All About Giving Birth

(46 Posts)
rosabud Wed 20-Feb-13 12:19:15

At first glance it may seem that this post belongs in the Pregnancy section but I have decided to pose the question here because a) my last experience of giving birth was nearly 8 years ago so this is more of a reflective idea rather than a here and now/what is the immediate answer sort of topic and b) I find this the most interesting section of Mumsnet so I am interested to hear the thoughts/experiences of those who read the posts in this section.

So........when I was pregnant and giving birth, it was very much assumed that your male partner would be at the birth of the baby and it would have appalled my younger self to consider anything as old-fashioned as the dad-to-be pacing a hospital corridor to be offered a cigar by passing young medical students before being finally greeted by matron bearing a beautifully scrubbed and perfectly wrapped bundle after all the blood/guts/screaming/real work was over and done with. Like most women of my generation, husband was present for every moment of agony and blood and guts. In fact, two of my pregnancies were successful home births and during one of those the midwife failed to arrive in time so husband played a vital role and, indeed, my experiences of having male partner there are generally positive.

But........now that I am older and look back on the whole thing.......I can't help thinking that there were some downsides to him being present and, also, I think it may have been more natural and comforting to have had some very close female friends there instead.

I wondered how other people feel about this. Is it vital for bonding/equality that dads are at the birth? Is it a more naturally female experience and so it would be better to surround oneself with other females? How do men feel about it? Was it an invaluable experience or do they think they were out of their depth and would rather have been in the corridor but felt under too much pressure to say so?

As feminists, do we have a view on this subject?

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Wed 20-Feb-13 12:48:43

I don't think it's vital but I'm glad mine was there, but then he's probably the birth partner I would have chosen anyway, IYSWIM, rather than him being there for baby bonding per se.

PromQueenWithin Wed 20-Feb-13 14:08:38

Same with me. DH is my best friend and the person I'd always want beside me anyway blush. For me, it wasn't a "female experience" IYSWIM

I didn't want dh there but basically he nagged me in time letting him. I think it depends on the partner. dh is not good in stressful situations or with blood so I thought he would make things worse. he was good in the end. but I definitely see your point about having women there especially ones who have done it before

Ooh, I'm curious about this. I was chatting to DH about it the other day (we don't have kids and I'm not pregnant). I know I'm a massive wuss about pain when DH is around because I know he won't take the piss and will be very sympathetic. I'm not sure that's ideal really, is it?

I am curious how many women seem to have their mothers with them. It is lovely in theory but god, I can't imagine anything worse.

TerrariaMum Wed 20-Feb-13 15:28:30

Oh my gods, my labour would never have progressed if my mother were there. What a horrible thought.

OTOH, DH was wonderful and one of the reasons my memories of DD's birth are happy ones. And that is the key thing about birth partners; you want one you feel comfortable with. It's that part that I think is the women's issue, not DHs per se.

thezebrawearspurple Wed 20-Feb-13 15:32:42

The only person I wanted there was dp, if he wasn't around I wouldn't have let anyone else in. Unless there is good reason I think it's unfair to deprive the father of seeing his child born. They handed dd to dp as soon as she was out because it was an emcs so I couldn't hold her yet, he actually cried as he held her for the first time and bonded with her immediately. I think it really shaped him, he went from hard man to adoring daddy in the space of that experience, since then he's done half the childcare duties (actually most over the first few weeks), been equally involved and has always had the best relationship with her which she's really benefited from.

It's not the birth alone though, despite having them at the birth, most of my friends seem to do most of the work and emotional involvement with their kids while the fathers hang somewhat in the background. I don't know whether it's because the men are pushed out or because they are arseholes.

tethersend Wed 20-Feb-13 15:37:47

The thing is, at some point it stops being your experience and becomes the baby's IYSWIM. I wanted DP there to support me, but mainly to greet his children as they took their first breaths.

FadBook Wed 20-Feb-13 15:51:12

I think it is vital for the man to be there to witness the labour/ pain / birth / first breaths etc as it is a shared experience; one you discuss days, weeks and years later. Did it help to bond dd and dp? Who knows, I could only measure that if he wasn't there on a 2nd birth not ever happening and then seeing if he was more bonded to one child over the other.

I don't think it is a naturally female experience. It's more about trust and having someone be there for you at a very scary and vulnerable time of your life (well for me anyway)

DP was invaluable throughout my 5 day slow labour then 10 hour hard labour. He knew his exact role (partly because we'd completed a Natal Hypnotherapy course which had a big focus on his role to help me labour) and found the experience fascinating from a science point of view (he's a geek I know) and of course, amazing from a personal view, watching his daughter enter the world.

I think perhaps being surrounded by someone you trust, male or female, is the key really. They need to know your needs, wants and wishes so that, should you not have a voice, or your not communicating properly because of the god awful pain they are communicating on your behalf exactly what you want.

To that end, my mum being in on my birth as a good "communicator" would be my idea of hell on earth. grin

TeiTetua Wed 20-Feb-13 15:52:07

What I can imagine really helping would be to have your best friend or maybe your sister beside you, when she's an absolutely solid person who's ideally had kids herself. Just maybe it could be your mother, but in most cases, probably not.

FadBook Wed 20-Feb-13 15:53:37

You're not your...I hate making grammatical errors, sorry!

AmandaPayne Wed 20-Feb-13 16:03:56

Hhm, I know a friend who was supported through labour by a doula and didn't want her husband there. She felt (and he agreed) that he would feel too powerless and upset by it and that she would feel inhibited. He was there for the actual 'birth' ,but not the labour.

Personally, for my second labour I had a doula. I needed someone a bit disconnected from the emotional side, and also calm and used to the situation. My first labour was a bit crap and I know DH found it hard not knowing enough to offer practical help (you know, try standing like this, doing this, ) when the midwives ignored us for hours on end. We both felt that he was a much better birth partner with back up. He could just concentrate on being the person who loved me, not trying to do lots of different jobs.

As this is the feminist board, what I think is interesting from a feminist perspective is that men have pretty much removed female supporters from the birth. In times past, women had family members or whoever as well as a midwife in many cases (take a look at how often the women on Call the Midwife are surrounded by family, and I think that was pretty normal). When men started being involved, it became accepted lore that all you needed was your husband. So the idea that you would have family members who had been through it, helped other women through it, was all ditched for having a man there. Not that I think they shouldn't be. Just that I think it is interesting that they usurped the female support, not augmented it. I think it says something about societal perception of the skill involved in supporting a woman through birth.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Wed 20-Feb-13 17:01:23

Do all hospitals allow more than one birth partner?

DH is a very calm type but I might well have wanted additional support if I was married to a worrier.

AmandaPayne Wed 20-Feb-13 17:05:29

All I have come across (admittedly a small sample from friends and family) allow at least two. Sometimes no more than two though.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Wed 20-Feb-13 17:07:58

Ah, thanks.

Is it partly down to us all having less local lives, though? My parents live more than 100 miles away, if I wanted DM at the birth she would have had to have moved in for up to five weeks yikes.

I would never want my mother there, no. But mother is not the only other female person a woman could have. Close friend, sister..anyone really. I does really wind me up when every so often a woman comes on here and says she does not want partner at the birth and women people up to tell her she is benign selfish or unfair to her partner. That's bull shit really. You should do what you feel is comfortable, and yes it is one of those rare occasions when it really is all about you. If dh pops in 10 mins or 10 seconds after birth there is no way it will mean he can't bond with his child. For fucks sake, men have not allways been there and they have gotten on fine hmm.

AmandaPayne Wed 20-Feb-13 17:12:44

Yes, it definitely partly is less local lives. But isn't it interesting that , as men entered the delivery room, women supporters exited. The mothers (eek, they'd both still be in there if my mother had been supporting), sisters, etc weren't replaced by relatives who lived closer, or close local friends, or professionals (whereas in so much of life it it pretty routine for middle class women to pay for the support they would have used families for in the past, like babysitting or childcare). They just went. And it was assumed that the only support you needed was a man who had likely never seen a woman labour before.

HappyJustToBe Wed 20-Feb-13 17:15:27

DH was there for my short labour but didn't come in when it ended in an emergency section for our personal reasons. He saw DD when she had been wrapped up etc and was clean. I don't think it had an effect on bonding. He and DD have a very close relationship.

When I was told it was going wrong I did want my best friend more than anyone but I don't think her gender had anything to do with it and she hasn't had children yet. There was nobody who had been through childbirth that I would have wanted there.

I personally think it is your relationship with the birth partner that is important and I don't think their gender would affect their supporting ability.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Wed 20-Feb-13 17:17:51

Is it that, before you actually get there, you think the midwife (predominantly female) will be doing that for you and it's not necessarily clear that, unless you have a home birth or read mumsnet first, the midwife isn't there the whole time and therefore isn't a birth partner per se?

Having said that, my midwife for DS1 more or less did take that role for most of the last 3-4 hours, alongside DH. She was fab.

AmandaPayne Wed 20-Feb-13 17:20:44

Good point Doctrine. That is definitely part of it - an overselling of the midwife support you get in a CLU.

badguider Wed 20-Feb-13 17:24:10

I am a feminist but I do not have a 'sisterhood' of females I could ask to be birth partners really. I am closer to my DH than anybody else in the world, so regardless of his role as 'the father' his role in the birth is 'my life partner'.

I am a feminist of the 'always had mixed sex friendship groups' type rather than the type with a strong band of female friends and have brothers and no sister. I did not have a 'hen do' for this reason - because to pick the females from my different friendship groups and do something with them only because of their gender would have been very strange.

I'd rather have midwives around who have seen hundreds and thousands of births than a female friend or relative who has had one or at most two themselves as each birth is so different.

AmandaPayne Wed 20-Feb-13 17:26:59

Yes, I'm not sure I'd actually want a female friend or relative there. As I mentioned, I had a doula (essentially providing what I though midwives did, but often don't). I wanted someone who knew what was going on as well as supporting me IYSWIM. I don't think it would have mattered that much if that person was a man.

I do think it's an interesting question how we all came to feel like this though.

You see, I think when hospitalisation became the norm for birthing, there was a very long period, perhaps fifties to the late seventies where 'the only people you could have with you were the medical staff. That was certainly my m-I-l's(stbex) experience and I'm pretty sure when my nana ended up in hospital to birth my uncle, she was unaccompanied too.
So in the late seventies the move to include womens partners in the birthing experience was to bring in someone to give emotional support once again. But this time it moved towards the partner rather than what was seen as the traditional support, someone female.
I think men should be invited into birthing rooms, as that gives them knowledge and exposure that they would not otherwise have and hopefully as a consequence a deeper understanding of what happens. When people are denied knowledge of something, they are more likely to be dismissive or even fearful of it.
In the striving for equality, the process of birth bring experienced by both people (where circumstances allow) should lead to a greater understanding and mutual respect. In theory anyway.

AmandaPayne Wed 20-Feb-13 17:34:04

That's interesting Maggie. So they were separate steps?

VivaLeBeaver Wed 20-Feb-13 17:38:05

Michael Odent has done a lot of research into how women have better birth outcomes if they're supported by female birth partners rather than male birth partners. Shorter labours, less intervention.

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