body to release more oxytocin.
1. Touch her often
Reading and learning are great things but nothing beats touch. When you want to positively influence her experience of pregnancy and birth touch her often!
Especially towards the end of the pregnancy, when she’s carrying a lot of weight and can also have a lot of swelling, she’s feeling pretty uncomfortable. A loving and gentle touch will usually affect her feelings and well-being in a positive way.
Touch her a lot and often: hug her first thing in the morning, before you go to work and immediately when you see her again after. Hold her hand when you’re out together and rest your hand on her thigh or gently massage her neck when you’re sitting together.
Don’t make a big deal of it or advertise to her that you’re doing it. Just do it and see what happens.
2. Massage her
In addition to touching her in your daily life, set aside time to massage her. Offer her a massage once or twice a week — make use of gua-sha massage, moxibustion, metamorphic technique and rebozo massage to mix it up and conserve energy if you’re tired after work.
Ask her what she’d like, where she feels tense or where she would like to be touched. If you’re lucky she’ll get turned on by your massage. If she orgasms, even better! Her pleasure is good for both her and the growing baby. Let her know that you’re there for her — and only her!
Growing a child in your body is no easy task, and she will be so grateful and respect you for taking care of her.
3. Listen to her
Women process their worries and stress by talking. By saying what’s on her mind (out loud) and thinking of different solutions to her situation (out loud) triggers a flood of oxytocin in her brain.
Women have a tendency to plan things ahead, which stimulates the release of oxytocin in the brain and gives them a feeling that they are caring and have considered the needs of others — which in return stimulates more oxytocin release.
Your mission is simple (and doesn’t ever really change): listen. Listen until she has finished. Don’t try to present your own solutions to these little “problems” unless you want to piss her off.
Take your time and listen and just let her talk. She will let you know when she’s ready to hear your suggestions. When you learn the skill of listening she will feel that you are there just for her and will appreciate you so much more.
4. Do housework
Pick a chore that needs doing and do it. Without being asked. Without seeking praise for it.
And you do realise that the chore needs doing more than once?
When you’ve finished the chore, pick another one. If you already are doing chores, great! Keep it up and do more of them.
The difference between men and women
When a man comes home he needs man-cave time. This generally means sitting on the sofa reading or watching telly, generally “doing nothing”. Men replenish their testosterone levels in this manner. If you disturb them too soon, the hormone levels will remain low.
When a woman comes home her stress levels usually rise because she’s thinking about all the things that are undone: dinner, laundry, child care, dishes, vacuuming etc. She often will not understand how her husband can just sit on the couch and watch telly when there are so many chores undone around the house.
Doing chores will help lower her stress levels and make it more likely for her to look kindly on you taking ‘man-cave’ time. Doing something small, like filling and starting the dishwasher, will get one chore done and give you a few good hours to sit and wait for it to be finished!
5. Find something and just do it
Most of us have something in our lives that we complain about; weight, frustrations at work, quitting smoking etc. Pick one thing that annoys you — maybe you’ve complained to your partner about it — and just do something about it.
Don’t tell your partner, that you’re going to, just do it. Don’t do it simply to get praised for it either. Do it because it needs doing.
Taking action will cause a spike of testosterone in you as a man. Where women need oxytocin to relieve stress, men need testosterone. By taking action — even on something minor like changing a burnt out bulb — you’re reducing your stress levels. Best case scenario: you might even see it through and accomplish something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time.
When you have adequate testosterone levels you can respond better to urgent situations where sharp focus, taking responsibility and problem solving is required. Solving problems is often so pleasurable for men that it causes an increase in testosterone and a decrease in stress hormones, such as cortisol.
Take action when it comes to the birth, be active and make sure that your hormone levels are prepared for the birth and the little baby.
This might seem a bit queer, but don’t knock it till you try it. All communication between people is always on multiple levels. The words that we use are but the tip of the iceberg as most of our communication is non-verbal.
Try this: when you’re sitting together in the evening, pay attention to the pace of her breath. Unnoticeably match your own breath to hers. When you do this several times she’ll start to feel a deeper connection with you without realising it. To her, you’ll seem like a magician that always makes her feel calmer just by being around you!
Practical tips for preparing for birth:
- Make the birth plan together.
- Pack the hospital bag together.
- Take snacks for the birth: juicy fruits and juices will give her energy.
- Discuss with her what she wishes you to do in the birth.
- Practice using a TENS-machine.
- Practice massage techniques that you can use in the birth well before the birth.
- Practice rebozo-massage techniques for pregnancy and birth.
- Learn how to put the baby car seat in the car well before the due date, and figure out how to put the baby in it while you’re at it!