Men at Birth — A Book for Men

The woman laboured strongly and reached transition. “I can’t do it. It’s too much. I have to stop,” she suddenly cried.
Her husband leapt to his feet, relieved that finally he knew he could do something to stop the intensity of her labour, rather than sitting idly by, doing nothing. “How about an epidural?” he whispered in her ear. Without waiting for her reply, he continued, “I’ll just slip out and find the midwife and tell her you want one.”
Pleased that he briefly escaped from the stress of his partner’s labour, he advanced on the nearest midwife and said, “My wife is ready for an epidural, can you call for one immediately?”

In the common scenario above, on hearing the words “I can’t do it…” a midwife would smile, knowing that second stage is about to commence, and the baby will shortly be born. But to most men, labour, and particularly ‘transition’ is a time for great stress and even panic.

In general, men aren’t used to sitting quietly and doing nothing. Men hate seeing the woman that they love in pain. Men like to do something. They like to be in control. And yet the process of birth often needs men to do nothing but sit quietly and wait, or provide a loving backrub and apply hot towels to help relieve the pain. Birth is the woman’s domain and it is her body that is in control. Men have to understand that they have very little control over the progress of the birth.

This lack of control can make men uncomfortable and sometimes fearful of birth. Despite the efforts of childbirth educators to give men a sense of what birth involves, few men have the opportunity to hear stories of birth experiences from other men. Fear of birth is simply a fear of the unknown. And fair enough. TV dramas show birth as a disaster ready to happen, with wholesale panic never very far away.

To help overcome such fear and support men to get the most out of this wonderful life event, a book of birth stories — written by men, for men — will be published in early 2006. Men at Birth will give first hand accounts of what it is really like to attend a birth. The book will contain stories about all kinds of births — caesarean births, natural births, home births, vaginal births after a caesarean, hospital births, twin births, breech births, birth centre births and the sadness of stillbirths. It will also cover interventions in birth (forceps, ventouse, episiotomy, epidural). Men from all over Australia have been invited to write about their experiences.

The stories are short (1800 – 2500 words), personal and reflect the breadth of men’s experience. There remains room in the book for a few more stories. If you are interested in participating in this unique Australian project, then please contact the editor, David Vernon at the address below.

This is David’s second book about birth. His first book Having a Great Birth in Australia was published in August this year and is selling well, particularly to expecting parents. Having a Great Birth explores women’s experience of birth, and focuses on the value of one-to-one midwifery care. Men at Birth will solely focus on men. For further information about these books contact David at, or GPO Box 2314, Canberra, ACT, 2601.