Published in The Mother Magazine - Jan/Feb 2007 Issue
Fathers-To-Be …helping men understand birth
A different kind of Antenatal Class
Many men can be ambivalent about the birth process. For their partners it’s something there is no choice about or at least the choice was made and now action is taking place. As fathers we have the opportunity to make a conscious choice if we are to be anything other than bystanders. Earning the income and supporting the welfare of the family is what seems to naturally arise as a father’s useful contribution. However, ignoring the birthing time combined with fathers not being the specific focus at a birth can bring about feelings of immense powerlessness. This is when those we love most are facing their greatest challenges. Acknowledging there is something happening that is significant and deserving of attention and resources is what ‘Fathers-To-Be’ supports.
Richard K Reed in his book 'Birthing Fathers' argues that birth is a 'rite of passage to fatherhood' and 'provides an important window for men to develop relationships with their children'. So obvious perhaps to us today; in recent times men were told to wait outside the birthing room for news or just continue working and we will let you know “when it is over”. To speak of birth in this way also contains some subtleties worth exploring. A 'rite of passage' indicates a trial of some kind, a test to some extent, an initiation, a deepening which helps inform and mark the transition from one time in ones life to another. The time of birth is certainly that for fathers, from 'man to father' from 'father of one child to the father of two' etc, a transition takes place. It is this that is often not seen as important but rather as something difficult to be 'got over' and not celebrated or even acknowledged for the change it has wrought in the father. For our child birth is life’s first 'big' event. For adults it is probably the first big event of our grown lives. Birth and what we bring to it, for child and parent, is the opening moment in our shared lives. How can we honour its significance and as fathers do our best for ourselves and our families?
In the 'Fathers To Be' (FTB) programme Patrick Houser and Elmer Postle are offering a place, for men only, to explore pregnancy and birth with a particular focus on being a father. FTB provides a unique opportunity for men to learn skills that will help them be truly present, and not just in the room, during this most powerful of times. “When we speak of birth we generally encompass the 18 month period from conception to 9 months old.” Patrick Houser has worked for twenty five years in the field of birth and awareness raising about how and why birth matters, for the individuals as well as society. The birth of his second son was the first documented waterbirth in the US and for the last 8 years he has been part of the Source Trainings with his wife Binnie A Dansby. He is also co-founder and administrator of The SOURCE Foundation, a UK registered Charity. Elmer Postle has been involved in exploration of the psychology of birth over a period of twenty years, working closely with leading pioneers Ray Castellino and Binnie A Dansby. He has also studied with the giants of men’s work, Robert Bly, Malidoma Some and Michael Meade. He is the producer of a successful documentary film about the birth process and its psychology, “The Psychology of Birth, Invitation to Intimacy”. “Having Lucien (my one and a half year old son) has opened me in a way I had never appreciated before”, says Elmer.
As men and fathers working closely with birth issues they have come to understand that for fathers to be able to do 'high quality nothing' is a useful skill. Patrick describes this as remaining open in heart and mind and ready to respond to physical needs while supporting the pregnant, labouring and breastfeeding woman. It takes a bit of skill to be able to do this in the emotional and hormonal turmoil of birth. Learning this art can bring great benefits of low adrenaline and calmness that can enhance the birthing experience, whether the man is in the room or not. The added benefit is a deeper level of bonding, commitment and satisfaction for the whole family.
Fathers to be can now come together to learn more about themselves and the birth process than conventional antenatal classes offer. They will, in turn, learn how to bring a calm awareness to the birthing time and enable them to make creative and loving birth choices with their partners. Some of the areas FTB explores are; the importance and nature of fathers participation and support, mechanics of birth, fathers needs, the changing mother/father relationship, sex, breastfeeding, the relationship between a man’s father and his fathering, transforming fears, intimacy and bonding.
The Fathers-To-Be programme is offered regularly in Brighton and London. If you are interested in further information please call 44(0)1892 890614 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more details www.fatherstobe.org
She is having a baby!
What am I supposed to be doing?