So in part 1 of this series, I talked about the importance of first breaking down the communication barriers between men and women. This month, my focus will be on educating and equipping dads for labor and birth.
It’s commonplace for first-time expectant parents in the US to register for some sort of childbirth preparation classes. A mom-to-be might have to twist her partner’s arm to get him to even touch a pregnancy book. But mention a “how-to” childbirth class and often times he’ll more willingly participate. With busy lifestyles, it’s understandable why some men (and women, too) would be more inclined to take an accelerated childbirth prep class (6 weeks worth of information condensed into one, 8-hour session). While these “express” classes may accommodate our hectic schedules, they are doing little to adequately prepare both women and men for birth. So here are some options to consider when researching classes that will meet the needs of expectant fathers:
- Take out-of-hospital childbirth classes: These are classes taught by certified childbirth educators in a neutral location (such as the educator’s home). The classes are often much more relaxed than those in a hospital and the class size is usually limited. This type of environment provides a wonderful setting for men to be at ease, without the pressure of the typical classroom.
- Take classes that are 6-12 weeks in length: This may sound like a huge time commitment, but consider that preparing for major milestones like birth and parenthood cannot be condensed into a quick and easy express course. While men tend to be very facts-oriented, how much information can men really process in just one or 2 classes? If your husband seems hesitant at the thought of the class length, it may help to point out that the time spent in the class is really an investment in your child, your family and your future.
- Avoid classes that turn men into “labor coaches”: Labor is not a sporting event! A woman does not need to be “coached” during labor. She needs to be surrounded by a nurturing birth team who supports her wishes in the way she sees fit. Instead, look for childbirth classes that address the emotional needs of men, don’t have any pre-conceived ideas of what role men should play during birth, and offer practical solutions to encourage good communication between men and women.
- Childbirth classes aren’t just for first-time parents: After experiencing the birth of his first child, a dad might not think there’s anything to prepare for when expecting subsequent children. But if his partner had a difficult or traumatic first birth (such as an unexpected c-section), or simply wants to do things different this time, it’s beneficial to consider taking classes again. Dads, too, need to have time and space to process the birth of their children and out-of-hospital classes are a great place to do so.
I’ll be finishing up the final part of this series next month!
By Expert Mommy, Sarah Baker