Archive for October, 2012

A Dad is Born – Positive Birth Stories?

A few weeks ago, the documentary, A Dad is Born aired in Australia. Cath and I watched this with great interest.

During the documentary, one of the dads mentioned that you never hear a great birth story, or for that matter, a great story about being a parent.

This is something Cath and I talk about all the time. It seems that as soon as you are pregnant every Tom, Dick and Harry and every Stella, Lilly and Mary want to fill you in on their birth trauma. How it all went to hell in a hand basket and how useless the birth plan was. Then how bub never stopped crying and they were up all night. Where are the positive stories?

Interestingly, Cath and I know that when a couple have a positive experience, not a lot of people really want to hear about it. Of course they wish you well, but it’s not a story that gets passed around from one person to another, there’s no drama in it. But those positive birth stories are out there, there are a lot of them and you need to seek them out! It’s a really important part of a woman’s birth preparation to be surrounded by positive birth stories (and important for your preparation too!)

So to combat what appears to be a plague of bad press about birth here are a few hot tips for what you can do:

  • Find some friends who have had a great birth experience and ask them to share their story. Believe us they will love reliving it and you will see how wonderful they feel about. Ask them questions of what they found helpful, useful, where did they birth.
  • When you encounter a negative birth story, get very good at changing the subject or if this doesn’t work walk away or be upfront about not wanting to hear the story.
  • Read stories about great births. For men, there is Men at Birth by David Vernon. For women, Ina May Gaskin’s books are usually 50% birth stories and you may learn something that will help you in your birth.
  • Stop reading the newspapers! They are sensationalistic and rarely put birth events into perspective.

For more to think about, see our post on The Power of Positive Birth Stories.



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Dads to be what will your birth surprise be?

Cath and I have had the privilege of attending the Birthing From Within Art of Childbirth Mentoring workshop. This was a life-changing experience for us and we made the decision to become Birthing from Within Mentors, working towards certification, and loving the challenges this brings.

During the workshop, we witnessed a Birthing from Within childbirth education class and were introduced to the idea of the ‘birth fairy’.  I’m not so sure the idea of a ‘fairy’ really appeals to our dads to be, so for this post we will call it a ‘surprise’.

What we mean by a birth ‘surprise’ is that during birth, or even pregnancy, something unexpected may happen which may change or limit your birth preferences or ideas about what you would be doing. It doesn’t have to mean there is an emergency or even that something is wrong, it’s just not what you thought may happen.

A great example of this was at a birth that I recently attended where the woman was booked into a smaller hospital and, when her partner phoned the hospital during labour to say she was coming in, he was told that the ward was full and she would need to go to the bigger hospital. This wasn’t something they had even contemplated on happening and so they were faced with choices to make. Luckily, her partner had watched the DadSkills online childbirth classes for dads to be and was able to utilise the skills he learnt to help keep things calm and make the decision to do the ‘next best thing’ for them. They decided to go to the bigger hospital where mum birthed her little boy and they were well looked after.

Every birth has a ‘surprise’ and sometimes there are a few. We think it’s important to talk about birth ‘surprises’ as it’s important for you to be aware that it’s not possible to control everything that happens around birth. Sometimes things are thrown your way and you have to deal with them and make decisions on the spot. This is really great preparation for parenthood.

The DadSkills online childbirth classes for menreally makes a difference. The DadSkills videos gives dads-to-be skills to go into birth being prepared for the unprepared.  While DadSkills could not possibly cover every eventuality, we do give you the tools to feel empowered to make decisions based on what you are faced with at the time.

For those of you who have children already, what was your birth ‘surprise’? Please comment below and let us know, we’d love to hear it.


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A Closer Look at Advocacy in Birth

A couple of months ago, we released our Top 5 Tips for Advocating in Birth.  Today I’m going to go into more depth about this topic – and particularly deeper into the use of BRAIN – an acronym to help you remember questions to ask your care provider when interventions or courses of action are being suggested:

(use your) Intuition
(what if you did) Nothing for a while.

So you are all prepared for labour, you’ve been through the DadSkills online childbirth classes, you’ve got great tools up your sleeve for helping cope with the intensity of labour and you’ve remembered to take along a small laminated card that reminds you about BRAIN – you are all set to advocate for your partner and your baby when required.

It is worthwhile now, before labour starts, to think about how you imagine situations might arise, and how it is that you think information will be presented to you.

Let me say that remembering to use BRAIN is pretty easy in a situation where a care provider gets down at eye level with your partner and says, “This is going on, we recommend that this is the next best thing, and this is what we would like to do.”  This type of approach invites discussion, you switch on and you begin to ask questions.

So what if things are not presented in this way?  What if staff are acting in a manner that gives the impression that there is no choice about what comes next, this is what it is and we’re doing it?*

This happened recently at a birth I attended.  The dad was a very confident, intelligent and well-spoken man and was not afraid to ask the tough questions.  However, the manner in which information was presented to him had him subdued.  It was not until I pointed out to him that it was possible there were alternatives to the suggested next medical path that he started to ask questions.

This had me thinking…  How could such a confident man be subdued in this way?  My thoughts are that it was in the way that the information was presented.  Information was not presented directly to my clients, obstetric staff would come into the room and talk with the midwife and tell her what they wanted her to do.  This was not put forward as a discussion, it was given as an order.

We would love the reality to be different, but things do happen this way sometimes in birth.  Your midwife will not always be in a position to present you with alternatives unless you ask her the questions. So by respectfully asking for some time, you may be able to ask her the questions to open the doors of communication and give her the opportunity to talk to you about alternatives.  If you are dealing directly with obstetric staff, then you can ask them the questions.

Let’s look at one more scenario.  You’re all prepared, something unexpected has been thrown your way and you remember to politely ask the staff to stop for a minute and go through BRAIN with you.  You ask the staff member the question “What would the risks of this be?” and you are given the answer “Minimal”, or “Nothing to worry about”.  I have heard these answers given, this is not a far-fetched scenario.   Is this an acceptable answer to your question?  No, not at all!  Medical professionals are compelled to obtain “informed consent” from their patients before any procedure is undertaken.  Giving an answer like “minimal” is not giving the information the birthing mum needs to be able to decide whether or not she will consent to a procedure.  It is also not acceptable to present a mum with one-sided information, or to present information in a way that will ensure she chooses the path they want for her.

So spend some time having a think about these things.  Think about yourself, how do you normally react to medical advice?  Do you question or ask for alternatives, or do you accept the information that is given to you?  If you are the type of person who would normally accept the advice you are given without question, yet you are planning on asking questions at the birth, I would suggest that you are going to require a conscious change of thought on your behalf for this to happen.

Your partner and your baby need you to be able to ask the tough questions.  I think, as human beings, we tend to not ask questions in a situation where we think we might look like idiots – birth is not the time to be concerned with such things.  Think of it this way, your baby is not yet born but it still needs you to be its parent, in the same way it will after it is born – and after your baby has been born you may be surprised at how protective you are!


[*Of course, if there is a genuine emergency presenting, there won’t be any time for discussion and it should be obvious – the room would fill with staff and your partner would very quickly be wheeled off down the corridor to theatre.  However, this situation is rare, and in any other situation there is always time for discussion.]


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