Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: Fathers at Birth

Fathers at Birth
by Rose St. John
Ringing Bell Press, 2009
Softcover, 255 pages

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE,

Research has indicated that men at birth take on one of three roles: that of "coach" (20%), "teammate" (20%), or "witness" (60%). I've observed both in person and in birth films that this seems accurate. Many men seem to be likely to fall into an "observer" (witness) type of role during birth, instead of a more hands-on one. This can be disappointing to women, or to the men themselves, who pictured a more active role in the birthing process. Particularly in filmed births, I note the father of the baby sitting by a woman's bedside and holding her hand, or patting her back at most.

Enter the brand new book Fathers at Birth by Rose St. John. This book greatly expands the role of the father at birth to that of "mountain" and "warrior." The mountain is strong, stable, calm, still, and supportive. The warrior is alert, responsive, focused, and protective of the birth space and laboring woman. He is there to serve.

In the opening chapter of the book, the author says, "If families are to remain strong, men and their roles as partners, husbands, protectors, and fathers cannot be considered dispensable or superfluous. both partners are diminished when the value of a man's contribution is marginalized, minimized, or not acknowledged. When the man's vital role during labor and birth is understood, both men and women are empowered."

I greatly enjoyed reading a book that explores and expands the role of men at birth. In addition to serving as a helpful resource for men who wish to be active partners in the birth process, doulas will find helpful tips and tricks in the book, and childbirth educators will find language and ideas for reaching out to and better connecting with the men in their classes. It is a nice addition to any birth professional's lending library.

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