This year, as increased attention has turned toward the risks posed by unnecessary medical interventions in childbirth, and toward the growing numbers of families who are choosing home births as an alternative to hospitals (which vary widely in their birth practices and policies), Lamaze International is giving dads due cred for their important roles in keeping moms and babies safe and healthy through the birth process. While dads are often portrayed as helpless bystanders in the delivery room, in reality they often provide crucial advocacy and emotional support for laboring moms. And childbirth education leading up to delivery day helps dads comfortably take on these active roles in their children’s births. As one dad attests, in a video on the Lamaze International website, “I was able to support [my wife] in using various types of pain-relief techniques. We knew in advance that there were many natural options to find greater comfort, and it was especially important for us to avoid any unneeded medical interventions that could lead us down the road to a cesarean birth.”
Of course, unplanned C-sections are sometimes necessary, but a dad who’s equipped with a clear understanding of the procedure’s implications, and his partner’s preferences around medical interventions, can ask questions and help make decisions while his baby-mama is otherwise, uh, occupied (labor’s a little distracting, you know?). Since even standard medical pain management interventions can create complications, creating an intervention domino-effect, having a confident and competent partner in childbirth can mean more moms who want to avoid medical pain management from the outset will be successful in doing so. Since moms who utilize natural pain management techniques in labor report more satisfaction with their birth experiences than moms who opt for epidurals do (even though moms in the latter category definitely feel less pain during delivery), supportive partners really do play a major role in shaping those experiences for moms. The birth experience isn’t everything, obviously – ending up with a healthy baby is – but it’s a rare mom who’ll tell you the experience doesn’t count for a lot.
The homebirth debate has highlighted many of the problems parents-to-be face in hospital births, but it’s also shed light on ways some progressive hospitals and birthing centers are incorporating positive elements of home births into hospital settings (natural pain management options included). The desire for dads (or partners) to be more involved in the birth process than is typical in delivery rooms is one of the major reasons many families choose home births instead. (Check out this link for a dad’s perspective on his role in home birth). But for those who go the hospital route, involving dads or partners from the outset can make a big difference in how delivery ends up going down; as more dads take this active role, doctors will become increasingly accustomed to it, and perhaps come to appreciate and utilize partners in the delivery process as a part of the standard procedure.
My labor and delivery were rather high-intervention, due to a medical issue (although if I were doing it over with the knowledge I have now, I’m sure I’d have pushed – so to speak – for a more natural birth process anyway); regardless, my OB knew my husband and me well by the time I delivered Kaspar, and he involved Aaron (hubby) in every step of labor and delivery. It was a wonderful experience; Kaspar’s delivery felt very much like a team effort, and Aaron cherished his involvement. His bond with Kaspar began there, in the birth process, rather than later when all was said and done. Every birth, and every family, is different, of course (high fives all around to the many awesome types of family mixes out there that don't involve dads, but DO involve loving parental support!), but as we come up on Father’s Day, let’s acknowledge how much these men matter, and encourage their hands-on involvement and advocacy in our partnerships and parenting lives, from birth to everything beyond it.
Happy Father’s Day, dads!
How involved was your hubby/partner during labor and delivery? Do you think dads are more involved now than they were, say, a decade ago? What are y'all doing for Father's Day?