Thursday, July 24, 2008

Book Review: Don't Just Stand There - Birth Books for Dad

I read Don't Just Stand There: How to Be Helpful, Clued-in, Supportive, Engaged, Meaningful, and Relevant in the Delivery Room by Elissa Stein and her partner Jon Lichtenstein a few nights ago. The book is available on Amazon new for about $10 and used for about $5.

I bought this book to add to my childbirth education library because I haven't found many selections for dads that I've liked. My top favorite is Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner (yes, there's a new edition!), which I highly recommend for dad and mom because it is packed with readable, excellent information. It is by far one of the books that I most frequently hand to couples when they ask which books in the library are the best. I also have The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be by Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash. The Expectant Father is okay but not overly impressive in tone or information provided and while it is in the library, I don't go out of my way to recommend it.

So I ordered Don't Just Stand There, despite a little nagging uneasiness because of the title includes the phrase "delivery room", because I was really hoping to have another book to offer dads. I'm glad that phrase didn't keep me from ordering the book: Stein and Lichtenstein pack a lot of useful information into a small, appealing book that I will happily recommend to dads looking for reading material.

Don't Just Stand There is divided into the following section: stages of labor, what to bring, what to say, how to comfort, what not to do, say, or bring, and then some "fill in the blanks" prompts to encourage discussion between the partners.

The book offers a lot of useful information:
**descriptions of the physical and emotional progress through labor
**specific suggestions of how the partner can be helpful in each stage
**the basics on what to bring to the hospital, plus a few new ideas
**specific affirmations, breathing prompts, and visualizations
**ways to physically comfort mom: position-change, water, massage & more
**ways to make the environment more comfortable
**how to "take charge" so mom can focus on laboring

I especially like that the book presents a range of options as normal: "There are so many options for where and how to give birth. Some women choose to be at home, others at a birthing center, and still others in the hospital" (45). The authors also encourage informed decision-making throughout the book, and specifically in a brief section called "questions to ask": "While your partner's in labor, there could be a lot going on that you might want to question. Go right ahead. It's your right to know what's going on and why" (36).

Although only the most basic information on a few labor procedures are discussed, the authors are clear about some of their drawbacks - "If she's hooked up to a fetal monitor, she'll need to stay in one position so that the band around her belly, which is monitoring the baby, stays in place. This can be extremely uncomfortable and also frustrating if she wants to try different positions or move around" (36). Stein & Lichtenstein also highlight the importance of discussing alternatives to common procedures with care-providers. There is very little detail about specific options, but I think that's ok - Don't Just Stand There is a slim, unintimidating book, focused on how dad can be supportive. There are lots of excellent books for moms/dads who want specifics about various procedures and medications, like anything by Henci Goer, for example.

Don't Just Stand There ends with a hilarious section on "Don'ts" - nothing like hearing what other, less enlightened, dads have said or done during labor to increase a dad's confidence: I can just imagine readers thinking "I would never say something that stupid!" Plus, they're hilarious.

A few of my favorites:
** "Don't flirt with the nurses." and
** "Don't socialize too much with the labor partner in the next delivery room."

Don't Just Stand There acknowledges the partner's importance during labor and birth "not a single trick of the trade will help as much as knowing that you are there with her 100 percent of the way. Just be present with her. Let her know that she is not alone and you love her" (9) while also providing dads with a wide variety of do-able ways to support his laboring partner. I especially appreciate that the book encourages informed choices, that it will be appropriate for moms planning to birth at home or in the hospital, with or without medication, and that neither the format nor the content is intimidating.

I will definitely be handing dads this compact, easy-to-read book that presents a variety of ways to be "helpful, clued-in, supportive, engaged, meaningful, and relevant" during labor and birth.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes in Central Maine

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