I have a position, as a man, to sit outside of the experience of birth if I chose. I could have, if I had wanted, to simply walk away. My job is “done” to an extent, and ever since that positive test I’ve been trying to work out what I am to do.
Let’s talk about that first positive test – I had just downloaded the first episode of the Walking Dead computer game, at an attempt to get back into computer games during a small moment of boredom. I had just witnessed one of my choices mean that a character, someone’s son or wife, someone who I had just met, would die. This was pretty awesome, and absolutely terrifying, and at this exact moment, as the character took their last breath and their family screams in anguish, Connie comes in and tells me the exact opposite news – a positive test. It was probably the best moment of my life. I can’t adequately explain how it felt. It was quite something else – I felt emotional whiplash in that moment.
Being the father of a child is an oddly distant concept even when you know it to be real. I know that in a few months there will be a child and everything’s going to change, but – and this will be hard to explain – it really feels like it’s taken a long time to really understand that concept. I am ready, or as ready as I can be, but I felt like I was passive. Not really there – I mean I can still eat, drink and do whatever I want for the nine months or so that Connie is under the most horrible discomfort. She’s been beset with pain, sleeplessness, nausea, tiredness, sore heads, and many many many other similar ailments. It isn’t hard to understand then that I’ve felt oddly disconnected from our growing child, and this is also an not an uncommon feeling amongst prospective fathers.
So I made a decision that was important, and it actually falls into the phrasing of a well-known saying.
“Start as you mean to continue”
I want to be a great dad – but surely every father starts out like that. It would be a certainly twisted person to actually want to be a bad father. But I want to already be a great dad by the time the baby comes, so that means getting stuck in when others might not. I made the call to go to all the classes, appointments, and be deeply involved in the preparations. I have read some literature, read loads online about the whole process and what to expect, and together, Connie and I have started doing HypnoBirthing.
“HypnoBirthing?!” you will undoubtedly ask, and ask in an incredulous voice, and yes I completely understand that reaction. HypnoBirthing is nothing really to do with hypnosis, despite what it is called. At its base level, it is a way of using mediation, deep relaxation, and breathing techniques to control pain and discomfort during labour, with the ultimate goal of reducing and maybe negating the need for medical intervention during birth. So that's where the name comes from, I guess - those are the same techniques used in hypnosis.
You’ll likely scoff at the thought of a birth that isn’t the typical howling screaming woman pushing and reaching about screaming for drugs. That, my friends, isn’t how it is supposed to be. There are many reasons why that has become our go-to thoughts on birth, but it’s in part due to media portrayal of birth. You don’t need an epidural. You don’t need gas and air. You don’t need an episiotomy (I honestly don’t recommend Googling that term). Those tools are there, if you need them, but for a normal birth you shouldn’t rely on them, you most often don’t even need them. You certainly shouldn’t turn to them as the only way to give birth. A natural birth doesn't make for very dramatic television or movies (for example, the staple "My water's just broke" and rush to the hospital is so uncommon it's almost medically unconsidered - many women go far into labour before the waters break, and in some cases the baby can be born still inside the mebrane).
HypnoBirthing is all about empowerment and control. It gives you (or, in my mind, reteaches) tools that humans (and mammals) have had for years. For example, when you hurt your hand, you hold it, and take a deep breath, right? That is a natural way of helping the body to release endorphins, a natural pain relief. Birth is as natural as anything there is, as literally every single human that is living, has ever lived, and will ever live will be born, and the female body is designed to do it (it is actually the female body’s only reason for existence, much like the male’s body is only there for one reason too, one that normally gets us into this predicament in the first place). The medical advancements have gone far too far into our process of birth.
Did you know that in the early 1900s in the UK birth care that was almost entirely done at home? The disassociation of birth from the hospital was important, because it isn’t a medical procedure. People think it is, but they’re wrong. I made this point at our birthing class just this past week – the mistake is to put maternity units in hospitals. I understand that in certain cases you need to have the doctors and obstetricians there in case something goes wrong, but the location makes it feel like a different thing – you can’t exactly have heart surgery at home, can you? But you can have a baby at home. What this means is that you’re more likely to just turn over your birthing experience to those who you believe have the best experience in that field like you would do for any other type of medical procedure, despite the fact that a woman is designed to do this perfectly and birth isn’t a medical procedure.
The techniques play into Connie and I’s mentality already aswe are major proponents of yoga and meditation. Connie has used meditative techniques to deal with her chronic pain issues already, and this is an empowerment of those techniques towards childbirth. In addition, Connie’s main interest in the baby care, having decided on doula-ing as her career, with hypnobirthing a major part of that philosophy.
The techniques are fairly easy, in truth, but it’s the practise that is most important, and the positivity. Many women and birth partners spend most of the pregnancy worried about the birth as it’s a big black box of fear and pain, but it’s not supposed to be that. The hypnobirthing classes are away of teaching you to look forward to the pregnancy’s end and the arrival of the baby, and it also enables me to be involved.
A massive part of the experience is the one on one time it breeds with Connie and myself. I am her partner, and I will be there for the whole thing. I’m the conduit through which our healthcare providers will speak, I am the protecting buffer, and I am the calm experienced guide into relaxation. The techniques have already helped me relaxed myself, but also increase my own positivity and power towards the birth. As I was saying before, I was worried about not being involved, but this has given me power, confidence, and a real role in the early part of parenthood, and also has the happy effect of reducing my own stress.
Over the past months and years I’ve struggled with stress and anger issues. I’m better, in part to a concerted effort on my behalf to get help, but also by relaxation techniques, and this is a way of solidifying them into something concrete. I want my child to be happy, healthy, and relaxed with me, and I need to be that then with them, and reflect what I want them to see in me back to them. It’s not rocket science.
Obviously, the end result isn’t confirmed, but we have to stay positive. That’s part of the battle – if we don’t expect it to work, it definitely won’t, which is why you’ll find Connie and I talking at length, excitedly and enthusiastically about it, because it’s something that now excites us and gives us a lot of hope that it will be very positive. I’ll keep you all posted on how it is going, but so far I’s a real joy to take part in and work on.