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Episode 193

Father’s Day Special

In honour of Father’s Day, I took the opportunity to interview five dads about their experience of pregnancy and birth. They each talk candidly about birth preparation and the highs and lows of the labour ward, in particular the mental and emotional challenges of seeing their wives labour through pain and intervention. Throughout their stories they share advice and top tips for dads-to-be which are beautifully relevant for the birth day and the postpartum period. I really enjoyed gleaning a different perspective for this episode and I’m so grateful for the humour and insight that each of the men shared with me.

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Image by Hilary Walker Birth Photography

Andy

Andy’s partner birthed her boys at home, the first in Germany and the second in Australia. Andy was really involved during the first pregnancy and attended all of the medical appointments thanks to a very lenient work situation. He learnt a lot from attending birth preparation classes and watching birth documentaries, in particular The Business of Being Born and Birth into Being.

Granted, he feels the only thing he wouldn’t recommend during labour is taking too long to fill up the bath. But when it comes to transition, he kept repeating: your body knows exactly what to do and it was the ideal affirmation during the most challenging and doubt-filled moments of labour.

He caught their second child, Jude who was born en caul (in the amniotic sac). Previous to witnessing Jude’s birth, he’d never heard or even knew it was possible for babies to be born this way. “Seeing him take his first breath after having the sac torn was unbelievable.”

Takeaway tip : “She’s the star of the show. As much as you’re important, you’re the supporting cast. Just remember that she’s the lead actress. Be what she needs you to be. Do what you can and do what you’re told.”

Brad – you can listen to Brad and Danielle’s full birth story in Episode 69

Brad and Danielle were the first in their group of friends to have a baby which they considered a positive thing as they just learnt to do it their way. Danielle’s first labour was a planned induction and while Brad was there during the labour with ice chips and back rubs, he felt he really needed to step up when Danielle suffered a postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).

“It surprised me how challenging it was, to witness the hemorrhage….it was actually very confronting. You just go into survival mode and you’re trying to help out as best you can. In the days that followed she really needed my support on a much greater level as she was in a lot of pain and discomfort. She also suffered from postnatal depression in the first year, an experience that is really common among new mums but of course that doesn’t make it any easier.”

The birth of the second child was a completely different experience; Danielle went into spontaneous labour, birthed at 11:30am and was back home by 3pm. Brad admits that while the support of the midwives is essential, especially first-time around, it’s really good to get home and be comfortable in your own surroundings.

Takeaway Tip: “Be there in labour and help out as best you can, but long term, focus your attention on your partner. In my experience, the first 6-12 months is a lot harder on your wife than your baby. Don’t forget about her; make sure she’s got plenty of help and that she’s understood and supported. If she’s happy and encouraged that she’s doing a good job, your baby will be happy, too.”

Ben

Ben and his partner, Hilary attended birth preparation classes which were a great resource for information, especially when it came to knowing all the possible outcomes of labour and birth. Birth Skills by Juju Sundin is a book he highly recommends although he admits, no amount of reading prepared him for the challenge of Hilary’s labour.

“Hilary was induced and experienced painful contractions on top of one another with little break or relief between from the very start of labour. I held her hand the entire time and just did what she asked. I think I had a two minute break to go to the toilet and the rest of the time I was right beside her. I also tried to help her stay close to her plan and steer her away from the c-section she requested five hours in.”

Takeaway Tip: Be emotionally prepared as a support person. Knowing how to manage your own emotions while supporting your partner who is in a lot of pain and working through the challenge of labour, is really important. Once you’re home from hospital, keep them fed and warm and safe. The support you showed during labour needs to carry on for the weeks and months that follow.”

Pat you can listen to Pat and Nicola’s full birth story in Episode 71

To prepare for their impending birth, Pat and Nicola listened to a lot of ABS podcast episodes, watched almost every episode of One Born Every Minute and read Birth Skills by Juju Sundin. On a practical level, Pat made a birth tool belt with all the essentials; stress balls, massage oil, affirmation cards and a sieve (for catching poo).

“My advice is to be quiet when needed instead of asking for a pain score or telling her affirmations she doesn’t want to hear.”

Takeaway Tip: Stay present, be supportive and read the room, ie: be receptive to her changing needs.

Jeremy

Jeremy’s partner, Anne, enrolled him in a Beers + Bubs session at their local pub. He was reluctant at first and he admits that when he turned up, there were about 30 guys looking uncomfortable and wary. The experience turned out to be incredibly empowering and he now recommends it to all dads-to-be.

“By the end of it everyone had opened up about their fears and concerns and we were chatting about all the possible birth details. It really gave me a good heads up on what to expect from a dad’s point of view.”.

Jeremy and Anne also attended antenatal classes at The Mercy Hospital and did a Calmbirth course with their midwife which they both highly recommend

“Anne was reluctant to have an epidural so we really need to explore other pain relief options because it was very challenging for her. She’s one of the strongest people I know so I was expecting that she would sail through labour and to watch her struggle was hard. It certainly made me want to help her in any way that I possibly could.

Takeaway Tip: Arm yourself with information and go to as many classes as you can. But mostly, be ready for things to change unexpectedly; be prepared to be mentally and emotionally flexible, especially when your birth plan changes.

Tags: dads, birth support partner, support partner advice, homebirth, hospital birth, PPH, PPD

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