With Fathers Day coming up, I want to take time out and acknowledge all the awesome dads out there. One of the unexpected gifts of my midwifery career is finding a newfound respect for men. Prior to being a midwife, I'll admit that I had very little actual respect for men. Having the honor of attending births and serving hundreds of families, I've had the unique experience of being invited into one of the most powerful and transformative experiences in both men and women's lives.
Today's post is dedicated to the beautiful men in our lives. We will explore loving ways to communicate and how you can include and involve your partner in meaningful ways during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
The Five Love Languages
In order to honor the men in our lives let’s open up and improve our communication with each other. There is an insightful and easy to read book called The 5 Love Languages written by Dr. Gary Chapman.
Essentially, the book's premise is that sometimes we are in a relationship, and we think we are doing everything the other person wants by doing stuff around the house and giving gifts. Still, your partner is not being fulfilled in the relationship. Your relationship is not doomed; it might be that you two are not speaking the same language. It's like one person is speaking English, and the other is speaking Spanish. You and understand a few words here and there, but ultimately you do not understand each other's message, which can lead to lots of frustration, misunderstanding, and conflict.
In brief, The Five Love Languages are:
- Quality Time: This is your love language if you like just spending time together doing projects with your partner: no phone, tv, or any other distractions. Eye contact and active listening are vital components of this love language. Being interrupted, not allowed to ask questions, or not being listened too are very hurtful to you if this is your love language.
- Acts of Service: This is your love language if you like it when your partner cooks you dinner, does chores around the house, builds you something like garden beds. The critical point here is not that they do stuff. Your partner goes out of their way to do a task that they know you want them to do.
- Words of Affirmation: This is your love language if you like hearing things like, "I appreciate you" "Do you know why I love you? I love you because...." You are so special to me. "You are beautiful."
- Gifts: This is your love language if you like getting unexpected gifts. Usually, it's not that important to you how expensive the gift is. It's more meaningful that they thought about you and gave it to you. The thought behind the gift is the real gift.
- Physical Touch: This is your love language if you like to be in physical contact with your partner. This can be sexual, but it does not have to be. It might be holding hands in public, or rubbing your back, or kissing you and cuddling. Lots of times, you just want to have your partner touch you.
So, which of these love languages is the most important for you? When your partner does one of these things, which one makes you feel the most loved?
Of course, we all like and want our partners to do all those things for us. However, we have just one primary love language. It's important to understand that how we give love is often not how we want to receive love. If our tendency is to give gifts all the time, that might not be what you want your partner to do for you, even though you are modeling it to them.
If you are not sure, your own love language, then take the quiz at www.thefivelovelanguages.com.
Please do not assume you know your partners love language. The best thing to do is to ask them. Let them tell you what their love language is. If they don't know their love language, ask them to take the quiz too.
Why am I bringing this up?
Once you know both of your love languages, you can enjoy your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum so much more as a couple.
I get it as a pregnant woman or newly postpartum mom, your body, your identity, your work, your entire life is literally changing every day. You might be pretty maxed out physically, emotionally, and spiritually and don't have the time to caudal your grown adult husband to meet all of his needs right now.
That's why learning the love languages are so important. Neither one of you has the time or energy to fight or overexert yourselves right now. If you can get on the same page and communicate in the most effective way possible, it frees up so much energy and helps you both. As you may have figured out by now, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum require endurance. They need you to be present and available for the long haul, especially when everyone is exhausted, hungry, and overwhelmed.
How to Include Your Partner in Pregnancy
Having an ongoing conversation about your birth preferences is essential. As a midwife, I always offered a free 1-hour consultation. I would make it a priority that the partner was there at that first meeting before we initiated care. Men have such different questions about birth, then women do. The women wanted to know about water birth, natural pain relief, herbs, and who was going to be there. Mainly, she wants to see if she likes and trusts you. Men, on the other hand, want to know the plan, what supplies are needed, what if there's an emergency, and how much it is going to cost.
I'm saying all this to express that if you are going to want your partners' support and for him to understand why you are choosing the type of birth you are, then he needs to have a voice from the beginning. He needs to help choose your midwife or OB and have a say in who your doula will be.
To help you with this, I put together two very important resources for you. The first one is a list of questions to ask your potential Midwife or Doctor. The second one is a list of questions for your potential doula. Download the lists. Discuss them with your partner. Know each other's perspectives before your consultations. Go to the meetings together. Understand that these are ongoing and evolving conversations. That changes as your pregnancy develops.
Now, as far as prenatal visits go, some dads come to every appointment, and some barely come at all. That is entirely up to you. I feel like coming to significant events like hearing the baby for the first time, ultrasounds, and the home visit are important. Well, actually, the home visit is a requirement.
Please don't expect your partner to read that stack of pregnancy books you have besides the bed. If they are going to read one book, have it be The Bradly Book. It has helpful illustrations and accurate tips of dads to know how to support your pregnancy and labor without reading hundreds of pages.
Childbirth class is the perfect time for couples to get on the same page about your birth plans. Really my classes were more geared to the dads. I know they are not able to come to the prenatal visits; they are not reading the books nor watching all the youtube videos. Childbirth class was my opportunity to spoon-feed them everything they needed to know. The trick to a practical childbirth class is to have good food. Give him a beautiful plate of food, let him watch birth videos filled with naked women, and line him out. The men were the ones that did not want to be there. Yet, at the end of the day, it was them that came to me and thanked me for helping them be so prepared and to know what to expect from labor and what to do during the birth and once the baby was there.
Fathers Day Gift
If you want to get him a father's day gift, you can get him some Energizing Chlorophyll. Think of it as a win-win situation. You need the Chlorophyll for your self while you are pregnant, and you're going through your blood volume expansion. You need it to help your body prepare for birth. It is one of your must-haves for postpartum recovery. And he needs it too; it will help oxygenate his blood and give him enough stamina to keep up you and all your honey-do lists of tasks. Now more than ever, he has stress and lots of projects around the house before the baby gets here Chlorophyll can help him get the energy he needs for the long endurance of taking care of his family postpartum.
If his love language is gift-giving, then give it to him. If his love language is acts of service, make the two of you a fresh glass. If his love language is quality time, sit down with him, and drink your Chlorophyll together. If his love language is words of affirmation, tell him how much you appreciate and care about him. Tell him you want him to be as healthy as possible so he can enjoy his family. And if his love language is physical touch, kiss him. Even if he just drank a big glass of green chlorophyll water!
How to Include Your Partner in Birth
In this post, I'm not able to line you out on every detail as I would in childbirth class, but I do want to give you a few points to consider.
This is you and your partner's baby. It is an extraordinary opportunity for you to learn how to trust and rely on each other like never before. Often birth is seen as women's work or in women's sphere. If there are lots of women at your birth, and one woman, in particular, your mom, it might create an environment that he does not feel like he can or should step up and be by your side if other people are already there.
A word about moms at your birth: sometimes, they are the exact perfect person to be there with you. Other times, not so much. Here's one reason why. If your mom knows how to take care of you, she knows what you like to eat; she knows how to make you feel better, then she will do that for you, which is a good thing. She may not have the intention of boxing your partner out. She is just helpful. However, if she does these things for you, then he cannot. He cannot show you how he's able to step up and be there for you.
At the birth, one of the men's superpowers is his presence. Most of the time, during a home birth, men are in their element, and they know what to do and say. They know how to support you. Their best quality is paying attention and being responsive to you and your needs.
Knowing your love language will help him support you better at your birth. If you know physical touch is what you like, show him how to rub your back before labor starts. If words of affirmation are your language, then print out a page of birth affirmations that he can read to you. If quality time is your thing, just have him sit with you and be there and hold space for you and the baby.
At a home birth, there is always the option for the dad to be as involved as he wants to be. He can catch the baby and cut the cord if he wants to. Or he doesn't have to. It's up to him. At every birth, I offer it to the dads. Now, I don't say, okay! Go ahead and catch the baby. I say something like, "Put your hand where my hand is. We can do this together. Don't worry; I got you" Some times, I keep my hands there, and other times he takes over and catches the baby.
Once the Baby is Born
Once the baby is born, and it is time to cut the cord, and it's time for the dad to hold the baby. If he takes off his shirt and gets skin to skin, wraps up in a blanket with the baby and bond.
Another excellent way to include papas is after the herb bath, and we are tucking everyone into bed before we leave. I usually had the dad put the diaper on and get the baby dressed. Most first time dads are so nervous, and they delicately touch the baby as they figure it out. We all smile and support him as he gets lovingly initiated into his new role.
There are so many ways for dads to be included and appreciated during the postpartum period. One thing I'd say here is to allow him to be doted on and cared for by family and friends the first few days after birth too! Encourage him to share his birth story and experience. Because he just became a dad for the first time, saw you work so hard, and saw a baby be born! All of which are amazing. So, he needs the rest and food and snuggles with you and the baby too!
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, there are still ways to include papa. He does not have boobs as you do, so he has to rely on other superpowers. And since his superpowers are different from yours, he will not do everything the way you do everything, and that's okay! It really is. He can swaddle the baby and wear the baby in the front pouch. He can change the baby, burp the baby, and bathe the baby. He can co-sleep with the baby in his arms or on his chest. When the baby gets older, you will see how much he can make the baby laugh and smile.
I will say that once the newness wears off and postpartum drags on. When he's back to work, you've been nursing for weeks; you're recovering but not all the way recovered yet, and everyone is maxed out and tired. This is when couples have most of their fights. Know that this is part of the terrain that you are navigating. Knowing each other's love language is essential here because if you know the one thing he needs the most, and he knows your primary need, that will save you from having so many fights.
Pro tip- Make sure there is something to eat when he comes home! Wars are fought over being hungry and not having our basic needs met.
As we wrap up, I want to acknowledge all the big and little things that dads do to make our lives so much better. Much of their hard work, commitment, and dedication go unnoticed and under-appreciated. So to all you dads out there, we say thank you for supporting your partners and raising healthy children! Your presence is vital! Happy Fathers Day!
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Until next time my friends, drink deep and always walk in beauty!