Fathers Make
a World of
Difference
 

June
Chapter 5: Gifts For The Mother And Child


“The most important thing that a father
can do for his children is to love their mother.”
- Hesburgh

Following will be various additional suggestions of ways in which you can support your partner and child. Some are practical in nature and others are more experiential.

If you are a first time father you may feel unsure about exactly what your role is. Your partner’s role is certainly obvious and she has the advantage of operating under the physical imperative that she is the one carrying the baby. Your baby’s role is not in question either and may seem effortless and automatic. What if there is something special that your family needs and you are the only one who can provide it? Would you want to know what it is?

Empathy and understanding are invaluable here. Understanding others and their unique experience of life can go a long way towards helping you know how to best support them. Following is an exercise in empathy. You will be guided to imagine yourself in the role of a mother and a baby during the time of pregnancy. As you do this notice your thoughts, feelings and sensations in your body. These are feedback mechanisms which you can learn from.

Empathy Exercise: A baby during pregnancy

Imagine that you are a baby in the womb, very small and in a constant state of growth. What can you picture that you want for yourself while in the womb? Remember that the baby is present for everything the mother experiences: hears, thinks, feels and does. What would you want your parents’ relationship to be like? What kind of input would you like from your father? What is important to you? Remember things like sounds, nourishment, physical awareness, emotional environment, people and more. Consider this time, as a baby develops physically, mentally and emotionally over these months.

Sit back, close your eyes and imagine being a baby, growing inside a womb. It is your choice as to how you work with these suggestions .You may want to just imagine your responses or write them out. These explorations may take you deeper than you had imagined.
Be gentle with yourself and get support if you need it.

A woman during pregnancy

Now imagine you are a pregnant woman. You are feeling emotions as never before. You may be experiencing doubts and fears, joys and elation. It can seem as if your body and mind are being taken over by someone or something else. Your body is changing externally as well from being a woman to also include being a mother. How do you feel about these changes? What supports you to be able to do the job at hand as well as still manage your life and relationships? What kind of support would you like to have from the father? What is it like to be in such close contact with another?

Sit back and really imagine what this would be like. What do you need and want during this most extraordinary time? Imagine you are a pregnant woman and you have a baby growing inside of you.

Morning Wellness

In 1980 my then wife, Kathryn, and I were on vacation in Hawaii. She began waking in the mornings with nausea, although otherwise healthy. We had been eagerly working on having a second child. After a couple of days, reality dawned and we became aware she was pregnant. We were thrilled, but the nausea persisted. We wondered about dealing with the nausea using affirmations. We wanted to explore the nausea as a possible psychosomatic response to the pregnancy. Was there a conflict between her conscious and unconscious thoughts about having another child?

We already understood that a possible emotional component to nausea had to do with ‘digesting new ideas’. We knew this from working with the book Heal Your Body, by Louise Hay.8 We were experienced with affirmations and their value in changing long held beliefs. However, we had never tried using affirmations in order to resolve so immediate an issue like nausea. We were curious just how much influence they could have.

Kathryn put pen and paper next to the bed and when she awoke the next morning, with nausea, she began writing. She wrote an affirmation and then paused and listened in to see if she had a harmonious internal response, or not. Her writing was an exploration of her thoughts, feelings and beliefs; not just the inputting of words or phrases. She wrote that she was happy about the pregnancy; her response was not an enthusiastic yes. She wrote that this was the perfect time to get pregnant; she discovered inner conflict. She also uncovered residual fear, based on the possibility of repeating the traumatic experience of giving birth to our first child. She wrote that she really wanted another child now; however discovered hesitation.

Keep in mind that Kathryn wanted another child and yet for her there were previously unresolved issues at work, unconsciously. Over the next few days she repeated this process first thing in the morning. Each day the nausea was less intense and dissipated more quickly. By the fourth day she awoke completely at ease and welcoming our new child.

I have recommended this technique to many mothers since 1980 and they have reported a very high rate of success and subsequently expressed much gratitude. This is one of many examples of how what we think, even though we are unaware of the thoughts, can have an effect in our lives. There can also be physiological components inherent in what is called morning sickness. This is not to say that affirmations will be effective for everyone or that they are to be considered a cure, but certainly worth a try.

Midwives and Birth Coaches

The people who will support you during the birth are important and are best when in alignment with yours and your partner’s wishes. This includes healthcare professionals. It is key to have support from people who have confidence in the fundamental healthiness of birth and the capability of a woman to carry it out. Know who you are inviting into your family experience, if at all possible. In a hospital setting this may be a challenge. However do what you can and consciously assert yourself to achieve the best results possible.

There is great value in having your own dedicated midwife, especially one who understands the inherent safety of birth. The type of committed support they can provide is profound. Another very real value is the continuity of care that you receive by having the same professional with you throughout the labor and birth. The birth of this child will be a one time only experience for you, your partner and especially your child. You all deserve the most loving and supportive people and environment possible. Only accept what feels right to the two of you. This is your family’s birth.

A professional birth coach (also known as a doula) is a trained birth attendant. She is dedicated to you and trained in supporting your family during the birthing time. She can be a very valuable asset to you and your partner. She can also free you up to be the loving support person for your partner rather than the one expected to be a coach or a birth professional. If you can be freed up to do just the loving support I highly recommend it. You could have an private midwife and/or birth coach with you at home or in the hospital.

There are usually extra financial costs involved in having a private midwife or doula. Some people are perplexed as to why they should spend extra money on a birth when a service is already provided, typically by your insurance company. Have you spent money on a wedding, house, vacation or car? Were you careful about planning and being sure you got what you really wanted for these items or events? Did you consider the short term and long term value or return on investment for them? Although birth may seem like a brief moment in time the impact is lasting and paramount for your child. Your family deserves the best support you can afford.

Also consider having male support to back you up. He would probably not be in the birthing room, but nearby. You may need a break, someone to talk to or to get something you may need. He could sit at the door or just be available by phone to provide reassurance for you. This alone can be very valuable. You will be in a very strong supporting role and you need support as well.

Listening and Fixing

A pregnant woman is under the influence of spectacular hormones day and night. These hormones, more likely than not, will cause her to experience deep emotions more frequently. A man, typically, wants to immediately fix whatever is not to a woman’s liking. Many men have what I call the ‘fixing gene’. It has not been proved yet by science, however the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. Fixing is not necessarily what is always called for however.

A friend of mine, Peter, was with his partner who was very upset. She began to rant, which was not uncommon for her. Peter did something out of the ordinary for him, he listened. He did not speak. He nodded his head in response to specific points she made. He made sincere sounds that indicated he understood what she was going through, yet he used no words. He did not take anything she said personally, even though some of it was aimed directly at him. He also did not try to defend himself. He resisted the temptation to try to make her feel better, fix it for her, or do anything. Peter told me that what followed was some of the best sex they had had in months.

There is a clue here, rather than the outcome being a coincidence. Women place a high value on being listened to. We all want to feel that we are being heard. This doubles for a woman and quadruples for a pregnant woman. This is what I call simple math. Being heard is a significant aspect of intimacy for women. They will feel closer to you as a result. They feel accepted and valued; they relax and feel safer. We all do actually.

Listen for the words, “Will you please fix XYZ”, or “Would you do something about XYZ”. If you do not hear these or similar words the chances are that fixing is not what she wants or needs as an outcome. Pause, take a breath and listen.

A Fathers-To-Be participant of ours and his partner have established a once a week ‘talking stick’ time. They realized they were getting carried away with all of the intensity of life and the pregnancy and were not connecting in a way that was satisfying for them. They plan a specific time to have an intentional conversation and connect with each other on more than just daily activities. A stick, or other convenient object, is passed back and forth and used to designate whose turn it is to speak. The other person listens and says nothing. This practice comes from Native American tradition. They established this during the pregnancy and were still using it almost a year later. They find it continues to support their relationship.

Lightening Up

The sheer volume of new experiences during this time can become overwhelming if you let them. Instead you can address some events and situations with wonder and wit. Be willing to discover the humor in what is happening. Find ways to make your partner laugh. Laughter can shift emotional energy better than anything else and there may be a time or two that movement is what is called for.

Anyone who has ever seen the naked profile of a woman who is nine months pregnant has got to be amazed at the capacity of the female body to change. No other living thing on this planet displays this. What about those breasts? Her cup size multiplies in a matter of weeks. And just wait until you see them shoot milk across the room. And the baby, well, the phrase ‘bodily functions’ will soon take on a whole new connotation. You are going to have a front row seat and a leading role. Enjoy the process.

Acceptance

A woman, during the birthing time, has a particular job to do. She is being driven by many physiological and emotional elements. As a gift to your family, consider practicing unconditional acceptance of your partner. Practically, this means accepting her and all of her actions. In other words, suspend all judgments. Say yes (at least silently) to her state of mind, body and emotions. Be willing to listen to whining, body symptoms, emotional issues and complaints about you and the rest of the world. This does not mean you agree with her on everything but that you accept her and the experience she is having. Avoid arguments if possible. Attempt to not take things personally, especially during labor. Take a few deep breaths before responding, especially if she has a go at you. Being right, and winning arguments in relationships, is way overrated. This practice will also contribute to your child’s wellbeing significantly. Your partner will produce fewer stress hormones and will be more relaxed and as a result the baby’s environment will be as well.

Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. explains it scientifically:

“During pregnancy, the parent’s perception of the environment is chemically communicated to the fetus through the placenta, the cellular barrier between the maternal and fetal blood. The mother’s blood-borne emotional chemicals cross the placenta and affect the same target cells in the fetus as those in the parent. Though the developing child is "unaware" of the details (i.e., the stories) evoking the mother’s emotional response, they are aware of the emotion’s physiological consequences and sensations.

While developing in the safety and confinement of the uterus, the child is provided a preview of the environment as it is defined by the parent’s perception and behavior. Parental behaviors’ are generally cyclic, and when repeated, they serve to habituate the developing behavioral chemistry in the fetus. Consequently, parental perceptions and responses to environmental stress are imparted to the offspring and serve in programming its behavioral expression.”9

This is not to say that every moment of a pregnancy needs to be perfect or that damage will occur if it is otherwise. Emotional honesty and expression is healthy. Raising emotional issues that need to be cleared is very important, as you are learning throughout this book. However, repetitive and sustained states of emotional or physical stress can have a compounded effect on your baby. This is similar to adults, except babies are more vulnerable.

To accomplish acceptance, to whatever degree you can, is a profound undertaking. The by-product is tremendous freedom for both of you. When you stop the mental chatter about others and allow them to be as they are you gain great benefit. Accept her, accept yourself, and accept a new level of inner peace.

Welcome

Welcome is a profound greeting. Recall how you have felt when someone said “Welcome” to you, and really meant it. World-wide, various rituals are practiced within tribes, cultures and families to demonstrate welcome to a new child and the parents. One common western tradition is having a baby shower. There are other cultures where a ceremony is performed to welcome a child before conception. He is welcomed again once pregnancy occurs and, of course, once the he is born. Imagine what it would be like to be told you are welcome and to always feel welcome. My wife’s grandfather bought her a pony and commissioned a customized pony saddle for her when her arrival was announced. They lived in Texas. This was his way of expressing his welcome. How would you like to welcome and invite your child into your family? Perhaps create your own ritual, or borrow one. Following is a lovely alternative for demonstrating welcome, written by Laura Uplinger and Jack Bresnahan.

Threesome

Within an intimacy, take your hands
and hold them to your partner’s pregnant belly.
With the three of you gathered together,
have a conversation about this family.
Talk about who you are.
About your home, your life, ideas, hopes, dreams.
“Your mom and I were picturing your
first taste of chocolate ice cream.”
“Your dad wants to take you sailing.”
“Welcome to this tough old world.
You will make a difference.”
“What a joy you are! We’re honored to be yours.”
“Count on us.”
Then give all three of you a deep felt family kiss.

©2009, Patrick Houser


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Patrick 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 providers. E-Mail or www.fatherstobe.org These articles are excerps from his book Fathers-To-Be Handbook: A road map for the transition to fatherhood.


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