by Liz Derry, CPM, LM
(This post when first published online was originally titled "WHAT CAN A DAD DO? FATHERHOOD DURING LABOR, BIRTH, AND BEYOND". )
[an aside as I repost this, when this was originally written I had a few comments about these images and ideas presented being merely a fairy tale. The truth is, that I see these type of images and behaviors between laboring couples more often than not. When couples are well supported in their wishes and being watched over by a midwife they trust, it is amazing what happens. I have also seen dads and moms connect and work together with love in well supported hospital births with a doula present. Even the most reluctant dad when he feels safe and secure and when he sees that is wife needs him can be there for his wife. Not all dads are the same. They each have their own style of support. This is perfect. Each mom is different as well, and the father of her child is uniquely suited to help her. I will repost soon the post that talks about ways Dad can help support Mom.]
Today the majority of babies are born to moms and dads in hospitals. A large percentage of these moms will have epidurals. Many of these labors and births will involve mom laying in bed resting, watching tv, surfing the internet, giving the play by play on Facebook. All while Dad does the same. There is very often little interaction between mom and dad leading up to the birth of their baby, and the extent to which dad plays a part is often left to merely being the designated cord cutter.
It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, I truly believe it shouldn't be that way. Labor and birth should be a time of intimacy and love between mother and father that strengthens their bond and helps them enter parenthood closer than ever.
It should be a time that husband can marvel at the strength and beauty of his amazing wife, and wife can feel safe in the warmth of her husbands arms. A time that is filled with whispered words of I love you, tender kisses, and deep embraces.
Labor is an opportunity for dad to trust his wife completely. A time to show this trust by not trying to fix her problems or take her pain away, but to walk through it with her. It is a time for him to be completely there for her, without distraction. It is a time for him to support her in ways that only he can.
Each mother and father are unique. Their relationship similar to that of others yet different in the details. Husband does not have to be someone different for his wife while she labors and births. In fact the very things she loves about him, the reasons that she has chosen him to walk beside her in life, are the things she most needs from him as she works hard to bring their child into their arms. What she needs more than anything else is to have him there for her 100%.
As they take this journey together, and come to the other side, with the birth of their child, their love for each other will be overflowing.
In that moment that they have transformed from husband and wife to mother and father, they will look at their new baby with wonderment and awe at what they have accomplished together.
When dad has been an integral part of the labor and birth of his baby, he can't help but want to play an active part in caring for his little one. With the renewed respect and admiration he has for his wife he can't help but look at her with a reverence that filters into their daily lives.
Labor and birth is not just about having a baby. Labor and birth is about making a family. It is about making a strong mother and father who trust each other completely, and will weather the storms of parenthood and life together no matter how strong the winds blow.
People often ask why couples choose to give birth naturally without epidurals or other chemical pain relievers. They ask why couples choose to birth with midwives outside of the hospital at home or at birth centers.
If they truly understood what birth could be, if they saw the bonds that form, the love that grows, and the strength and beauty that blossoms out of unhindered birth between a mother and father, they would ask instead why doesn't everyone want to birth this way?
(all images in this blog post provided by Tiffani Cisneros with www.tiffcphotography.com)