I will begin by saying I have a lovely husband. He is beyond helpful and is a very hands-on father. But.....when it comes to birth, he is really uninvolved and I get the impression he is uncomfortable with taking an active role in it. The really disappoints me. When Zoe was born he said he didn't even want to cut the cord for fear of doing something wrong. He did end up cutting it and being much more comfortable than he expected, but this time he is again becoming distant whenever birthing comes up. He does not want to watch any informative DVDs, makes excuses to not participate in our meetings with the doula, and has not wanted to practice any labor positions with me.
I know I need to just confront him about it. I think it is not about him being a jerk, but it's about him feeling uncomfortable or like it's not his place to intervene. It's come to a point though where I cannot just let it go. In a week I will be full-term and I want him to at least be able to know how to attempt to help and support me. If I say nothing, it will suck for both of us.
I'm not really looking for advice, just had to get it out there since it's been bothering me for awhile now.
This is something we've definitely struggled with. My DH is an awesome husband and a great daddy. But cutting the cord? No way! I just had to accept that there are some things he can do and some things he can't. Things he can do? Be supportive, help back up my decisions, hold my hand, tell the doctor what I want, and help make sure that the only thing I need to worry about is me and the baby. Things he can't do? Stay conscious through hearing our unborn child's heartbeat for the first time. Seriously, it's that bad.
I've been reading Birth Day by Mark Sloan recently and I'm currently in the chapter on Father's involvement in birth. We are in a very unique time period- really the last 20 or 30 years has been the only time period in pretty much any culture that the father is expected to be the woman's main support system during labor. For THOUSANDS of years the father stood outside the room or worked in the fields or fetched water while the women took care of the "women's affairs". They don't have vaginas or wombs. They know that they can't fathom the intensity of the physical experience of birth. We at least have mother's tuition about pregnancy and labor- they just have to take our word for it. They have virtually zero control over how the birth process goes- they cannot feel your pain, they can't get into your head and calm secret fears, they cannot push for you, they can't speed it up, slow it down, prevent complications... they're under a lot of pressure for a situation that they have virtually zero control in and no experience in, aside from to support you.
For thousands of years, laboring women have turned to other women- usually women who'd gone through the experience of labor themselves- for support during labor. Men can't really fill that niche. Sounds like you have a doula, which should be a great help.
In other words, go easy on him. Like I said, my husband doesn't handle medical things well. I knew going into labor that it was possible he'd not even be able to be in the room. Fortunately, he came through marvelously. No, he didn't cut the cord. He still refuses to watch a single birth video. He won't come with me to midwife appointments. But he will listen to me rant about natural childbirth, he will estrange his family over my decision to homebirth if need be, and when the baby comes he will do everything he can to make mommying easy for me.
I'm not sure he looked in the direction of my baby-maker during the entire labor process the first time around. But he was a great support. My husband, who wants to pass out just seeing the local billboards about varicose veins, was able to wheel my IVs around for me so I didn't need a nurse to take me to the bathroom during my 3 days in the hospital for preterm labor. When I REALLY needed him, he came through. If I happened to go into labor super fast before the midwife or anyone got here, I'd imagine he would catch the baby because necessity would make him step up. When I really need him, he'll step up. I'm sure if you really need your husband, he will step up. But go easy on him- he has hundreds of years of male genetic conditioning that men just don't belong in the process of birthing.
You know, I am feeling for you. When I read birth stories about partners and hubby's doing major emotional and physical support for the laboring mom, I can't help but wonder what it would be like if mine was like that, too. Even just the smallest gesture of...painting my toenails...or offering to rub my back without having to drop huge hints...or all the stuff I have read about counterpressure on the low back. Gee, that does sound nice
You probably have hit the nail on the head when you said your DH is just uncomfortable when it comes to being involved in birth. Emotionally, I can't really put myself in the place of the father. My DH has been pretty stressed out lately and it has got to be because he is ALSO expecting a new baby, not just me. I think it's great that with Zoe he came around to cutting the cord...sounds like a big step for him...and he did it. Maybe if there is something that is REALLY important to you, you could mention that one thing. When you talk about practicing positions for labor, do you mean that worksheet with all the little drawings on it from hypnobabies? i had never even thought about practicing them. but it does sound like a good idea. If it helps you feel any better at all, my DH has been 100% uninvolved in my hypnobabies prep and i am going into this without him knowing any of those verbal or physical cues or anything. I just can't expect that from him and I certainly didn't want to have to REMIND him. I know you aren't asking for advice and I don't have any, just wanted to say it feels like we are in similar situations.
Yeah, he thinks the hypnosis is silly, however he was okay with me spending the money to do it and is supportive of whatever I want in terms of birth. The only thing he "objected" to was going the HB or birth center route b/c of it costing us at least $4000 when we are already paying for health insurance.
I really get the impression that he would like to be involved but just doesn't know what is "okay" and respects that I am the one birthing so he does not want to seem like he is "taking charge" or making decision for me when he has no idea what it feels like to give birth.
And since he's a man, he has a lot of difficulty expressing his feelings so it's not easy to get him to open up about things like how "he" is feeling about something.
Andy is/was very similar to that in his reaction to birthing. He wants me to be fine, but he also feels like he does not have the expertise to offer. He was indifferent about cutting the cord both times, but did it both times.
I just told him exactly what i expected of him and he did it. Both times though I had a doula who I talked to a LOT prior to the birth and explained his part in the birth. That he would do what I asked of him, but would not likely come up with ways to help, and would sit back and wait to be told what exactly to do. So she knew that she may need to tell him ideas as well.
Everything worked out very well both times though. because everyone knew what to expect. I'd definitely talk to him and get on the same page. Talk to him about the most important things to you and try to let the other things go.
I think Jenn makes a great point. I think we expect too much of fathers in birth sometimes. Some guys are good at labor support, some are not. I actually did ask my DH to do the "relax" cue while I was in labor, and I don't think he would have done it if I hadn't asked. He kept doing it because he saw that it was helping. But you do have a doula who can do that kind of stuff.
Maybe you could suggest for him to be your "birth guardian"? I don't want to be stereotypical, but men do tend to do well in protective roles--maybe he could answer questions at the hospital and remind people to be quiet so you can concentrate? Maybe he could make sure nobody does any medical procedures without consent? That would be a way he could participate without having to be hands-on, and then he could leave the hypnosis cues, massage, counter-pressure, and emotional support to your doula.
They really should meet sometime b/c I think they have quite a bit in common. Chris actually told us at our doula home visit yesterday that he needs to be told what to do. I am going to try to carve out some time tonight to discuss it further with him and make a plan to begin practicing some of the comfort positions. There are some that honestly I'd feel weird doing with the doula b/c they are too intimate/touchy.
My Dh is somewhat similar too. His big thing more though is his fear of hospital settings and uneasiness with blood and other certain body type things. Poor guys was as miserable as I was during our DS's hospital birth. I was actually shocked that he agreed to having a HB this time, but I think that its mostly because he won't have to go into a hospital. He still won't even think about cutting the cord and feels it will be safer to hover near the upper part of my body during delivery.
I too fear that my husband won't know what to do our how to be during our next birth. I think its good that your DH actually came out and said that he will need to be told what to do. I think sometimes they just can't relate to what is happening and don't know how to comfort during the labor. I think its a good idea to practice with him. I might have to try doing that with my DH before the time comes so he has a few ideas of things that he might be able to do.
~Joy~ DS1-8/5/05, DS2-10/18/10 (VBAC#1), DS3- 4/11/12 (VBAC#2!)