It was pretty much my first live radio interview, local radio but nerve raking enough. I know I’m there because I’m an oddity, a freak some might say. I've been working as a midwife since 1994 and being 28 stone, shaven headed, barrel chested and goatee beard bedecked certainly helps to perpetuate my freak hood.
Jonathon, the talk show host is nice guy, we enjoy a pleasant, easy chat before the show. He matches me witty anecdote for anecdote, not to mention his bear-like stature, warm demeanour and engaging smile. This all helps to create a fuzzy rapport. I'm beginning to relax for sure.
‘Right,’ he says, a little more tersely. 'We're going on air.' Something changes, I feel it more than I can point to anything specific, but change it does. After a few “warm up” introductions and questions, he hits me with the bomb . . . 'Mark, your book Men, Love & Birth speaks to male audience about being present when their “Lover” gives birth. Isn’t that just a lot of stereotypical, pigeon holing nonsense?'
I’ve grown more accustomed to the way short form media works these days and to be frank, if you hear the sound bites describing what it is I say and teach, you could be forgiven for thinking the same as Jonathan. But it is so much more.
While writing this blog about my life time of working as a man in the predominantly female area of birth, and my mission to support men as you prepare as fully as you can to be present as she gives birth, I couldn't help but be drawn back to that chat with Jonathon.His fantastic question has helped me to dig deeper. To explore how to communicate what's at the root of how our species of mammal has managed to survive these millions of years.
I've spent my whole live surrounded by women. I grew up with 5 sisters and having never lived alone, went straight from the family home to a marital home where my first 3 children were girls. Out of the frying pan and into the fire you might say. In 1994 I qualified as a midwife, one of only 62 men out of 36,000 female midwives. Women are very important to me.
Remembering my late wife being diagnosed with cancer and subsequently dying in my arms evokes that sense of feeling abandoned, which in the story I tell myself about life, points to strong attachments made to my amazing mother.
She birthed 8 children, adopted one, then pretty much single handily cared for us when money was to say the least, a challenge. What a woman, I love my mum, I love women.I undoubtedly had some intuitive understandings based on the many interactions with the women in my life since early childhood. These have stood me in good stead for the work I now do as a midwife. In many ways those early years were characterised by deep relationships with my sisters.
The same could not be said for working relationships with other midwives. From early on I managed to create much conflict and often felt close to overwhelm. Being accepted by my colleagues, or at least, feeling accepted was very slow in coming.
I kind of knew, even back then that men and women are different right? Obvious physical difference aside, I felt a difference when I related to male and female friends. My reading of feminist birth literature at the time did act to restrict, in some ways, my appreciation of these differences and slowed my journey towards the insight I have now.
A big changed happened in my life when I stumbled upon the work of Dr Richard Bandler and Dr John Grinder. The insights they wrote about exposed me to perspectives on the world that were completely new to me.
In a nut shell, my experience of the world, as a human being is received, constructed and stored through my data receiving channels, my five senses; how else could I make sense of the world. Each human animal has a unique internal map of what’s out there, it seems to approximate what’s “real” but remains just a map. My problem as a human being is that I confuse the map for reality itself. I believe my map is the truth and this truth making mistake is happening most of the time.
This model for understanding how humans communicate was half of what enabled me to understand what was going on when I spoke to another person regardless of gender. The next piece of my own puzzle was the understanding of our mammalian evolutionary development, which stretches back many million of years.
The females/males of our species have evolved differences in terms of our neurophysiology which have enabled us to survive. These biological structures are still very much at work in our lives and relationships today, we are very much stone age people living in the fast lane.
Most, if not all, of our instinctive behaviours flow from our ancient brain structures.
Jonathan, that lovely, engaging radio presenter was on the money for sure. When we speak about the differences between men and women it can sound like 'just a lot of stereotypical, pigeon holing bullshit.' But, when understood in the light of our evolutionary heritage some of the challenges we are having in our intimate relationships begin to more make sense.
Our human necessity to tell ourselves and others stories is part of what it means to be human. Not looking as deeply into those stories is what kept me from developing the kind of relationships with women that is now enriching my personal and professional life.
These insights and more have led me to my life’s work, supporting men as they prepare to be truly present as the woman they love gives birth.
Consider doing the Birthing4Blokes Online Course. It is an online program designed to help you to be as prepared as you can be for being present as the woman you love gives birth.