When It’s Her First Denise Bolds, MSW CD(DONA) April 25, 2019
As a birth doula, I encounter many couples where the partner/spouse has children from another relationship. In the current relationship, the mother-to-be is experiencing her first pregnancy and birth. Her experienced partner may not be as engaged; there’s a been-there-done-that attitude (and sometimes that knowing smirk) that can come across in the pregnancy as a lack of participation, indifference and generalization. The experienced father may also compare the mothers, pregnancies and births of his children. Many first time mothers-to-be with partners who are experienced in childbirth/parenting are often indifferent, not as engaged, not listening to the mother-to-be or supporting any of her suggestions. I am using these adjectives because the mothers-to-be identified these feelings this way. All of my interviews and clients raise this concern is this couple dynamic.
The generalization places stress on the pregnant mother to be as the expectation; the pink elephant in the room grows bigger as the pregnancy progresses… “You’ll be fine, it’s not a big deal.” “I paid for that class before, it wasn’t any thing great.” “I’ve paid for this before, I don’t want to pay for it again.” “You go ahead and do your thing, I’m right here…” “You don’t need that, I didn’t use it with my other kids…” “Why do you want this? I didn’t use it with my other kids.” “I’m busy working, you take care of it.”
Here’s How To Help: Do Not Compare Or Generalize.
Experienced fathers supporting the first time mother can embrace these helpful suggestions; make time for her, go with her to classes and mother/baby/parent expos, sit and listen to her, ask her how she was raised by her parents, ask her how she wants to give birth. If she is expressing any apprehension, offer the suggestion of hiring a birth doula to support you both during the birth. Offer her the resources of childbirth education, acupuncture, prenatal yoga and massage. Most importantly remember not to compare your current spouse/partner and upcoming birth with your former spouse/partner’s pregnancy/birth. Do not assume all pregnancies/births are alike because they are not.
Dad, you could be the champion: suggest touring the hospital where you are going to have your baby; explore classes and resources in your community. Suggest hiring a birth doula; the doula can provide support for the both of you as well as offer you a refresher on how your support can and will be the perfect fit.
When it is His First.
The same suggestions above apply for the first time father and the seasoned mother: communication, education, support, time, resources, and of course a birth doula to provide support and advocacy to the couple. Experienced mother, make sure the first time Dad has access to education and get a birth doula to support him during the pregnancy, at the birth and be an extending resource after the birth!
Keep in mind, there’s a possibility Dad-to-be may suppress his feelings, and thoughts which isn’t supportive to him as a parent. Society demands fathers act a certain way that may promote more trauma than support. Dads need resources, support, communication and saved space just as much as the mother does.