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Protecting the Cave

Written by Patrick M. Houser   
Tuesday, 01 December 2009 00:00

The ancient archetype of a father during birth is that of him standing guard at the opening of the cave, protecting the birthing mother and newborn from danger. As we move through time, he comes closer to the actual location of the birth itself—waiting, protecting. By the late 20th century, he enters the birthing room and becomes more involved.

His earliest role in the birth process was to ensure survival—to protect the family from wild animals, or perhaps other tribes. As birth has become more industrialized, his role appears to have altered. But could it be that by entering the birthing room, the father is returning to his initial, primal role of protecting his loved ones?

In our culture today, the threat could be drifting dangerously close to the mother and baby—from inside the birthing room itself. Has our modern approach to birth interfered with the natural physiological process to such a point where fathers are now needed to intercede? To protect in a new way? Interventions of every unimaginable kind are rampant, and much of what is being done to the mother and child is as unnecessary as it is risky.

Suppose that the modern role of a father is to prohibit the excessive bombardment of people, equipment and drugs from interfering in the very natural and ordinary process of birth. Many interventions at birth are the result of overimaginative professionals, most with good intentions, who have been medically trained to intervene in a nonmedical process. Humanity cannot invent a drug superior to that which the mother’s body can manufacture, nor can it produce a doctor whose experience is as vast and wise as a mother’s instinct.


Fathers in the Chamber

When my water broke five weeks early and things were not progressing the way everyone else thought they should (they were pushing for interventions), my daughter’s father stood up for me when I was getting worn down. I am so grateful to him for staying so strong and supporting me in the birth decisions that were so very important to me.

Brooke Fister Conner


We used the Bradley Method for our home births, so I was there to coach her and support her physically and emotionally, and to be there for her every need.

Matthew McCabe


My husband spent eight hours rubbing my back, bless him. I even tried to pretend a rush wasn’t coming on so he could get a break. He saw through that. He also persuaded me to have a home birth— best decision ever!

Samantha Van Norman


At the birth of my second son, Max, I lost my cool. Labor was hard and furious and I kept saying, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I need drugs!” My husband held my hands and said in the clearest voice, “Pam, you are doing it.” He was instrumental in helping Max to come into a candle-filled water birth of peace. I couldn’t have done it without him, and I have never loved him more.

Pam Jarboe


I was there by her side throughout. Wouldn’t want to start a family any other way!

Peter Sayegh


He walked with me for the first 24 hours as I tried to walk my little boy into this world. Then, when it was time, he brought my heating pad, massaged my back and sacrum, and just listened. He stroked my brow, gave me my water and helped me focus!

Meggan Medley


My husband was the calm at all seven of our home births—especially the one where it was just him, and the cord was around our baby’s neck. He supported me emotionally and physically, since I stood for a number of them. He even did massive cleanup when necessary.

Mary Jo Horner


About the Author:

Patrick M. Houser is a grandfather and father of two sons. The birth of his first son revealed to him the need to understand birth more fully; Patrick’s second son’s arrival, in 1980, was the first documented water birth in the United States. These experiences have formed his life’s work and led him to nearly 25 years of passionate advocacy for birth choices. Patrick has a degree in marketing, has owned a natural health center, and for 10 years owned and ran a construction firm in Austin, Texas. He is the director of The Source Foundation International, a UK registered charity that promotes health and choice from pre-conception through birth and throughout life. Patrick is also a speaker, writes articles and is the author of the Fathers-To-Be Handbook, originally published in the UK and now available in a U.S. edition.



Pathways Issue 24 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #24.

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