Blokes & birth rooms.

Guys really enjoy my antenatal course, especially when I say that birth is really basic. It’s all about mechanics and hormones – understand these, and you understand labour!!  The guys seem to like the analogy because it makes it somehow more tangible (at least the bit about mechanics does – the hormones part tends to go straight over their heads!)

Well this morning I had to take my car to the garage and found myself totally immersed in a “mans world” that smelt of petrol, grease and Swarfega after my hubby woke me saying “you’ve got a totally flat tyre love – can you get it sorted?”

I got dressed, went downstairs and had a look around the tyre to see that the problem was caused by a piercing shiny screw and an hour later I had walked to the local garage to ask Andy the Tyre man what to do. He said it sounded like it could be repaired, but obviously I needed to try and get the wheel to him, and I had a few options….. I could:

a) Pay for him to come out, he would jack the car, undo the wheel, bring it back to the garage, repair it, drive it back to my house, Blah blah blah……. At this point I tuned out of the conversation because I could hear my purse tightening. This would cost a fortune.

b) I could jack the car up myself, remove the offending tyre and bring it in to him and take it back after repair and put it back on myself. At this point I tuned out of the conversation because I could hear my stomach tightening in fear!! This could be a VERY bad and dangerous idea!

c) I could go home, get a foot pump, inflate the tyre to the right Psi (plus a bit to allow for leaking) and then drive the car back to the garage to see if it could be repaired.

Pah!! Foolish man.

So we arranged for him to come round later and collect the car.

But when I got home, I looked at the car on the driveway and thought “do you know what? Why the heck can’t I do some of this? I am resourceful, never scared of getting a bit grubby, I can definitely inflate tyres, and I vaguely recall seeing a red uppy-downy thingy in the garage that you stand on and seems to push air out of a tube. And so I set to work, did a reasonable job (well at least good enough to be able to drive the car for 5 minutes) – and returned to the garage.

Now quite reasonably, I felt fairly pleased with myself, and was really excited when Andy the Tyre man said “I tell you what, why don’t I show you how to jack up a car and remove the tyre so that if you ever get stuck miles away with no phone signal you will be able to swap to your spare tyre? He set about talking me through what he did as he carried out the job – and I was introduced to a very foreign world of locking wheel nuts and jacking points. We discussed the benefit of long armed vs short armed wrenches for leverage, and the danger of standing on them for weight (exactly what I would have done if it was in my hands) as this common mistake leads to a broken ankle. Even more interestingly, did you know that every car apparently has a number of small arrow indents on the doors/chasis to identify jacking points, BUT you have to find the correct structural part to jack into – not on the bodywork or under a floor panel. Needless to say, by this point I was MIGHTILY relieved that I didn’t try and remove the wheel myself – I would have been calling hubby to confess to holes through the exhaust or footwells!!

Once the wheel was off Andy went off to do the repair, before he showed me how to put the wheel back on (tightening bolts diagonally to ensure a balanced fit – again I would never have done it this way!).  So the lesson I learnt was that I could probably try and get myself out of a fix if I really needed to, and yeah sure, I had the confidence to give it a go – but I would be crazy not to find myself an Andy to do the job properly if I possibly could!

So of course the analogy here (in case you hadn’t spotted it!) – is that doulas in birth are the equivalent of Andy’s in garages. Whilst I felt totally out of my comfort zone in the garage, Andy respected me enough to support me in learning how to help myself as best as possible by showing me the basics just as we do in a class. However, by having him with me whilst doing the tyre change he was able to highlight areas where I could have got it dramatically wrong.

In a birth room a doula supports the dad – who has been thrown into the world of internal examinations, vaginas, dilating cervixes and the smell of birth and placentas. Now he may well have learnt about all those things at a good antenatal class, and should be able to physically help his partner through labour – but in reality he has entered into a “womans world” – and he may really benefit from an “Andy” supporting him along the way, although in our case we call ourselves Sallyann and Sarah!!

Now I know that there are some AMAZING female mechanics – it’s just that I’m not one of them!

I also know that some partners are naturally AMAZING in the birth room – but this blog is about the partner that is quietly crapping himself at the thought of being in a birth room and being totally responsible for physical, emotional and educational support of his partner throughout labour.

That dad may know that applying sacral pressure can help relieve discomfort as a baby passes through the pelvis – but where exactly is the sacrum?

He may understand the mechanics of a TeNS machine – but he doesn’t know when or how to apply it properly.

He should know that labour can be very tough, and that it is his role to encourage his partner to dig deep emotionally to finding her own strength and power to ride with the intensity of birth – but how does he know if he is pushing her too far and should in fact be supporting her request for pain relief??

Employing a doula removes all those unknowns. We hope to sit quietly and observe you as a couple whilst you find your own way through labour, just adding encouragment when needed. Sure, dependant on the couple we may need to become a little more involved, but we try to show you the way – practically, physically and emotionally.

Changing a wheel is probably going to be a once or twice in a lifetime event – and a dad is only likely to see his partner laboring on a couple of occasions – we can all gain so much confidence and reassurance by being mentored throughout by a trusted and well known guide.

So what do we offer that is above and beyond your midwife? Well our personalised doula service starts from the moment of booking – offering support 24/7.  We will get to know you both really well during our antenatal meetings, so that your partner knows we are there for him as much as you.  We will be with you physically as soon as you call in labour and ask us to join you and will stay with you no matter how long your labour lasts.  After your baby has been born we will only leave when you are settled and ready to enjoy some moments together as a new family.

Our job isn’t to take over from the dad – it is to support him to be the best he can, and our job is best achieved when we empower a couple to help themselves.

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