Archive for the ‘Birth’ Category

Dads in the delivery room- help or hindrance?

There’s been a lot said recently about the role of dads in the delivery room and it’s been playing on my mind. 

From the moment the sperm meets the egg, more than a potential baby has begun forming- so too your journey towards parenthood has begun its formation, and you dont even know it yet. Your body is gearing up for some major changes, your mind is gearing up for some major changes too, and the impact on your relationship? You really don’t know what you are in for! Many women and men report mixed feelings- overwhelming joy and happiness, mixed with fear and apprehension. And the ever-present thought in the background “What will this mean for “us”?”

You are about to go from just the 2 of you to 3 (or maybe more)…and I think we’re all familiar with that saying “Three’s a crowd”! Well, sometimes I think that old chestnut applies here. Women go through the physical symptoms of pregnancy, and the emotional/hormonal upheaval….from the outside looking in, it would seem that our men just tag along for the ride, staying out of the emotional equation for fear of intruding on this sacred womens business….but do they really? If so, do they do it not by choice but by default, because that is all they know?  Do they develop an attachment to that little bean just as much as we do, but in a different way? Or is birthing just women’s business? Do men have a place in all of this at all? 

To me, a very obvious cultural shift has taken place in Australia over the last 2 decades- men have been invited into the secret world of childbirth, and they no longer need a doctors white coat and stethoscope to get the invite. They can hold our hand while we grip it in the throes of  labour, wipe sweat from our brow, offer encouragement and support  (or in my case feed me ice-chip after ice-chip- no talking, just ice- NOW!!)

Is this a good thing? I say yes!

Is it any coincidence that more dads are playing an active role in their childrens lives nowadays, partly as a result of being allowed “in” to this amazing event, the birth of their child?

They witness possibly the first breath of their baby outside of the womb, many gain an in-awe appreciation for the amazing ability of the female body, they get an insight into the reason why we usually dont desire to have sex a week after giving birth (very important!) , and they make all kinds of new and wonderful discoveries: from the wet-patch-of-a-different-kind on the sheets between you; baby poo and spew and their amazing ability to end up on every lounge cushion you own, they learn that “let-down” takes on a whole new meaning and lets not forget every new parents best friend- sleep deprivation! You’ve entered the world of parenthood together my dear friends- ENJOY!

So why not share it all, birth included (and that milky wet-patch!)

But seriously, if men are educated on all aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and the care and requirements of a baby, as well as the ongoing needs of a mother post-partum, surely their ability to provide real and lasting support to us and their children will be increased? This too applies to ongoing support of us during breastfeeding; in-depth knowledge and support of which is usually lacking by many (and not just men!).

I think that the concept of banning men from the delivery suite plays into the stereotype of the dumb male (aside from the omnipotent obstetrician of course ); that men are incapable of feeling emotion, a bit useless when it comes to things of the heart or soul. The outdated image of the bumbling dad & harried husband, which reminds me of old sitcoms (and some new ones!) comes to mind.

 Back in the day when men were banned from delivery suites, did they actively help raise their children, or were they emotionally distant from their day-to-day lives? Did they change nappies, help bathe their children, tell their kids they loved them on a regular basis and hug them frequently- all the things that were solely considered a womans domain? 

 Today, amongst our circle of friends, most of the guys are changing the nappies, cooking while mum does baths or vice versa, helping with homework and doing home readers. They are talking with their kids, not at them- the most pertinent distinction of all!

And I know that many men still dont do these things, but I am positive that things are changing. Sure, we women dont have 50/50 equality in a great many things in modern society, but I do believe the expectations of men as fathers has increased, and rightly so. Many more men are stepping up to the shared responsibilities of parenthood, and seeing themselves as more than just “breadwinners” but as nurturers. I see banning them from the delivery suite as taking a major step backwards, and making a lot of sweeping assumptions that are potentially detrimental. I mean what man wants that image of a stretched perineum burned in his mind forever more *rolls eyes* (oh come on, they’ve never minded looking before- what possible difference does one teeny little conehead poking out of a vagina make!) 

I also think it incorrectly adds weight to the old “woman as a commodity” idea- out-of-date concepts like : oh the poor husband, how horrifying to see his partners vagina from that angle, he will be scarred for life and never see her as sexually desirable again.

Women in our society are no longer here just existing to serve their hubands sexual desires!  Hmmmm, maybe, just maybe, for most men, the actual witnessing of their child being born, whether it is vaginally or by c-section, of taking their first breath out of the womb, of meeting them for the first time, is somewhat symbolic too, and a wonderful shared experience for both parents! And the sexual function of the vagina is furthest from their mind?

If we know they will provide inadequate support during birth, of course it makes sense to not have them there. But as for the rest, what is wrong with a man seeing what his partner’s body is actually capable of in all its glory? I think we underestimate the depth of emotion or potential depth of emotion that being an active part of the birthing process can facilitate. If we don’t “let them in” while we birth, how can we expect them to want to be there during any other important emotional experience? If they say they dont want to be there during the birth, can we offer guidance and information, empower them with knowledge lest they regret this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? What do we, as mothers, really expect of fathers today? Do we want them, ideally, to be actively involved from the very beginning, or would it be easier to have them be passive bystanders to the wonders of parenthood like they were in the past? 

We will always benefit from a network of supportive women surrounding us while we are pregnant, and more often than not women can provide invaluable support to us during childbirth and during motherhood- but I think we are long past the era of men sitting in the waiting room, cigars at the ready, waiting for that all-important announcement “Its a ….”

And I for one, am very glad.

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Breastfeeding Week- an open letter of thanks

It’s World Breastfeeding Week and we are celebrating at Fusion Parenting.  Come back for a new post on breastfeeding every day!

 

In this, my first Breastfeeding Week since becoming a breastfeeding Mum, I would like to express my thanks to a group of women and men who helped me through the biggest emergency of my life. So below is an open letter to my friends at the Australian Breastfeeding Association…

After a beautiful 27 hour labour my little boy was an absolute natural at breastfeeding. Within minutes he had made his way up my tummy and had latched on for his first warm, milky feed. Before he was born I looked as breastfeeding as something that he and I would learn to do together, but after this, I knew that he would be the one teaching me what to do.

Our first few weeks together flew by with no problems with attachment, supply, nipple soreness….by this time I had attended my first ABA meeting and was an avid ‘lurker’ on the ABA forum. I was very proud of the job I was doing- even with my son’s love of comfort sucking, for many, many hours of the day. My husband and I saw this as a great way to catch up on some favourite tv series- with a fantastic excuse.

But when my son was just ten weeks old I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. Further investigation was required to see if ‘it’ had spread. The tests came back…the cancer was metastatic- it had spread to my lymph nodes and liver. I needed to have a number of major surgeries, and right now! By now, the ‘statistics’ predicted that I wouldn’t see my little boys first birthday. I didn’t know whether I would be there to hold his hand for his first day of school, or even be there to catch him as he took his first step. But there was something I could do- I could give him the best start to life that I possibly could.

And so began my journey with cancer. And with expressing. My first stop was the forum. I logged on and tearfully asked if anyone could help me teach my baby to drink from a bottle. An unlikely source of information about bottle feeding, but I didn’t know who else to ask…and these women seemed to have so much information- and compassion.

This proved to be a defining moment in my breastfeeding journey. Not only did these women provide me with the tips and hints I needed to express, bottle feed and return to breastfeeding but they gave me inspiration, motivation and strength. They didn’t just share information- every message came with love, prayers, and positive stories. Every message gave me hope- something that no doctors could.

My wonderful husband knew that focusing on breastfeeding was giving me hope and purpose and he did everything he could to support me. After my operations he was there with the electric pump, at times having to physically hold it up to my chest so I could express the milk out, ridding my body of anaesthetic so I could get back to feeding my baby. And then he would bring my beautiful baby to the hospital and without fail, Toby would latch on, just as easily as he had that very first night when he was born.

The surgeries performed managed to rid me of all the cancer and since then I have become a ‘regular’ at my local ABA meeting. I am also proudly ‘addicted’ to the ABA forum and consider the women there as friends. These are women who have seen me bare my soul, even though we may have passed each other on the street without even knowing.

I have blessed to meet some of the ‘angels’ from the ABA forum- the girls who gave me the gift of encouragement, to keep feeding my baby and to fight for my life.

First Impressions

G’day Everyone. Before I start I’d like to thank the mums from Fusion Parenting for honouring me with the invitation to join them on the soapbox.

I thought for my first post, I’d start at the beginning and talk about an impression that I got when I became a dad. It was over nine years ago now, so I have to cast my mind back a bit, but it’s the kind of thing that leaves a lasting impression. It’s not about fathers though, it’s about mothers.

In our mid 20’s my wife and I decided to have a baby. It was a mutual decision that we came to from different directions. I was thinking and reading and came to the conclusion that it would be better to have kids first, then go do stuff when the kids grew up and left home. Meanwhile, my wife’s biological clock was apparently an alarm clock and it was going off. Not having ovaries, I’m not sure what it feels like to have them ‘twanging’, but it doesn’t sound comfortable. Heading through a local market one day, we heard a newborn baby cry and my wife says her uterus twitched.

It was Time To Have a Baby. We were pretty lucky, in that we could have a baby when the time was right for us. I can only imagine how hard it must be want to have a baby, but be unable to have one. For us though, it was a great time, we were young, financial, and fertile (like the Nile valley is fertile). Hello Baby!

It was challenging looking after my wife through the appalling morning, noon and night sickness. It was fascinating watching her belly grow and really cool feeling the baby kick. I did the supportive partner thing because, well, I’m a supportive partner. I even attended a Breastfeeding Education Class run by the local Australian Breastfeeding Association group.

It was a long, hard labour. I supported my wife through it, physically, emotionally and sometimes literally. I can understand now why sometimes the midwives don’t want the fathers around – it’s a terribly hard thing to watch the woman you love going through labour. A man who wasn’t paying attention at the birth class might try to be helpful in unhelpful ways. After 36 hours the most amazing thing happened. I saw the bulge of a head, and then a tiny patch of dark hair through an impossibly small hole.

Sometimes there’s a difference between knowing something and really getting it. As my wife’s belly grew through the pregnancy, I knew that we were having a baby, but only when I saw my not-yet-born son with my own eyes did I get it. It hit me like a bolt of lightning (that and the thought that there was no way that baby was going to fit through. I was wrong about that). My wife had had 40 weeks feeling our baby grow, getting to know him. It seems I needed to see him myself to understand that we had made a baby. I was a father.

I was proud of my wife, proud of my son and happy that we got the birth experience we wanted. I was profoundly in awe of what my wife had done. I had never seen anything like it. The phrase “the weaker sex” could only have been used by men who had never seen what I saw. There is a terrible, primal beauty in a birthing woman. The task itself it torturous and nearly impossible, and yet she does it.

Having seen my wife give birth ‘naturally’ four times, I can see why some women want to birth that way. It must surely be one of the most powerfully feminine things a woman can do. However, I can also see why birth classes spend a lot of time telling you about the painkilling options, and I can see the potential it has for going wrong.

Not long after we got home, still birth-shocked like first-time parents are, I had to leave the house and do some shopping. I still remember going into the local shopping mall, tired and dazed, and everywhere I looked were mothers with their children. Mothers … everyone one of whom, I could probably assume, had done that amazing thing I just saw, or something like it. Every one of those mothers had birthed a baby, more than one in many cases. My mother had done that thing. I’m sorry I took you for granted all those years Mum, I had no idea.

So that’s what I learnt when I became a father – fatherhood is awesome, and motherhood is awe-inspiring … and that was just the start.

Babies Born!

Today we celebrated the birthday of the first baby boy born (say that three times fast) in the Alice Springs Hospital!  He’s 70.

We had Charlotte in a hospital in 2007 on the Queensland coast… one word – Shenanigans!  When I fell (*trip* oops!) pregnant again last year I was going to have the baby in the Alice Springs hospital.  Unfortunately that last pregnancy was a molar pregnancy, but the options open to women having babies in Alice Springs are pretty impressive.  Home birthing options are the most surprising –  You get full support and your own home birthing midwife for free!  Do they stay on, do the washing and make you a cuppa tea?  That would be sweet! I don’t know if I would have gone for it but I am glad the option is there.  I was one of those mums screaming for the drugs by the end.  The words – “numb me up woman!” may have been uttered/yelled.

It is a much smaller hospital than the one in Qld and it is used by people from miles around in an area where health issues are a hot topic.  So, I think it is excellent that they provide such a great range of services for pregnant women.

The old Aboriginal man who turned 70 is trying to get the hospital to acknowledge him as the first boy born there (on the plaque outside it only has the first Caucasian boy born – it was 1939).  Once that racism issue is cleared up I wonder if the woman who was born before both of them will want it changed!

Argg!  I am torn between my anti-racisim and anti-sexism feelings! Actually I think they should share the glory of the plaque!  I think I might write a country and western song about it… watch this space for my no.1 hit – the glory of the plaque.