I first had the pleasure of meeting Patrick Houser before I had even heard of his book, the Fathers-To-Be Handbook. He attended a Rebozo training weekend done by the lovely Gena Kirby in which she included several focuses on fathers and partners of birthing women, not to mention all her own amazingness on birth, intuition, doulas, Rebozos and so forth! Ok back to Patrick- he was kind, inspiring and wise; a true pioneer of empowered fathers and he was also 1/3 part of the first documented home water birth in the United States!
After listening to his presentation, I had to have his book and learn more about how to better include fathers and partners in my HypnoBirthing classes. I told him that when I finished the book I would write a review…well I hope he hasn’t been holding his breath. It’s taken me a little while to actually write out my thoughts (in fact, I’ve read the book a couple times before now).
Patrick writes, “For millennia (literally!) birth has been almost exclusively the domain of women; men had a different more distant role to play. For the first time in our history most fathers are participating in the birth of their children. They are also expanding their involvement in the modern family.” YES! Never before has there been a generation of parents progressing toward egalitarian roles in rearing children. It wasn’t until the 1950s that fathers were even allowed in the rooms alongside their laboring partners. My own father never changed a diaper in his life…that anyone can remember anyway.
“Men becoming fathers today face new challenges as they increase their involvement in the family and participation in the birth of their children.” They sure do! Given all this new shared territory with minimal modeled examples in their own childhoods of how to go about it---how does a dad gain knowledge and skills to feel empowered in his role?
Patrick provides in this book- techniques for reducing stress, modern ways to protect and provide, how to participate more effectively during pregnancy, ideas on how to contribute to your child’s wellbeing, how to bring have a calm and useful presence during your partner’s labor and the birth of your child, and how to build strong and loving foundations for your child for a lifetime. The book itself is short, clear, and highly beneficial.
Firstly, I think Patrick really wants readers/partners to understand that they are also having a baby, pregnant if you will. Mothers may be the carriers for a time but fathers are also having a baby too. His own midwife suggested this to him while expecting his son. He says it was a brain stopper. “From that moment on I adopted the stance that I was also having this baby. I believe it allowed me to more easily engage with Kathryn’s pregnancy and our child and to begin fathering. It benefited my whole family. Kathryn was carrying our baby and I was carrying our family. I understood that by caring for her I was also caring for our child. I was no longer a bystander, baggage handler or just the sperm donor.” Ok- dreamboat dad! Maybe he’s just an amazing outlier, or do all partners have the capacity to engage this way??
I firmly believe ALL partners have this capacity, especially after reading Patrick’s straightforward approach to growth through several helpful tools. Here are a few of tools with insights that stood out to me as I have read and reread this gem.
Affirmations- Oh hello again, my little friends! It only makes 100% sense that affirmations would play a huge part in changing our actions, because they start with the very core of our thinking which influences our attitudes and reactions to life’s situations. As Patrick writes, “affirmations can be spoken, written, or mentally projected.” What if during the labor and birth of your child you were thinking- “oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy”? Or “what do I do, what do I do, what do I do”? What if instead you were thinking and feeling “I am safe. My partner is safe. My baby is safe. I know how to best support my partner and child”? Our thoughts truly are who we are.
Breathing and Meditation- Yup! Learn how to calm your mind, relax your body. Regulate your breathing to reduce stress. Do I even need to say more on how valuable this would be as a partner?
Choice- Boom. Life’s most powerful feature. Patrick says it best, “Fathering will bring with it many and varied choices. What do you expect your fathering to be like? Do you have any control over this or is the outcome inevitable? Can you choose to do if differently from your father? What would that look like? The interesting thing about choice is that until you know you have options, and what they are, you do not actually have a conscious choice. …How are you investing your mental resources?”
Empathy and Listening- Um. I think we’re done here. That about sums it up! These qualities will serve partners for years to come! Can you actually imagine what your partner is going through, do you even want to? In the book, you can learn how to “expand your capacity for being patient and loving.” Listening is skill with ears AND your heart.
Father’s Circle- An amazing visualization tool in the book for creating calm. It’s going to be useful tool during birth for any and all companions. I highly recommend this short exercise and would have it so well practiced you can actually use it! Going along with this one I would highly suggest the CALMS technique for applying this same soothing for your newborn infant.
Forgiveness- “If you had a great father, who you felt participated brilliantly in your life, then fathering may come naturally to you. There also may have been unloving aspects of your relationship with your dad.” Or maybe you’ve not ever seen or met you father. This may prevent you from moving forward confidently as a parent. I’m not saying forgiveness is easy or even permanent. But striving to even try to think about forgiving can “free your mind, your energy and your capacity to love and be loved.”
In this lovely guidebook you’re going to get all this and more! Patrick covers “Gifts for Mom and Baby” which is definitely NOT what you’re expecting it to be. He even writes about important and practical topics like- pain relief, managing your energy, birth environment, birth and sex (that’s going to answer some questions!), support, umbilical cords, breastfeeding, family bonding, and fathering in early infancy.
Seriously all this in 153 pages! I really love this book. It has helped me shape the way I teach expectant parents in my class and the way I approach my work as a doula.
Have you read it? Want to borrow my copy? Want to buy it? I can help!
Patrick has a whole program you can get involved with here. www.fatherstobe.org