The greatest use of a life is
Chapter 6: Preparing For Birth
spend it on something that will outlast
- William James
I have found being at births profoundly
rewarding. Birth is, however, a female event and a
very personal time for a woman. She needs to feel
safe and supported, whatever that means for her.
She may want to be at home, in a birth center or in
hospital; alone (known as Unassisted Birth10)
or just with a midwife; in water, moving around or
squatting. As is most often the case today, she
will likely want you included and very involved in
supporting her. Her wishes may also change several
times during her pregnancy or labor, which is her
right. Your job is to be of service to her and your
baby. If she wants you at the birth, and you wish
to participate, then you are privileged indeed.
Discuss what role you will provide. Most of all,
regard it as though you have been invited to a
fabulous banquet. It is a banquet celebrating life
and love. You, the mother and baby are the guests
Managing Your Energy
Learning to manage your thoughts, emotions and
physical energy is invaluable. It will better
prepare you to handle the many new experiences that
you will be presented with during this time,
especially at the birth. There will also be direct
benefits for your family.
Oxytocin is a hormone a womans body
produces. It is a necessary element for the onset
and progress of labor and the birth. However, if
adrenalin is present in the womans body it
will cancel out oxytocin and labor can slow down or
even stop. Adrenalin production can be a direct
neuro-chemical response to fear or anxiety. In
addition, adrenalin can be transferred across
distance, from person to person; it is
contagious. Can you recall a time when
someone near you was anxious or angry and just
their presence unsettled you and caused you anxiety
as well? This is the same response mechanism that
can affect a laboring woman. The mother can be
affected if you or anyone else near her is wound up
or afraid. You can learn to manage your physical
and emotional energy and remain calm. This will be
something of value you can provide for your
partner and child.
Lars, a father of two, related a story to me
about the pending birth of his third child.
I was away on a business trip when my
wife, Jiaya, called to report that she was having
contractions. When I arrived home she was well into
her labor and thrilled that I was there. However,
it soon became apparent we were having a challenge
connecting. I was still in business
mode. I was not really present yet. Jiaya
became distracted and agitated because of the
dissimilarity between us. I could tell her stress
level was becoming elevated as a result.
Jiayas labor slowed down and subsequently
came to a complete halt.
Fortunately, because of the preparation they had
done, they knew what to do. They paused and had a
lie down together. They held each other and looked
into each others eyes; they started a gentle
breathing cycle together. This encompassed a couple
of hours, there was no hurry. Jiaya told me,
As we connected I could feel Lars
land. I began to feel safe in his
presence, in his arms, in his love. I surrendered
fully and as I did, after awhile, my contractions
began again. Jiayas body and mind
relaxed when she felt she and Lars were in harmony.
They were in connection and doing it together.
A woman, who trusts and feels safe and intimate
with her partner, can more easily open up and let
go. Their son, Noah, was born a few hours later.
Fathers are important and they make a difference at
birth. Even though they are not the ones giving
birth, the nature of their presence can have a
considerable effect on the labor and birth.
Begin noticing your body: when you tighten up,
clench your jaw or fists or get a knot in your
belly. These are all indicators of nervousness,
anxiety or fear. We all experience this now and
then, especially with first time occurrences like
birth. When this happens, notice your thoughts
also. There is usually a correlation between what
you are thinking and how your body and emotions are
responding. This level of attention may necessitate
some practice if it is new to you. Learning to
attune to your own personal anxiety responses will
prove very valuable. Meditation, visualization,
breathing, the Fathers Circle and
affirmations will all support you as well. Any
level of self-awareness is good and you can
practice to get better. Perhaps also practice with
your partner. Physical exercise can also help you
to reduce your stress levels.
Calm is a quality that deserves to be
emphasized. If a father has low stress levels and a
quiet mind, what remains is calmness. This is a
most valuable contribution and exactly what the
mother needs. It is a bit like being a sculptor.
When viewing a sculpture the work that has been
done to create it is not visible. It is the space
around the sculpture that gives it form and
purpose. Like the space you are now providing,
around your family. What you have done is remove
mental chatter and fearful thoughts and what
remains is calm. Consider yourself an artist and
you are sculpting an environment where your family
can be held in your tranquility and love.
Another way to deal with stress and reduce
adrenalin is through repetitive motions. Using a
stress release ball (a rubber ball that fits into
the palm of your hand) is a good example. Squeezing
the ball re-directs physical energy and dissipates
it. One of these comes in the Fathers-To-Be Tool
Kit. Similarly, a midwife in the know
will sometimes knit or read during a womans
labor. Her awareness is still with the mother yet
she is directing her physical energy through
another activity and letting the woman progress
without too much attention on her.
My Preparation for a Birth
My preparation for my second childs
waterbirth was wide-ranging. My wife and I had
counseling, individually and together. We wanted to
resolve any concerns or fears we had about birth in
general or the use of water. In the end, we reached
certainty about both.
It was 1980 and ours was the first documented
waterbirth in the US so there were no books to read
or Google to search for what to do and how. We
brought together a few friends and colleagues and
held several meetings to prepare everyone. We
interviewed numerous doctors and midwives. They all
wanted to be as far away from the event as possible
except for one midwife, whom we employed.
I rented a portable, fiberglass Jacuzzi and had
300 gallons of distilled water delivered (a bit
over the top, but who knew?). Next, I transformed
our two car garage into a functional and beautiful
waterbirth room. Using my carpentry skills I built
a wood frame bed platform next to the tub. This was
in case Kathryn decided she wanted to give birth
outside the water. I hung pictures and curtains on
the walls to make it cozy and placed oriental rugs
on the floor. We had motion and still cameras
standing by to record this historic event. I filled
the tub and heated the water.
Kathryns labor began suddenly and
progressed quickly. She was feeling overwhelmed by
the intensity of her contractions. Kathryn and I
entered the wondrous and almost mystical atmosphere
we had created; to welcome our child. As we
immersed ourselves in the water we were enveloped
by its warmth. Kathryn was relieved by the
comfort and freedom of movement the water afforded
her. The support team arrived at various times and
quietly assumed their roles. After only a ninety
minute labor Kathryn birthed Jeremy into my willing
hands. For a few minutes Jeremy was suspended in
his expanded watery world peacefully integrating
his experience, time stood still. I felt
privileged, humble and proud; all in an instant.
The three of us embraced.
We had a sense that the inner preparation we had
done was central to our experience. We were
unencumbered and available for every aspect of the
birth of our child. We felt like we had
participated in a miracle, and we had.
* * *
Houser is a father and a grandfather. His second
son's arrival was the first waterbirth in the U.S.
This led him into nearly 25 years of support for
both choices and working with parents. He has
gained wide experience from various fields
including a degree in marketing, owning a
construction firm and a natural health centre.
Patrick is a Life Coach and co-founder of
Fathers-To-Be, a new concept in antenatal
education, for men. Fathers-To-Be also offers
consulting and training for health service
These articles are excerps from his book
Handbook: A road map for the transition
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