Face it, new dads during pregnancy lag about six months behind new moms when it comes to getting it. That is, getting it about the birth, baby and beyond. Not all dads & partners lag, but, well, most do. In the birth community we are asking whether our expectations of men/partners are appropriate, or are we off-base? We are in a grand cultural experiment of asking men to be present at birth, when for millennia birth has been an event of women. Are we expecting men to feel, think and behave like women? Or will men and partners define their own roles in birth?
We can start by looking at differences in experience and views of pregnant women and men/partners, at our expectations, and any existing research on the question of men/partners at birth.
From the beginning the baby growing inside of mama is providing lots of sensations are unquestionably wake-calls every day that a new life is coming on board. Most moms have a lot of sensory information in the first trimester, not always comfortable, but direct messages from her body that big change is happening now. Hormones are running mom’s various systems on a new program for creation. Dads just don’t have these sensory experiences. The presence of baby is not tangible for dads/ partners until much later.
Many dads & partners have the first light bulb moment of Baby on Board!! when they can actually hear a heartbeat, feel a kick, or see the ultrasound image. When dads/partners have their own experience of their baby, ‘it’ starts to become a little person. We can’t change that moms have different experiences than men/partners. Perhaps we can begin to find some acceptance about being in different places about the coming birth and baby.
Even moms find at birth how truly amazing it is that this precious little person is really real. How many moms, exclaim, when her newborn arrives into her arms, “I have a baby!” When we hold our babies, we feel the miracle of his/her being.
As a side note, we humans are entranced by visual images. Even though an ultrasound evokes a heartfelt recognition of the little human swimming inside, know that expert medical opinion is to be very conservative about use of ultrasounds due to low level radiation exposure. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) advises that “Currently, there is no reliable evidence that ultrasound is harmful to a developing fetus. No links have been found between ultrasound and birth defects, childhood cancer, or developmental problems later in life. However, it is possible that effects could be identified in the future. For this reason, it is recommended that ultrasound exams be performed only for medical reasons by qualified health care providers.” Mayo Clinic adds, “The use of fetal ultrasound solely to create keepsake photos or videos isn’t recommended.”
Women and men/partner have other essential differences that influence experiences beginning in pregnancy. Next blog up: Our hormonal imaginations