So, when the PBM topic was ‘Dads & Birth Partners’ I decided to invite dads and birth partners along to our evening gathering for this topic … it soon became clear that if I had mums AND dads there would be too many of us. So, I made this meeting Partners Only….. and then sat back and assumed no one would come!
How wrong I was! Yes, there were some women who felt their partners wouldn’t want to come on their own but lots of dads bravely ventured, into my home without their pregnant partners to hide behind.
I made a rather sweeping assumption, but one that seemed to hit the nail on the head initially, by planning for this gathering to have more structure than the ones I facilitate just for women. These blokes were giving up an evening and they would want to leave full of practical, useful information that they could put into practice. I drew up an agenda and planned a slick, board-meeting type of scenario… and swiftly assured the men, on arrival, that there would be no hand-holding, stroking or group hugs. Again, by the relieved looks on their faces, I’d hit the nail on the head with that reassurance – because, men and women are different in lots of ways.
Not all men, but many, see a problem or an issue and swiftly reach a conclusion about what the problem is and how to fix it. They also often take themselves off alone, or lose themselves in, say, an x-box game or hobby when they are worried or stressed, often going inward – probably where the ‘man-cave’ and love of sheds clichés come from.
Women, on the other hand often engage with others, chatting through problems with other women more readily. We’ve all been there, all over the world it seems that all women need to bond is a couple of chairs and a pot of tea or bottle(s) of wine. It generates oxytocin, it makes us feel better.
These differences stood out to me when I started by asking the dads what was worrying them right now. They talked about fixing practical things, making sure that their pregnant partners had those issues dealt with for them, but at the same time they felt it didn’t seem to be enough for the pregnant women, they needed something else.
And so we discussed the differences I’ve mentioned above – why women want to talk things through, why the way we react to stress is different, the fact that our ability to experience a situation and remember it on an emotional level may be more profound. The fact that we will talk around a problem at different levels in a way that raises our oxytocin, that we don’t necessarily need it ‘fixing’.
We went on to consider just listening, being really present instead. Taking time out of each day to do that now, even if it means setting their alarms 10 minutes earlier each day to do so. How, if we understand these differences, it will make a difference in communication and make connection with each other better and …. how this understanding will serve both, not only in their relationship in general and for years to come, but absolutely during pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.
Of course within these discussions the word ‘oxytocin’ came up several times, and so discussions around what it is and it’s role in labour and birth were prevalent, the dads quickly figured out themselves what will help labour progress, what won’t and why …. considering environment and support, place of birth and all sorts of other things in between!
Pregnancy is a catalyst because it changes us. It’s not just about birth and babies, it’s about mums and dads, personal growth, trust, confidence, hopes, fears and anxieties.
If couples aren’t attending any antenatal education courses (and many don’t), women do, at least, have their midwives to get information from and talk through concerns with, as well as their female friends. Who do men turn to?
I’m aware that many men have either female friends or sisters to turn to, or may relate to their male friends differently, but in my personal experience, in general, antenatally, men are seriously lacking in support just for them, in having a place where they can go to look at all this just from their perspective.
I’d assumed this Partners Only gathering would be the polar opposite of the Women Only ones, but actually it turned out to be not so much, because we all need a space to share and get support and information don’t we? These dads really enjoyed the time spent with other dads who are all expecting a baby soon and have similar concerns and excitement about the journey ahead, and so in future I will be giving over some of the Positive Birth Movement Tunbridge Wells evening gatherings to partners only.
The good news is that The Positive Birth Movement now has a FB page just for partners!
I’d really, really love to hear your thoughts and those of your partners, so please do get in touch.