fatherhood

Blooma Dads - An Important Part of Our Community

I have been a part of the Blooma community for over 9 years. My wife began coming to Blooma when she was pregnant with our first child. It had prepared her for birth and was her post baby escape. But, it wasn't until I became the primary caregiver that I understood the connection my wife had to Blooma. The community at Blooma goes beyond pregnancy and postpartum support - Blooma is all about being there for you, no matter what stage of life you are in. 

When I went to my first Tots Yoga class with no yoga experience, nervous and hesitant that I would stand out as the only father, I quickly realized my daughter loved Blooma and every minute of her class. And, was even more surprised at how welcoming everyone was of me. Molly loved to sing and dance while helping the teacher lead class. And, I was able to stay in a more reserved role with our baby, Bridget.  The teachers let Molly express her personality, while letting me stay in the background, making sure our little one wasn’t rolling away.   

Our oldest two children enjoyed going to “big kid” class with Kay. I would come in on Summer days with four children, feeling worn down. Kay would offer to have Molly, our third child, attend class as well. Those forty-five minutes were not a long period in the grand scheme of things, but meant a lot to me. This act of kindness, support, and empathy represented what the Blooma family was all about.

Blooma is a place that allows our family to experience a calming atmosphere while still having fun. We are glad to have such a great neighbor!

Written by Brian Meyer, Blooma Father of Four

Not Your Grandma's Childbirth Education - Couple's Birthing Intensive at Blooma

A "good" birth truly comes in all shapes and sizes, is highly personal and often cannot be defined by the birthing mother and her partner until after the little one is born. We may start our birth journey with a certain set of expectations and hopes, but as birth is often a winding path, our perspectives evolve out of experience and out of necessity. As a mother that has born two children, a birth doula of 9 years and as a student midwife of 3 years, I have seen more than enough birth to know that there truly is no right and there is no wrong, that there is no one way to have a "good" birth. I have also witnessed enough birth to know that when a mother and her partner both feel safe, connected, heard, held, valued, supported and able to make informed decisions along the way, there is a very good chance they will define their unique and powerful birth as a "good" birth, even if it looks very different than anticipated. This is the foundation from which I build and lead the Couple's Birthing Intensive.

Every Intensive that I teach at Blooma starts something like this: "This is not your Grandmother's childbirth education class", which is usually followed by a few knowing laughs because anyone that goes to Blooma and knows our beloved and fearless leader Sarah Longacre, knows that there is nothing old-school and out-dated about our offerings. That statement is then followed-up by something like this: "Instead, this class is about movement, breath, connection, vulnerability, safety, touch, and the amazing hormone 'oxytocin'".

I go on, and I do in fact belabor the point, that "no one gets to define what a 'good' birth is to you. No one. Not your doctor, not your Midwife, not your Nurse. Your doula does not get to define this for you, nor do you friends and family. Only you get to define what a good birth is to you, leaving no room for external judgments and expectations." Then, we spend the next 3.5 hours exploring the opportunities and possibilities of labor and delivery through movement and positions often used by birthing women. I integrate the use of long, full moans and groans that often come during birth, and use touch between couples to foster connection and safety. We discuss how oxytocin works at every stage. I work to help create the reality of vulnerability that happens with birth (yes partners, this means you get to be vulnerable too!) and we explore how to use "informed decision-making" as a pillar of strength in personally defining a "good" birth.

A very clear point is made that just as there is no right or wrong in how to birth a baby, there is no perfect way to support a mother in childbirth either. I work to gently remind partners that they do not have to have the exact right touch, nor the perfect words, but that often just being close, believing in her, grounding her when she needs to feel more safe and simply holding her hand and reminding her that she is loved, may be all she needs. However, because we know that often a mother wants and needs a whole lot of support directly from her partner, we spend a huge amount of time on the stages of labor and how the partner can appropriately and effectively support the mother though physical support and touch, through verbal encouragement and through practical tips like making sure she is drinking, eating, and using the bathroom on a regular basis.

This is not your Grandmother's childbirth education class, as it is far more about getting out of your head and into your body than it is about analyzing the intricacies of birth. But, this class does offer the timeless advice that mothers want and need to be supported, loved, held, and heard in childbirth. Today’s birthing women most often do what their partners present and actively involved in the birth process. This class offers plentiful ways in which the mother can be open to the birth process as it unfolds, as well as an abundance of ways in which the partner can move deeper and more confidently into the birth, so that when their baby is born, both parents look at one another and say, "we rocked that birth together".

Please join me or any of the other amazing Couple’s Birthing Intensive teachers (we each have our own flare!) in one of the monthly offerings in both Minneapolis and St. Paul!

For the next Couple's Birthing Intensive (May 7  & May 25) , click HERE.

For the full Couple's Birthing Intensive, Click HERE.

Written by Brook Holmberg, Birth and Postpartum Doula, Lactation Counselor, Childbirth Educator and Yoga Instructor

borealbirth.com

(Photo by Megan Crown Photography)

5 Things a Father Would Like You to Know About Postpartum Depression

Being a good dad means I need to be fair, present, kind, consistent, a good communicator, loyal, supportive, open-minded, a good leader, a fair disciplinarian and take good care of myself.

Pretty much …. Perfect.

The truth is, I’m not perfect. I’m human…. and this dad thing is humbling. It’s kicking my ass and bringing me great joy all at once. I’ve never had this kind of experience before.

I have postpartum depression - and so do up to 25% of my male peers.

Here’s what I need you to know:

1 - The traditional therapy model doesn’t work for me.

  • Showing up and admitting to another woman that I’m damaged is very scary and feels unnatural. Men are taught we are supposed to be "tough", and showing emotion makes us wonder if you will still view us as a competent protector and provider.
  • Asking me to talk about emotions I don’t even understand (vulnerability, denial, joy, shame) often leads to a shut-down. Rather than admit that I don't know what to say, I want to "fix" the problem. And I can't "fix" emotions. It's like expecting me to speak a foreign language that I’ve have never heard before.
  • I’d respond better to alternative methods of therapy. Emotion-focused couples therapy can be very helpful, if we are willing to be vulnerable. Here, couples learn an emotional vocabulary, and how to move towards each other, versus away.  Peer support is also very effective. Listening to other men’s stories and having a safe outlet outside of familiar relationships helps me with processing. It also creates accountability, provides mentorship and friendship.

2 - Shame and low self-esteem are my greatest issues -  not anger.

  • Shame is often rooted in family and childhood issues, past trauma/abuse, bullying, and messages from society. Exploring this stuff can often reduce my shame and increase my self-esteem, but often takes time and a therapist that knows to move very slowly.
  • When I am experiencing depression - I presses play on my “worthlessness script” and then act in a way to reinforces it. Why? Because it is what I know how to do and it’s easier than exploring feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, shyness, uncertainty, stupidity or other shame- rooted emotions.
  • What I was taught - is not my fault. It’s helpful for me to hear that what happened to me in my life, what I was taught about self-worth and what it means to be a man,  is not my fault. I also want to know that I have a choice- to continue the cycle, or learn ways to break it.

3 - My postpartum depression will look a lot different than a woman’s.

  • Anger and reckless behavior will be prevalent. Overworking or over-engagement in hobbies to avoid being home, sleeping more or staying up later at night and somatic symptoms (headaches, pain, stomach problems) may be present.
  • Other signs include higher risk of substance abuse, risky behaviors like driving recklessly or engaging in fights.
  • Onset of these mood disorders often occurs later in the postpartum time than in women.
  • Postpartum depression in fathers is seen worldwide.
  • My risk increases if the partner/woman in the relationship has depression, anxiety or OCD. I’m also at an increased risk if I’ve had a past depressive episode or a family history or depression.

4 - There’s no exact tool out there to diagnose my male postpartum depression.

  • Online tests and instruments in general should not be used to make a diagnosis. They are often not thorough enough, personalized enough, and I could lie or minimize my symptoms. But tools like a depression test or the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale can be given as a way to plant a seed for future reflection or conversation.
  • Ask me!!! Is being a father what I envisioned? How is it different? What has the experience of fatherhood been like for me?"
  • Having a partner share their observations in an early therapy session (but NOT the first) can be helpful. Let me create some rapport with the therapist first, and when you come, talk more about my behaviors than how you perceive I’m feeling.

5 - If you suspect I am suffering - don’t push, plant seeds.

  • If I say "I’m Fine" - don't argue. Share your own observations, let me know you are here if anything changes.
  • Tell me it’s ok to feel scared. Tell me it you see me, support me, love me.
  • Try to engage me in activities versus talking about feelings. Suggest we take a walk together, or do a physical activity together that we enjoy. It’s less scary than a face-to-face conversation about feelings.
  • If we decide we need to, lets contact the pros. If I don’t have the energy to call for an appointment - that’s okay. Help me make the call.

 

This piece was inspired by “Parental Mood Disorders: What you need to know about working with Dads” - presented by Mark Meier and Crystal Clancy at the 2016 Beyond the Baby Blues Conference.

Mark Meier, Founder of Face It, a Minneapolis-based center to help men overcome depression.

Crystal Clancy, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Stages Counseling, based in Eagan.

 Sarah Auna, Lamaze-certified Blooma Childbirth Educator.