The stereotypical image of a man about to become a dad, the one you see in most movies, is either one of bored indifference or blind panic - neither are great ways to portray the complexities of how it can feel to become a dad. What about the father's natural instinct to protect his partner and their new baby? Or his ability to relax his partner just with soothing touches and a calm voice? No one talks about the hormonal changes he goes through or the research that shows he's more likely to be listened to by medical caregivers than the mother herself.
Hypnobirthing gives fathers a very defined and proactive role during pregnancy and birth which can help them feel included as often the focus is on mum and baby. The chip-chip-chip into the solid unit of the couple starts as soon as the pregnancy is announced, when the focus begins to shift toward mum to be and baby... a baby that he will need to be father to and the mother that will badly need his support during pregnancy, labour and beyond.
How then can we be surprised that dads start to feel left out, like they're losing their partner, like their life has been turned upside down?
We started our hypnobirthing course at about 23 weeks and I'm so glad we chose to go together. There were cheaper shorter courses, aimed at teaching only the basics to mothers but looking back, I don't think they would have worked as well for us.
True to form, as soon as I started to announce that I was pregnant, the focus naturally started to shift towards me and the bump. I'm not a shy person but I found the attention a little frustrating - I was the one who would grow and give birth to our baby but we were a family and we were going to parent together.
I also began making birth choices early on, based on my instincts and what I knew from hearing about the (thankfully positive) experiences of friends who had had babies recently. Until we went to the class and discussed our plans with our teacher, my choices were solely mine. I think my husband supported them but from his point of view, he didn't know enough to feel confident. Hypnobirthing helped give him the detail he needed to relax. Relaxed dads mean relaxed mothers.
Also, slightly weirdly, we knew we were going to be together for the birth and that we didn't want anyone else around but apart from that, we hadn't discussed what he would actually need to do to help me.
Hypnobirthing had the answers. We practiced the scripts, made decisions together and he was able to be the main communicator once I went into my birth bubble. What a superstar.
He still talks about the birth as something he's in awe of, a kind of miracle. He tells everyone how brilliant it was. And at 10 months, my little girl is just as close to him as she is to me. We might thing twice about more sleepless nights but another birth experience doesn't phase us one bit.