1. Birth is an animal event. We do best for ourselves when we create an environment like we’d create for our pets when they are giving birth. We find a quiet, dark corner and set them up with a soft space, plenty of water, food, and a lot of privacy. As men and protectors of birth, we can be valuable in mitigating the environmental factors that might contribute to a vulnerable feeling for the mom, so that she can feel safe for her very personal and private experience of giving birth to her baby.
2. Hormones are key in the birthing time, because they are the messengers in the woman’s body that get it moving into the birthing time. Relaxin is a hormone that has been important over the last months, loosening the joints in a mom’s body so that it is stretchy for baby. Oxytocin is, perhaps, the most important hormone in birth. It’s so important that they have replicated it synthetically (pitocin). Anyways, I was surprised to discovery that these naturally occurring hormones were having a tremendous and wonderful effect upon me. I remember the day before our baby #1 was born. I kept smelling behind Andrea’s ear on her neck. It was absolutely intoxicating and wonderful to me. Those hormones were in full force transforming her body into full birthing mode. The more I tuned in with them, the more I felt connected to Andrea and baby.
3. Food is, perhaps, the single most important aspect influencing the birthing time. A woman’s body is doing these tremendous surges we call contractions, and they require tremendous energy. Having a variety of quick foods available can mean a great deal. High protein foods like almond butter and ribs were key for us. Our second birth was very fast, so eating during the labor was not as important as the first birth, which was over 24 hours long. Yeah, chocolate pudding was the thing that actually helped get baby #1 out.
4. Get a straw. Seriously. I forgot this one for baby #2 birth. Hydration is super key, and having a straw a mom can suck fluids in is so important. Go right now and find a water bottle with a straw or just keep a straw in the car. I found I was on hydration duty during both of our births. You can really do something great by organizing some fancy hydration with things like electrolytes, valuable salts, trace minerals, fresh citrus, and coconut water.
5. Bone broth. I can’t preach the benefits of bone broth enough. During the postpartum time, a mom needs warm foods. Keep the celery and cucumbers for yourself. Give mom the chicken, rice, stew, steak, pork chops, and potatoes. The bone broth is important because it has all the nutrients that helps a woman’s body recover from childbirth.
6. Placentas are a big deal. They are the food source for a baby, and it is also the baby’s physical companion in the womb. It’s right there the whole time. After a baby is born, then it will be time for the placenta to be born. It’s a whole thing. A woman’s body moves through contractions to literally birth the placenta. I forgot about this fact for both births. There was all this attention on the baby, and then all of a sudden….Andrea was in labor, again. Have a look at the placenta. You might even have a kitchen bowl ready to receive it. It is important to look at the placenta because it can tell you about the baby’s environment. I remember our midwife looking to see if there were tears or abnormalities of any kind. After she was done looking, we had a look at it, too. We stretched the skin out to see all the blood vessels. What a remarkable organ. I am fairly certain that most mammal mothers eat the placenta after giving birth. They do this because the placenta is packed with the amazing building blocks of life; things like stem cells, red blood cells, etc. It is becoming more and more common for mothers to ingest their own placentas by dehydrating them and crushing them into powder. Some mothers have part of their placenta blended raw into a smoothie. I dehydrated Sacha’s and Kai’s placentas, crushed them into powder, and put them in capsules for Andrea to take. I kinda felt that the nutrient density was lost at that point. If I get the chance again, then I’ll see about that smoothie.
7. Babies are a lot of physical work. I remember being surprised that we did all this work preparing for the birth, and then all of a sudden it was over. Yet, the baby care just kept going and going and going. I am pretty sure this is the part where parents start to say things like, “It’s so much harder than I thought.” I remember some people telling me to get all the sleep I could get before the baby came. Then they told me that there will be no sleep when the baby comes. I can’t explain this, but I want to punch those people in their faces. I understand, that they are just trying to have someone appreciate how challenging they found the baby phase of parenting. I get that. Still, people. Find other people besides expectant parents to offer you empathy. Ugh. Ok, I digress. Anyways, yes. Sleep comes at a premium in the early months. We call it the baby fog. The fabric between sleep and awake is very thin. I saw it as a skill that took practice to wake up from a cold sleep to care for baby. I didn’t embrace this skill for baby #1 and it caused incredible tension in relationship with Andrea. For second baby, I embraced it fully. My goal was to look and be as tired as Andrea. That worked great for our relationship and for baby. Obviously, this takes an incredible toll on the body. I found lifting from the legs to be the most important aspect of keeping my body strong. Sounds silly, yet if your back is trashed, then being helpful is trashed.
8. Being a dad to a baby isn’t anything like I’d expected. I found that I was mostly a worker man and not a nurturing daddy. I mean, sure, I carried the babies for naps and did sweet things for them. Yet, 90% of my effort was spent caring for Andrea so that she could care for baby. I felt sad about this for baby #1, and it was tough for me. Then I saw how powerful I could be for baby #2 in caring for Andrea. It was the most amazing feeling I have ever felt in my life. Ever. I can’t explain this feeling. It’s like being superman. My chest was out. My breath was deep and big. My arms felt like they could wrap around the entire house. Andrea looked at me with these eyes like I was her hero.
9. The power of a clean floor and laundry done is profound. I was on this so tight for our babies, and it contributed to a super great feeling in the house.
10. Document some moments. Sure, get some pictures of mom and baby. Yet, maybe you get a picture of the shoes of a favorite birth attendant. These little memories will disappear pretty quickly in your memory, because we are in that animal brain mode during the birthing time. Take 10 minutes to write out events of the birth. If you this when you have mom settled in bed with baby on the first or second day, then you’ll have a fresh set of memories to record.
A quick note about the medical setting
The medical setting has been shifting its attitudes about birth continually over the last century, and today is no different. The newest shifts have to do with supporting the mom’s experience, and one example is waterbirth, which was heresy at one point. Now, hospitals are training their staff, because moms take their birth to places receptive to their requests. Birth, after all, is a business for hospitals.
I believe that food has often been frowned upon in the medical setting, because they are in a constant state of preparing for surgery. However, I have heard many stories of dads giving food to moms even when nurses tisk tisk them and say food is not allowed. I have heard some dads say, “This is what we are doing. Thank you for your concern.” I have met other dads that wait for a private moment to get the food. Either way, medical staff have zero legal authority to say you can’t eat food during labor. The good news is that times are changing, and I find that medical communities are slowly adapting their attitudes about birth and how best to serve families.