The miracle of birth does many things to strengthen a family. It changes a mother and a father and prepares them both to enter parenthood with the strength and support of loving Heavenly Parents. Though we typically think of women when we discuss childbirth, I want to share with you three ways childbirth can prepare a husband to step into his new role as a father.
1. Childbirth draws upon a man’s strength and innate desire to protect his family.
Men are natural protectors. This is part of their divinely designed role. Women do not need to be protected from giving birth, but a husband should protect the sacred space of childbirth by ensuring that his wife’s wishes are being heard and respected. He can provide spiritual protection and strength through prayer and priesthood blessings.
When a man protects his family, he is doing what God has asked and created him to do, which will bless his family and bless his life personally. Feeling protected will also aid a woman during her birthing process, helping her feel safe, supported, and less fearful. It will strengthen trust within the marriage and help the woman feel more secure in her ability as a mother.
By protecting his wife and baby during childbirth, a man prepares himself to continue offering spiritual and physical protection as the family ages and grows. It lets his wife know that he will always put her safety as a priority.
2. Physiology strengthens his bond with his family.
As a woman gives birth, she creates high amounts of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone of love and bonding and is critical for all long-term relationships. At the moment of birth, she will create the largest amount of oxytocin humanly possible. This helps her fall instantly in love with her newborn and find joy in taking care of and being close to her child. This is the physiological aspect of childbirth and is God’s way of ensuring a strong attachment between mother and infant. But God cares about a man’s physiological connection with his family too.
Even though a man is not physically giving birth, if he is emotionally and physically present during the birth his hormonal production will feed off of his wife’s and he can experience the physiological benefits of childbirth too. Like his wife, he will begin to make elevated amounts of oxytocin, which will strengthen his bond with his wife and with his child.
In reaction to the high amount of oxytocin, his brain will also produce higher amounts of a hormone call vasopressin. Vasopressin tempers a man’s sex drive and contributes to long-term monogamy. Men with elevated amounts of oxytocin and vasopressin are better equipped to focus on the needs of their families and will feel more invested in their relationships.
To encourage physiological bonding, men should interact with their wives in a way that will create higher levels of oxytocin. They should hold her hand, kiss her cheek, provide physical comfort, pray with her, provide priesthood blessings, and make sure she doesn’t feel alone. Once the baby is born, a man should spend quality time with his wife and child. Talk to them, sing to them, hold them, and treasure them. Full attention should be given by turning off the television and cell phone and ensuring that nothing distracts from the miracle of creating a family together.
For women, physiologic bonding will peak shortly after giving birth but will be ongoing as she feeds and cares for her baby. Typically, men have fewer opportunities to bond physiologically, so make the most of the time directly after giving birth when bonding and hormones are heightened and when outside distractions are minimal. The more a man can physiologically bond with his family, the more he will be willing and able to serve them selflessly.
3. Childbirth gives fathers an opportunity to serve with Christlike love.
During the first several weeks after giving birth, mothers should be given ample time to physically recover and focus on bonding with their newborns. Husbands should continue to protect their wives from anything that would hinder bonding or recovery. This gives men a unique opportunity to not only serve their wives but to get a firsthand view of all that she typically does to serve the family.
Service is the essence of Christlike love, and serving others is a positive cycle that will continue to feed into itself. Men who serve their wives as they recover from birth will feel an increase of love toward their wives and children, feel closer to the Spirit, and become more like Christ. Becoming more like Christ will enhance a man’s ability and desire to serve his family, but it’s important to remember that serving isn’t limited to housework (although no wife will complain to wake up to a clean house!) and could include something as simple as bringing a glass of water or fixing a snack. The wife will feel her husband’s love for her when he notices her needs and makes sure that both she and the baby are thriving.
Husbands can also provide emotional and spiritual support by being a listening ear, an encouraging voice, and by praying for their wife and children. Many women will feel strengthened by their husband’s prayers and priesthood blessings on their behalf and will feel supported and validated when their husbands do these things.
When a man protects, supports, and serves his wife and children, the Lord strengthens him and his ability to be a good father. His magnified strengths will help him take care of himself and his wife physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and ensure that his wife can enter motherhood with physical health, enhanced bonding, and trust within the marriage.
1.Linda Folden Palmer, “The Chemistry of Attachment,” Mothering Magazine. http://theattachedfamily.com/?p=4979
Image from Getty Images
Marie Bigelow is the author of The Sacred Gift of Childbirth: Making Empowered Choices for You and Your Baby. Her book testifies of God’s love and the divine design of childbirth and teaches readers how to make birthing decisions based on scientific data and LDS doctrine. Marie is a certified birth doula, childbirth educator, and music therapist. She was recently awarded the prestigious Advanced Doula Designation for her contributions to the field of doula work and maternal/fetal health. Marie resides in Boise, ID, with her husband, Todd, and four children. To learn more about Marie and the LDS doulas in your area, visit www.MarieBigelow.com.