Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Fathers roles at birth and parenting
Image: New father from Clairity's photostream at flickr.com
A discussion on how women are supported postpartum began on this blog in the comments to my post about doula and midwifery assistants. I decided to commence a poll (see side bar) however this has not attracted many votes or much attention. One of the issues that we discussed in these comments was the role that men play during the postpartum period. I am also interested in the role that men play during pregnancy and birth.
When I first began in the midwifery profession it was very unusual for a man to attend antenatal classes or to be present at the birth. The father of the baby might have a couple of days of leave from work when a baby was born and then he was back to work. It was usually the woman's own mother, sisters, aunties or female friends who provided her with support at home after her baby was born. this was in the early to mid 1970s.
Now things are very different and fathers are involved and encouraged to be involved from conception onwards. As women have demanded equal rights in the workforce they have also demanded that men take equal responsibility for parenting and care of the family and home. This is an enormous transition in a very short space of time and of course for some families life has not changed much from the way it was in the 1970s and others may be anywhere along the continuum to full emancipation of both parents.
I discovered that a book has recently been written by men about mens experiences at birth. I am happy for all comments here but I would love to hear from men. What are your thoughts on societies expectations of men and women in birth and parenting. How was the experience of birth and early parenting for you? What do you think the role of men should be in supporting their family with a new baby? Do both men and women need some additional support when there is a new baby in the family? Do men feel prepared for the new roles that society expects of them? Are they adequately prepared for these new roles?
One of the issues that I see is how we treat fathers immediately after the baby is born in a hospital, which rightly or wrongly is where most babies are born at present. At homebirth fathers are there from the start and continue to be there right through with their partner. In birthing centers fathers are often encouraged to stay with their partners. In hospitals, once the baby is born, the father is sent home, by himself. The support he has been encouraged to give during the pregnancy and birth is not longer wanted or allowed. I wonder how fathers feel about this also?