Men & partners - their place in the birth space.
Another one for the boy’s…well, about the boys at least.
I’ve written broadly about how much I appreciate my husband and how he has been my rock through all of our ups and downs, namely with the loss of our second child and also during all three of my births.
Whilst each experience varied greatly, his support was resolute. There is not one part of me that would want to go through a monumental experience such as childbirth, without him by my side.
When I was pregnant with Clover I see-sawed between choosing a homebirth and hospital birth; I sought advice on homebirth forums online for tips and evidence based studies on homebirth to help me gather information and knowledge that I could present to hubby to help him understand why I wanted to homebirth and to ultimately get him on the same page as me.
What I was met with makes me scared for the future of men in the birth space, because they do have a future in the birth space – because, you know…biology…
I received comments like:
“Your body. Your choice!” “Screw your husband, do what you want. You’re the one birthing the baby, he doesn’t get a say!”
Yes, okay, it is my body, I will give you that. However, it is not solely my baby. It is OUR baby. My husband and I are a team, and I wanted him to feel like his opinions on how we brought our third child into this world mattered…because they did. I could not have created this baby without him and I certainly did not plan on birthing this baby without him either.
After all, I felt an inexplicable force pushing me towards the decision to homebirth and I felt it was coming from the energy resulting from the loss of our second child, Tommy. Our. Child. Ours. How could I completely disregard my partner’s feelings leading into what I hoped to be a healing experience? I wanted healing for him too and steamrolling him into doing what I wanted was not going to achieve that.How could I decide on a birth plan, not taking his feelings, thoughts and opinions into account and then still expect his support and love throughout the pregnancy and birth? Men’s choices in birth matter too. I feel sometimes that the pendulum of feminism swings over the line of equality and I did not want to contribute to that leading into our birth.
Why is it okay for us females to demand choices and options but not okay for us to extend these same choices to our birthing partners? It doesn’t take away from your glorious feminine power by extending a little consideration towards your husband/partner…
We should be creating an inclusive world into which we can birth our babies, not one where one birth partner is being disregarded and overrun. How can we expect our husbands and partners to be supportive of us in the pre and post natal period when we need it the most, when we aren’t willing to give their wants and wishes for the births of their children any airtime?
We should be creating an inclusive world into which we can birth our babies...
Women who have suffered birth trauma or obstetric violence may feel differently about my words here and that is okay, but if this is you, hear me out. I know the effects that birth trauma can have on people, I have seen it first hand with some of my nearest and dearest.
I do not want to devalue this fact, birth trauma is real. However, does birth trauma only extend to the woman/birthing person? No. Fathers and birth partners are affected too, hell, even midwives, doulas and birth photographers can come away from a traumatic birth needing counselling and support.
Even in a birth that goes to plan, some men come away from the births of their children with a feeling of loss of control and helplessness for not being able to assist and help their partners more during the process. I’ve spoken to men who have been riddled with guilt for not being able to advocate for what they knew their partners wanted and needed during the birth of their children, feeling guilty for being overrun by obstetricians and midwives who were deviating from the birth plan, feeling distraught, distressed and dejected that their partners ended up so far from the birth they had dreamt and wished for.
Yet, when it comes time to planning for the birth of subsequent babies their thoughts, feelings and wants and wishes aren’t taken into consideration. How absolutely fucking sad and disgraceful for our society. If this were happening to women in this day and age, we would be kicking up a storm and marching in front of offices with placards and signs chanting some witty punchline.
I know what you’re thinking, “this is women’s business” and “we live in a patriarchal society as it is” but…these men aren’t your bosses. They aren’t a random obstetrician at a hospital trying to push you into a c section…
These are your husbands. Your partners. Your soulmates. The person with whom you have deemed perfect for creating and bringing new life into this world. The person with whom you have mixed DNA and created a person that is part you, part them. This person’s thoughts, feelings and opinions matter.
Not only does the lack of input into birth plans have effects on marriages, relationships and mental health for the men/birth partners involved but the flow on effects from this push for men to have little say in our birth plans could be contributing to men not feeling ‘connected’ to the birth and baby… Consider the current statistics on paternity leave in Australia:
Only 1 in 3 fathers are taking advantage of paternity leave arrangements in Australia.
Would we have more fathers and birthing partners take advantage of paternity leave arrangements if we were more supportive and inclusive of their wishes and choices in pregnancy, childbirth and parenting?
Studies show that men who take two or more weeks off after the birth of a child end up more involved in the child’s direct care nine months later than a father who doesn’t take leave. Men who take paternity leave end up being more capable and devoted fathers later in their children’s lives.
I feel that in this new world where women are on the rise and more women are confident in sharing their opinions with the world; that sometimes we inadvertently give our husbands and partners the short end of the stick.
All strength to women who feel empowered by the feminist movement, this post is not about that and I don’t intend to take the glory away from that movement.
I think that there is a fine line and a balance that needs to be struck when it comes to things like pregnancy and childbirth because the truth is, you can’t do it alone. It really does take a village and when you give that power to your husband or partner and make them your village, magical things happen.
My homebirth with Clover set my husband and I on a journey to repair damage in our relationship that I had forgotten was there. I have never felt more loved and supported by him than during this time in our lives and today I am still feeling the benefits of being lifted to that height by him.
We co-parent more cohesively. We live together more peacefully. We love harder. Our relationship is built on mutual respect and no one person holds power over the other in any domain of our lives and I think that is a crucial element to surviving this crazy world of marriage, love and parenting.