It is so inspiring to encounter men who openly admit that they were scared, ignorant, and apprehensive going into their partner's freebirth…and that they sat back and supported her anyway.
Successful freebirth hinges on embracing the flow of birth in all its wild wisdom, with the birthing woman at the centre of the vortex.
The essential premise of freebirth and its inherent safety is founded on the understanding that birth works best without interference, and that only the woman giving birth can have any authority or insight into her own birth process. When a person other than the mother feels authorized or entitled to intervene, significant problems can and do arise. This is especially the case when a husband or partner or support person acquires *some* knowledge about birth, and then feels imbued to step in to “fix” the situation, often employing a pseudo-medical or midwifery-like approach.
This urge to take control of birth, to mend, repair, rearrange and order things—to save!—comes from a place of caring and concern on the part of husbands and partners, certainly. But it also indicates a deep misunderstanding of how and why birth works, and of how tenuously dependent the safe unfolding of the birth process really is, on the patience, placidity, modesty and self-control of any witnesses.
We hear frequently from women who ask about the best way to educate their partners or husbands about birth, or queries from women whose husbands or partners are furiously studying every midwifery textbook they can get their hands on, so that they will “know what to do”. And undoubtably, knowledge is power! But the very best way to support freebirth is by stepping back, keeping quiet, making space, and WAITING.
Men: Isn’t the fact that your wife or partner feels most comfortable with freebirth, enough?
The reason so many women are embracing the freebirth movement, is because even doctors and midwives don’t seem to understand how to leave well enough alone. Unlearning’ what we think we know, and being open to discovering what we never knew we didn’t know, is what most of us need—not a crash course in obstetrics.
To optimally and safely support freebirth, and to position yourself as a contributor to the success of the birth you have been invited to witness, learn about the hormonal matrix of birth. Learn about why NOT to take heart tones, learn why NOT to do pelvic exams, learn why NOT to unwrap the cord from around the baby’s neck. Don’t watch a couple of youtube videos of gloved hands yanking on a baby’s emerging head (which are all over the Internet by the way), and feel empowered to “deliver” a baby (which is impossible of course, because babies aren’t pizzas, and only mothers give birth.)
Your highest purpose as a freebirth support-person is to do what the mother asks, respond to her wisdom and her communication, and recognize that it is she who will know first if there is a problem requiring help, or medical attention. Individuals who mistakenly believe they are “trained” in this or that procedure, or in diagnosing this or that outcome often don’t know what they’re talking about. They misinterpret what’s happening during a birth, step in to “save” the baby or the mother, and create issues and safety concerns when there weren't any, sabotaging what could have been a spontaneous physiological event.
This sabotage happens all the time, the greatest evidence for its ubiquity being the misguided actions that obstetricians take every day in hospitals, leading to astronomical rates of surgical birth, and even higher rates of birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder—and the same is true of many well-meaning midwives, sadly.
The fact is that it is not possible to properly learn any medical approaches to birth or birth-emergencies on a part-time basis within the space of 9 months. Furthermore, attempting to import the medical approach that women are increasingly resisting into the home is the antithesis of freebirth. It’s counterproductive, and it will often backfire.
As a freebirth support-person, embrace your innocence. Be humble. Your unabashed not-knowing makes you the ideal birth partner. Stand back, listen, and be of service. Take in the birthing woman’s mastery over her own body. Believe that she knows her own blood and bones. Have faith in the symbiotic relationship she has with her baby whose existence is inseparable from their mother’s heartbeat and her very flesh. Nothing else is required. Have some respect for women’s birthing genius.
If you must acquire an intellectual understanding of the birth process, delve into the freebirth paradigm, learn the intricacies of the stages of birth, dig into the physiological basis for why your “assistance” probably won’t be required, and might need to be curtailed.