Small Blessings Blog

How can partners support during birth?

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This Saturday, for the first time, partners are invited to join in with pregnancy yoga, for free. This is exciting, for me at least! My intention is to involve partners in the journey their women have been on, including them in the process, allowing a glimpse into the world that possibly awaits them during the birth, giving a preview of the deep respect they may feel in witnessing the birth process.. and letting them know a bit about how precious their presence may be for their woman in giving birth.

In my mother´s generation, giving birth in Western Australia in the 70s, men were less likely to be privy to the birth process. On the other side of the globe, in America in the 60s, there was a community called The Farm. This is where modern day midwife guru, Ina May Gaskin, learnt her midwifing trade. Hundreds of babies were born on The Farm over the years, under all kinds of conditions (with hardly a Caesarian, by the way). The widwives there became extremely skilled. Sometimes when we think of "homebirth" these days we might associate that with limited medical expertise or skills. These women were skilled up to the eye teeth. Savvy and able in all kinds of situations, from helping a mother birth a baby in transverse or breech position to twins. Very admirable in terms of skill levels and know-how.

Anyway, Ina May Gaskin wrote a book called Spiritual Midwifery, which is full of accounts of births on The Farm and her insights, born from hundreds of births, about the nature of birth and also the significance of relationship to the birth process. Essentially, Ina May works on the premise that the man and woman form a kind of unit during birth. The man can have an extremely positive impact on the birth process, in the way in which he is present. His encouragement and support can be of immense help just as blocks and hiccups ín the relationship can inhibit the flow of the birth. This may sound far-out for some (and indeed, the hippy language of this book is really cute and historically interesting, if you like that stuff!) AND it is also based on direct experience. It is a phenomenologically observed fact, if you like, that subtle things like thoughts and feelings and beliefs have a direct impact on our ability to let go, for example. (And what is birth, but one massive, sometimes very active, letting go?) Body and mind are one. An anxious thought produces an effect in the body, immediately, for example. Just as an encouraging thought produces a physiological effect. This can be observed in your own body and mind very simply.

Actually, what Ina May suggests is that sensuality got the baby in there, now it´s going to get the baby out! This makes me think of nipple stimulation as a method of bringing on the birth. That sounds really mechanical to me, but actually it´s about getting the oxytocin, the love hormone, flowing. This hormone is released through loving, senuous touch. It is present in orgasm, and is also present in babies and small children when we touch them, stroke their skin. It is also known as the molecule of belonging.. but that is the subject of another post!

Anyway, men, partners, you are needed! A presence that is not overbearing, or looking to solve anything (what are you going to solve, really?!), but is just there, in trust and support and love, following this woman and her instincts, impulses and intuitions, because she is the only one who can do it.. Being there, attentively and lovingly. THAT is what makes a difference. A BIG difference.

If you would like to follow up on the book referenced here, again it is Ina May Gaskin, Spiritual Midwifery.

PS I have disabled comments until I work it out better, as I am having some dubious strings of computer generated letters and spam coming in.

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