Category Archives: Labor and Delivery

The Woman Carries the Baby, The Man Does… Nothing? More Thoughts on Supporting the Partner of a Pregnant Woman

Nothing about the birth of my child was about the other person that had so much to do with it: my husband.  I have already discussed this matter previously, but I think it’s such an important topic that I have to bring it up again.

During labor, no one took care of my husband.  And the funny thing is that, because I could see how hard it was on him that I was in so much pain, I was worried about him—which made it all worse on me.  So ironically enough, but not taking care of him, the medical and nursing staff were undermining the person they were focused on—me.

It remained the same after the birth.  As one hospital staff after the other came into the room to check up on me and the baby, my husband was barely acknowledged, let alone addressed.  And when, in response to a question, I would tell the staff member that I had to consult with my husband, I was met with looks of surprise and even confusion.

Even now, a couple of months later, I find that people address all their questions and comments to me.  And when I consult with my husband, they are surprised, some of them even exclaiming: “But she’s your child!”

To them I try to explain that yes, she is, indeed, my child, but she is also his.  While I was the one that carried her for nine months, I didn’t fall because he was the one carrying me.  While I was the one that labored to deliver her, I was able to do so because he was laboring in his own way right beside me.  While I am the one breastfeeding her, he is the one feeding me.  He is just as involved and as sleep-deprived, reads just as many posts, articles, and books about parenting, asks just as many questions about what to do, and wonders just as much as I do on how well he is doing as a parent.  His heart clenches as much as mine when something happens to her, he worries as much as I do, he suffers right there alongside me when something is wrong.

And yet he doesn’t get any of the support that I get.

I’m not sure what the underlying assumptions to this pattern of behavior are.  They could be only positive—perhaps it is a sign of the respect we give mothers for what they go through.  There is definitely a lot of that, thankfully.

But I think there is also negative underlying assumptions, one of them related to the definition of what it means to be a man.  Being loving and nurturing, caring and supportive—it is assumed that the woman, and only the woman, has these.  The bills, the heavy items, and the logistics—all of those are given to the man.

The challenge seems to be that we have yet to overcome our constraining definitions of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man.  There is a lot to be said about this matter, and surely a short post like this one can’t hope to touch on all aspects of this complex matter.  But when it comes to how each one of us, as individuals, can address this matter, I think it’s quite simple, really.

Don’t forget about the father.

Ask him how he is doing.  Ask him how he is feeling.  Ask him what support he needs.  Make sure that this essential piece of the puzzle remains sane and whole.  Because both the baby and the mother need him, and no family can hope to achieve its full potential if all of its members are not functioning at peak capacity.

Live From the Delivery Room! Community-Building and the Birth of a New Member

One of the things about having so many friends who have been pregnant before me is that I have had the pleasure of hearing about their pregnancy, labor, and delivery experiences and what they have learned from it.  If there is one important, vital, underlying lesson I got from all of these experiences, it’s that under the umbrella of a healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery experience is a lot of room for personal preferences.

Some of my friends are very community-oriented and took those around them in consideration when it came to planning for labor and delivery.  While a pregnancy is already fraught with quite a few delicate questions with regards to boundaries and personal preferences that can unintentionally offend the other, it seems that labor and delivery is a whole different ball game.

I wasn’t too surprised by the broad range of opinions about pregnancy, but was shocked at how adamant and sometimes downright aggressive opinions about labor and delivery were.  I’m not sure yet why it is so; but it does beg the question: are the way labor and delivery planned for restricted by a fear of being judged?

Yet again, while my sample population size is small and my techniques nowhere near rigorous enough to count for much in the research world, the mommies I reached out to with this question provided me with valuable insight into the question and a feeling that a large number of them would have, had they felt they could, chosen a labor and delivery experience different from what they went through.  I focus in this post on the ones that wanted to take into consideration the community the parents were living in.  That is to say, I am focusing on the experiences of parents who, just like my husband and I, are always trying to figure out how they can contribute to the tightening of the bonds of friendship within their communities.

The Open Party Home Delivery

The ultimate community-building event would be the idea of having a home delivery open to anyone who wants to come for a visit.  The mother and father would have a private room to go into as needed, they would have a midwife or doula taking care of them, and the rest of the house would be open to family, friends, and neighbors at all hours of the day.  Sounds crazy but as one person put it, during labor, she would have loved to have people around to distract both her and her husband since all they had to do was to wait through painful contractions—and might as well have had an ongoing party to go to.  This seems to be the perfect setup for extroverts who are comfortable having contractions in public and looking less than radiant.  It would also imply that those attending have to contribute—they can’t just come over and expect everything to be set up for them, they have to bring food and drinks and even leave some behind!

The Limited Party Birthing Centre Delivery

A birthing centre usually includes “living room” and kitchen areas.  Out of respect for the other families who are also at the birthing centre, the couple can’t invite everyone they know to come over.  But one of my friends mentioned how great it would have been to have someone—her sister, for example—be a contact person so that at all times, 2-4 people could come over with food and drinks just to hang out.  Again, it was felt that the distraction would have been well worth it, the food and drinks could have been shared with the other families who were also waiting for a delivery, and that it would have been a way to include family, friends, and neighbors in the process.  The parents would also still have their private room when they need it.  This seems to be a good setup for parents who are either extroverts or those who are a little more reserved extroverts.  It would also be a great setup for a couple featuring one extrovert and one introvert.

The Private Home, Birthing Centre, or Hospital Delivery with Digital Outreach

My husband and I have, amongst others, a group of ten or so friends who are all part of a common WhatsApp group.  Two of them, a married couple, had a beautiful little baby girl a couple of years ago.  They didn’t want people to come to the hospital while they were in labor and delivery except for their own parents.  But they wanted us, their closest friends, to be a part of the experience.  That’s when the WhatsApp group became the Labour and Delivery group and to this day, we all remember staying up all night just to check on messages from the parents, pictures we would send back and forth of our reactions and what we were doing when the baby was delivered, and the pictures of the adorable newborn baby that is now a part of our group.  The children of close friends are already very special and dear to our hearts, but this little girl has a particular spot in the hearts of this group of friends, and I think it has to do with this shared experience, even if was “only” a digital one.  This seems to be the perfect option for those who are extroverts or introverts, who don’t want to take any risk with regards to the unknown—what if people expect things that can’t be given, what about those who won’t respect boundaries, what if we change our minds about where the boundaries are set—but still want a certain group of people to be involved.  There are also those who post updates on more open platforms like Facebook or Instagram, which would suit the needs of parents who want to share even bit of the experience with everyone they know, rather than a small group of friends.

The Completely Private Delivery

Then there are those who just need to be alone in their bubble and go through the process together as a couple.  There are a number of my friends who mentioned that they wished they had been alone with their partner because they really wanted to focus on feeling every aspect of the experience and not have to answer questions from family and friends, however well-meaning they were.  They actually felt that having others around as detrimental to community-building—one friend mentioned how, in an act completely unlike her usual self, she told someone very rudely (she even used swear words!) to be quiet and get out.  Needless to say, that didn’t go too well!  This would be a setup perfect for those who are introverts or those who are concerned about the way they might act under the very unique and intense experience of labor and delivery.

Final Thoughts

Just like with so many other things in life, it seems that, again and again, there is a certain balance between personal preference and boundaries that needs to be struck when it comes to deciding what kind of labor and delivery experience parents want to have.  And I feel that ultimately, any option can be a community-building experience if it is done in a spirit of love and acceptance from both side—the parents’ and the members of the community.  After all, it is love that binds the members of a community and a true acceptance of their difference that strengthens their relationships.