Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Soccer Coach does not equal Birth Coach

I had planned on a drug-free birth for my first son, which didn't work out, but I swore I vowed to try again with birth #2. For the first birth, we had years to prepare, although most of those were spent trying to get pregnant. When I finally had a healthy pregnancy, we did all the requisite preparation - couples yoga, breastfeeding and birthing classes, books and birth plans. Everything that means pretty much nothing once you actually get to the hospital. All along I thought Brian would make a perfect birth coach. He was an actual real life coach after all, albeit soccer. He done training, visualization with his teams, was strong and had a close connection with pain, what with the multitude of injuries and surgeries on his knees. He certainly had no sense of embarrassment or hesitation when it came to birth, what with his question about perineum massage in our couple's yoga (where he was also the only guy strong enough to hold his very pregnant partner in the standing pose). He had more questions than anyone else in our breastfeeding class. He was involved, no doubt about that, although I'm not sure if he actually finished the "birthing partner" book I got for him.

I'm sure that it would come as no surprise to anyone who's given birth or been involved in one that he made a below average birthing partner. Don't get me wrong, he was an awesome husband and father, staying with me, cutting the cord, following my neurotic instructions after our little guy was born, but when it came to helping with my pain or dealing with pushy nurses we both pretty much sucked. I was very fortunate to have an awesome nurse for our second birth, forcing me to open my eyes and look at her while we breathed together, taking one leg while my husband held the other, straining their own muscles to help me push that baby out. I wrote up the two birth stories here, although I found out later that he pretty much just followed her every move, every instruction, having no idea what he was doing on his own. It turns out leading a soccer team to victory, or icing a sore knee is actually not the same as helping someone have a baby. If I ever go through this again, I am splurging on a doula.

I was reminded of all this when I read the most recent Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club choice, Birth Day by Mark Sloan, M.D. I absolutely loved this book. It was not a parenting book, thank goodness, but a historical adventure of birthing through the ages by a wonderful pediatrician. With all his experience as a doctor helping babies into the world and taking care of them afterwards, was also completely clueless when it came to being his own wife's birthing partner. He may be a typical new dad, but he sounds like a great doctor and wrote an informative an entertaining book. He included information about historical and current birthing practices, pain management and why gorillas have it so much easier than humans, and the varying roles of the daddy when their progeny is born.

Head on over and read more about birth days for the SV Moms latest book club.


  1. I also read Birth Day for the book club and thought it was a wonderful book. For a non-fiction medical book, I couldn't put it down. I also chose to write about the idea of a Doula. I gave birth to my kids around the same time the author gave birth to his, when dads were thought to be the best coaches and Doulas weren't heard of. I think they are a great idea.

  2. Nicole,
    Speaking as another "below average birthing partner," despite having a decade of labor room experience when my first child was born, I have a special place in my heart for labor-coaching daddies.

    Considering that a) they're often feeling hormonally weird (testosterone usually drops during a mate's pregnancy, while estrogen [!] rises), b) they're worrying about everything from fainting to the scary what-ifs of childbirth, and c) they have absolutely no way of knowing what birthing a baby really feels like, it's no surprise that a lot of men are happy just to survive the whole thing.

    I'd give my own labor coach performance, which included knocking things over and falling asleep at inopportune times, a C-minus. Tops.

    If I could do it all over again, I'd gladly let my mother-in-law (an experienced newborn nursery nurse and mother of five) do the coaching, leaving me to hold my wife's hand, fetch whatever she wanted, and worry my dad-to-be worries as my daughter inched her way into my life.

    But that's just me...some men love the coaching.

    Take care (and thanks for your very thoughtful comments on Birth Day),
    Mark Sloan