Just about every journo who has ever interviewed me about Beer + Bubs: childbirth education for dads at the pub or my book for the lads, Cheers to Childbirth, has asked me about the most common mistakes that men make when they support their partner through birth. Here are my top five, witnessed in the birth suites of Sydney, Australia, not in any particular order. I’m not suggesting that all men make these mistakes. These are just the common behavioural blunders that I have seen over the years.
1. Too much talky-talk.
Shuddup boys! When you are gas-bagging, you are distracting your partner’s brain from the instinctual process of birth. When you are yacking to the obstetrician or chumming up to the midwife, you are not focussing your attention on your partner. And when you are chatting between contractions, you are entertaining yourself rather than supporting your partner. So zip it. Newsflash: birth can be quite boring so go prepared to be bored to snores for many hours.
2. Underestimating the bloke’s role in the birth process
I don’t buy the “helpless onlooker” defence. The father-to-be has a critical role in childbirth. He has the power to make birth easier and faster. He also has the power, should he do all the wrong things in supporting his partner, to make the birth slower, harder and more painful. Boys, your role is critical.
3. Causing biffo with the midwife
Testosterone is a wonderful hormone but sometimes it makes men go mad. They turn into cave men and express their frustrations with anger and (gasp) violence. Men experience a surge in the big T when their partner is in labour and can sometimes come out swinging if they feel threatened. There is a big difference between being an advocate for your partner and being a butt head to your caregivers. Communication is the key to a good relationship with your caregivers and this should be the goal of a good support person. Keep the midwife onside.
4. Treating the birth suite like a circus tent
The boys are sometimes SO THRILLED that the baby is born and all is well that they invite their entire family to pop in and say hi. Or give the room number and visiting hours to all 250+ Facebook friends. BIG MSTAKE. A woman who has just had a baby is in no mood to entertain. She needs to establish breastfeeding which is no fun with an audience. A newborn baby needs skin-to-skin contact with mum or dad, not to be passed around the room like a football, confusing baby’s bonding process. Defend that space and save the onslaught of visitors for home.
5. Failing to reorder life’s priorities
This is a BIGGY. I had a dad at one of my Beer + Bubs sessions in Sydney put up his hand and say “I’ll need to do some work while my wife is giving birth. Where is the best place to do that?” Whaaaaat? I said, who are you? The head of the Australian Stock Exchange? Turned out he was a suburban accountant. Ahem. The birth suite is no place for your workload. Work will wait. You will never get that time back with your partner and baby ever again. After the birth, life requires a reordering of priorities as well and dads should take as much paternity leave as they possibly can when a baby is born. This is your family now.