I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the latter stages of pregnancy and childbirth over the last couple of months so this title by Mark Harris arrived at just the right time, particularly as we’re going for a home birth, which will be a new experience for both Kate and me.
As well as being a father of six, Mark is a registered midwife of more than 20 years’ experience and runs ‘Birthing for Blokes’ workshops for expectant dads, so knows plenty about the process from all points of view. Obviously, birth has to be led by the mum, but there’s still a vitally important role to be played by the dad to be, as he notes early on: “The powerful dance of the feminine cannot be resisted; learning to dance with her is what this book is all about.”
Fighting the male urge to ‘fix’ things and to instead be more attuned to your pregnant partner are key themes throughout. If this makes it sound a little new-age, it isn’t. The tone is very much a down-to-earth one, which makes the book much more accessible than some of the others I’ve been using for reference.
It’s useful to have another male voice available to call upon as, unsurprisingly given the tiny number of men who do what Mark does for a living, most have been written by women. This makes certain things much easier to relate to; even now as I await the arrival of my third child, there are plenty of things I’m either not sure about or have forgotten and it has answered a lot of questions for me.
The book begins by putting things into context with a look at childbirth from an evolutionary perspective, before discussing the importance of multi-level communication – both verbal and non-verbal – and further developing couples’ rapports to create the ideal environment for giving birth. Another particularly useful chapter entitled ‘A conversation with men’ presents real questions expectant dads ask – along with Mark’s answers – as a group session.
As well as all of this, there are sections on pain relief, breastfeeding and sex during pregnancy as well as handy appendices on massage techniques and exercises expectant fathers can carry out to prepare for when their partner gives birth.
It’s a lively read – which always helps – and I for one have found it really useful.