Han-Son Lee of fatherhood blog DaddiLife talks about his new book.
There’s been a lot of good progress for dads in recent years – an awakening when it comes to the importance of mental health, challenging cultures of work, and even recently a renewed focus to look at paternity leave.
But there’s one area that still remarkably hasn’t moved with the same progress – the role of dads at birth.
When we ask dads – specifically those who would label themselves as ‘involved partners’ – what role they had wanted at birth, the answer tends to fall into two camps.
Camp 1: ‘I just wanted to do the best I could and support wherever possible’.
Camp 2: ‘I wanted to support my partner, and I knew exactly how I could be a great birth partner’.
It’s that second camp that I’ve reflected a lot on over the last 12 months.
Let me take a step back first though and tell you a little about me.
I’ve been running a fantastic dad platform called DaddiLife for the last six-and-a-half years and am a very proud dad to a crazy and wonderful seven-year-old boy. The mission of DaddiLife since day one has been to shine a light on the change happening for modern day dads and create a platform that’s just for them. In that role I get to speak to a lot of dads on the daily and there’s always something to learn or something that keeps you on your toes.
One of those somethings occurred last year when Natalie Reed from Birthing Matters approached me and asked, ‘Why don’t you cover any hypnobirthing pieces on your site?’
I have to admit my first response was something along the lines of ‘Hypno-what!?’ I instantly thought about my own experience of my son’s birth, where I’d have said previously that I was fully involved. I remember vividly being placed in some rather unexpected positions, making sure she was taking in all the gas and air possible, as well as coordinating the doctors and nurses as best I could.
But having learnt more about hypnobirthing and reflected more on the birth experience I realise that actually I wasn’t anywhere near what I could’ve been as a birth partner.
I thought all was ok, but actually I was a nervous wreck the whole time. And there was a moment where I felt totally out of control, where it was too late for an epidural, but I was conscious of my partner being very fearful of birth without it. The increased panic escalated quickly beyond control and it needed the intervention of an incredible midwife to recover things. All of this couldn’t have been a good experience for mum!
I realised last year that as dads, we often assume so much about the role we have at the birth. We’re too quick to accept it’s just going to be a chair in the corner, rather than ask ourselves how could this actually be better all-round and for mum-to-be particularly. This is especially important as one in three new mums experience birth trauma.
And that’s where hypnobirthing really has come into its own, and why I believe more dads need to lean into it with their partners.
For those that don’t know what hypnobirthing is, in its simplest terms it’s a set of relaxation and visualisation techniques designed to help women eliminate fear and anxiety about birth and instead replace it with a positive and calm approach. It is used primarily for labour and birth, but it can also be used to reduce the stresses of everyday life during pregnancy.
At a scientific level it’s about how to ensure mum-to-be is creating as much oxytocin as possible during labour so she can feel as in-control as possible.
Dads have a huge role to play in it and over the last 12 months I’ve been collaborating with Natalie again, as well as over 20 hypnobirthing dads, in our new book A Positive Birth – The Dad’s Guide To Hypnobirthing.
It’s been the most mission-led book I’ve been part of and more than anything I’d love it to reset the standards on what a great birth can look and feel like and specifically how dad can truly be a crucial part of the birth journey, as well as being a true advocate for mum.
What I’m really proud of:
• It demystifies what happens to a women’s body during pregnancy and birth and talks about the four stages of labour and the science behind it.
• It goes back into history (as well as little into the future) about our birth rights, about the role of oxytocin (the love hormone) and how we can create more of it for mums at birth.
• We’ve worked with not one but two hypnobirthing experts to create a dad-specific toolkit – that covers everything from breathing techniques and relaxation scripts, through to anchors, affirmations and much more.
• It’s had some lovely feedback from the Royal College of Midwives and is supported by over 20 hypnobirthing dad interviews.
Birth can be an anxious time for a lot of dads and helping them see an alternative way that birth can be, as well as giving them a specific toolkit, I hope can start to create even more positive birth stories.
A Positive Birth is available on Amazon.