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.

NonnoMum Wed 20-Feb-13 17:40:40

MY DH missed one of our DC's birth. It has not affected his very close relationship in any way whatsoever.
In fact, the MW said that there was evidence that an uninhibited woman, labours much more efficiently.
I'm all in favour of good support for a labouring woman and it not necessarily coming from a man.
I agree that we may look back at all these men in the labour wards and think it was pretty faddish. Woman have traditionally laboured with other female support for years.
You only have to watch One Born to see how generally they are a spare part during the labour process.

NonnoMum Wed 20-Feb-13 17:41:17

Cross post, Viva - thanks for the reference.

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

As a midwife the labours I've seen when its been women only as support have generally been great labours with very supportive people. Whether its mothers, sisters, friends.

Some men can be supportive like this but as a sweeping generalisation I'd say the majority aren't.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Wed 20-Feb-13 18:00:24

I think another point is that if you want a friend with you who has "been there, done that", unless her kids are grown up, SHE will need to access childcare at the drop of a hat for an unknown amount of time, any time in a five week period. I know I couldn't commit to being a birth partner for a friend.

TeiTetua Wed 20-Feb-13 18:02:23

It's probably fair to say that if a woman invites another woman to be with her in childbirth, she's most likely choosing someone who'll do the right things. Whereas if her husband is there, she's stuck with him.

I would not have had anyone else at the birth of my daughter, but DH. That was my first birth and he was amazing, truly wonderful. The mws wouldn't stop praising him (and me, too) for how supportive he was.

With my son, I felt more prepared for labour so would have been happy to have my female best friend or mother or sister with me if DH had needed to be elsewhere. I didn't need him in the same way, but I wanted him and he wanted to be there, so it was we two again. As it turned out it's probably best he was there as he understood what was happening when I went into the transition phase and got very spaced out whereas I think my best friend and sister might have panicked or not known what to do, having no experience of labour whatsoever. I also ended up hanging off him to bear down (was on my knees for the pushing stage) and I don't think I would have grabbed at anyone else in the same way.

Basically I think it boils down to who you feel most comfortable with given the incredibly visceral nature of birth and for me that was DH. That being said, I would have gladly had a home water birth and invited my aforementioned favourite females if that had happend.

But being supported by a male birth partner as well as a female, wouldn't be a problem would it?
In my reading around 'the history of child birth, that is the way that it developed, yes.
Though of course for Royal births, especially under the Louis's, the king was present to ensure the child being birthed was his(or rather emerging from the women he was married to) but at that stage the queen was pretty much giving birth in front of the whole court anyway.

Trekkie Wed 20-Feb-13 20:53:12

I suspect it depends on the disposition of the indiviual rather than their sex or relationship etc.

I would not want my mum there in a million squillion years.
I can't think of any friends I would want there.
DH was hopeless, just looked terrified and panicked the whole time and all the people who were supposed to be looking after me (things didn't go well) kept asking him if he was OK, up to and including the anaesthetist.. Gah!

I think TBH for me it would be nice to have any old friend/family/partner there for the early bits for and then for the later more (for me) godawful bits going it alone.

Schooldidi Wed 20-Feb-13 21:06:24

I had my mum there for the birth of dd1 and dp was there for the birth of dd2 (dp is not dd1's biological father if that makes a difference).

I think I preferred having my mum there. She knew what was happening as she'd done it herself, 3 times. She kept me distracted and joking for a lot longer than dp even tried to entertain me. By the actual birth for both of them I was screaming (a lot) but the labour bit was much more 'fun' with my mum there. I don't know if that is a reflection of their personalities rather than their genders though. Dp didn't really know how to be useful, to him it was something I had to do and he wasn't really part of it so he just sat in the corner until I told him I needed something. For my mum she wanted to help, so she was constantly asking if there was anything I needed, or she was keeping up a general chatter with the mw (and the 2 student mw who were observing) which distracted me and was in fact very useful in giving me something other than the pain to focus on.

I would have been very annoyed if anyone had been paying more attention to dp than they were paying to me though.

Lollydaydream Wed 20-Feb-13 23:47:31

I have a couple of thoughts here, firstly that the trend reflects the different way we perceive marriage now as opposed to the 50s; it's much more of a partnership ideal now and the ideal is that your dh or dp.is the closest person to you and therefore can emotionally support you. And that must be related to the evolution of feminism.
Linked to that is that we no longer expect our dh to be repulsed by seeing us undignified. Also my dh would never have clue what I had been through if he hadn't been there; that would affect our relationship.
Secondly I think the concept of being supported by women also plays into an ideal of having supportive experienced women around you. My mum has had 1 labour; that hardly makes her experienced and most women nowadays only labour once or twice. When you add in that every labour is different it really is pot luck if you can find a birthing partner who actually understands what you're going through.

kickassangel Thu 21-Feb-13 02:08:12

This is a difficult subject for me as my main impression was that I was being awkward and unreasonable by not just popping the baby out. This was from dh, the first midwife and the other medics called in when the 2nd midwife thought I should have a cs.

Somewhere I got the impression that it was supposed to be painful and if I did the right things all would go well. Therefore it was MY fault that things didn't go well. Of course that's a crock of shit. But all the birthing classes kind of made it sound like that, and dh seemed to think that, as he had no other experience to go on.

Having said that, I honestly can't think of one person I would actively want to go through that with me. I would rather hire a doula than have anyone I know.

Like many, I assumed that te midwife would be there with and for me. How wrong I was.

AaRoundAbout Thu 21-Feb-13 02:42:43

Gave birth 2 weeks ago, had dp and my dm there smile ...had Dm there as I imagined dp would do a swift exit at the sign of any blood....however he didn't, he stayed very supportive and sympathetic, he helped me, he managed to actually watch ds come out (I couldn't do that!!!) And he then cut the cord... dm didn't have to do anything smile sooo glad I had dp with me.

I don't see anything wrong with having just females there but dp sure made me feel silly for doubting him!

curryeater Thu 21-Feb-13 10:49:57

My sister told me that statistically there are better outcomes for first babies when the mother is supported by a woman who has herself given birth vaginally. I didn't invite a chum, though I did seriously consider it when she said that, because she had a brutal ventouse delivery of her first baby which she feels was unnecessary. But didn't feel close enough to anyone really. I guess maybe I am saying that dp has already seen your fanjo ;)

for many of us now our dps are our best friends, or supposed to be. If they are, that is great. If they aren't, it can be a horrible feeling and the assumption that he belongs at the birth is maybe not helpful.

I am glad dp was there because he was nice to have around, but also because I was a bloody trouper and he would never have any idea what it was like if he hadn't seen it [shallow]

When I was pregnant I found quite a lot of supporting evidence to suggest that having a male there for the labour (which can be 12 - 48 hours for a first baby) is unhelpful and can lead to the labour being longer, or even stopping altogether. I decided to have a female doula to support me during labour, and my husband only to come in once things were so far prorgressed there would be no going back, so the final 10 minutes or so. During labour I could tell when my husband was in the room, trying to peek around the corner, even though I couldn't physically see him. Men emit a stress hormone during labour which interferes with the woman's hormone levels. It's not a conscious thing and there's not a lot we can do about it. My birth plan was that if anything went wrong (which it did!) then the doula and my husband would swap over and he would become my main supporter because the research was only applicable to natural births.

Many of my cohort were shocked that I wasn't having my husband with m e during labour until they understood the reasoning behind it. I agree that there should not be an automatic assumption that the man will be there for the labour/birth - it's not helpful to either women or men.

WoTmania Thu 21-Feb-13 11:52:26

I wasn't bothered either way, DH didn't really want to be there for DS1 but was and the other two were quick HBs so he had no choice.
I rather suspect it depends on the couple. With DS1 DH really wasn't that much 'use', I found it quite distracting and irritating, particularly in transition having him around but having to tell him what to do. HAd I ahd a close female friend that would have been preferable. My mum said she'd be there for DS1's birth but IMO having her there slowed things up (she's a real prude at times) and contributed to me having to transfer to hospital. For me, a good MW would be more than enough. The younger two I was basically alone until I made DH call a MW out - babies were born within minutes of MW's arrival. Suited me fine. But every woman is different.

kickassangel Thu 21-Feb-13 16:07:58

I think there's also a certain amount of pressure on the dh's to be there. My waters broke, and I went in, then I was sent home again. DH went to work and people were shocked that he'd left me at home alone, but the truth was that I wanted to be on my own, and he wanted to save taking time off for when I had the baby &she was born, not to watch me wander around/sleep and moan.

Once I was induced, it was expected that he would take care of me, so he spent a whole day following me around the hospital as they kept sending me off for a walk. It felt very much like he was being used as a free minder. I assume if I had been alone then they would have sent me off alone, or asked me to stay on the ward. tbh, the level of care and ifno given, I could have just got in the car and gone home for a few hours and they would never have noticed.

Again, once I was on a drip he pretty much was expected just to sit there. It went on for hours, and he really had nothing to do, but felt that he couldn't read or anything as he was meant to be 'involved'. tbh, he was just a spare part. The midwives all but ignored me, and I was too caught up in what was happening to pay any notice to him.

So I don't think men need to be there, it should be up to the birthing mother, but I think there's a lot of pressure on men to be there whatever the couple actually want.

Chiggers Fri 22-Feb-13 22:54:43

DH was at the births of our 2 DC, and TBH, there is not one female friend or family member that I would have had at the births (apart from DSIL, who is a neonatal ward sister).

If I had a choice. I would have had my DF or DB's there or I would do it alone with just the medical staff there for both CS's.

I'm not rabidly anti-female, I just don't feel comfortable getting close to other females, and so have kept my distance.

TomDudgeon Fri 22-Feb-13 23:10:32

When it has come to births I have described dh as my rock numerous times. He's my best friend and staunchest support and I wouldn't want anyone else there.
My mum would have been jittery and I don't really have anyone else I would feel comfortable being there.
If dh hadn't been there I would have preferred being on my own.
I think having people you are comfortable with is more likely to make you labour easily not the fact that they are female.
Dh is the calm to my erratic and nuttiness

Rosyisgonnabeamummy Sat 23-Feb-13 15:58:48

This has been a worry for me too! I would prefer to do the whole thing alone, in hospital with medical support obv.
My dh just shouts orders in stressful situations - which I dont respond well too!
My mum and I aren't close and I can't say I have anyone friend wise who I would value their input.
Dh prob will be there but I will discuss it with the midwife and make sure they tell him to leave if I want him to.

I have to say at this point I am not in a suppressed marriage! I do normally do what I want

rosabud Sat 23-Feb-13 18:52:39

Thankyou for all your interesting replies! I think the point about marriages being different now and more of an equal partnership/friendship than they used to be is a valid point of view. Also, interesting views about the idea of being supported by a female close to you who has already given birth. This was normal and expected in my grandmother's generation but by the time my mother was giving birth she was in hospital with medical professionals and noone "close" was deemed necessary. When "close" people were allowed back in, it seems to have been assumed that it would be the father.

The other interesting point is that many women friends today are no more likely than a husband to be experienced at birth. Sadly, this is true. I have given birth four times yet, as all my close friends and relatives chose to have their husbands as their birthing partner, I have never actually seen anyone giving birth! I think this does suggest that women are not as involved in birth as they used to be........which is a bit of a shame.

But it's good to hear so many positive stories of supportive male partners.

StephaniePowers Sat 23-Feb-13 19:03:21

DH was there both times, btu the second time, if he had said 'actually I'd rather not' I would not have minded: he's lovely, but just sat there really. Had anything gone wrong, I don't know what he'd have done, and you really want to be with someone who'll speak up for you.

I also think quite a few men would be relieved if they didn't have to think about it. Not sure how I feel about this but I personally know men who have found it very frightening. Of course the same goes for women, and they kind of have to be there, so, meh.

It would be nice if birth included more people than just the father (as a norm), I mean friends and family if you wanted them there. I completely understand why hospitals wouldn't allow this though. And jeez, the politics...

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