25 Sep

Book Review: Men, Love & Birth by Mark Harris

I have been waiting to get my hands on this book for some time! Mark is my co-presenter on Sprogcast and the last few months have seen him working hard to get the book finished. I’ve seen and heard snippets of it, and I have been intrigued.

Billed as “The book about being present at birth that your pregnant lover wants you to read,” this book is aimed predominantly at men as fathers-to-be and as birth partners. Mark has filled it with explanations of how we relate to people and the world around us, how hormones work for and against us during birth, and what actually happens during the birthing process. As such, it’s a useful read for anyone working in birth, as it does offer some refreshing perspectives.

Mark is garrulous in person and his chatty style comes across well on the page, successfully combining a grounded and down-to-earth approach with occasional forays into “new age wank” [p109], which some readers might find off-putting. I’d recommend sticking with it, as Mark acknowledges that it is hard to find more grounded language with which to discuss the interplay of hormones and energies between a man and a woman in the birth room. I forgive Mark his occasional generalisations about gender roles in the home, as they do make sense in the context of the book; but I wonder how readers would respond if it was a woman writing that “birth has been hijacked by men.” [p56]

The book sets out to give you “the tools to keep you grounded when adrenaline wants to sweep you off your feet;” [p36] and really does achieve that. Chapter two explains the role of hormones and suggests subtle ways to elevate levels of oxytocin; much of this advice is useful for relationships in general, and not just in this specific context. Chapter three advises men about looking after themselves, and the two chapters of dialogue between Mark and a group of men are packed with information, coping strategies, and advice about how to relate to midwives. Mark himself is an experienced midwife and can be considered an authority on this matter!

Chapter seven on breastfeeding is spot-on in terms of the accurate information offered, and covers a fair bit of political ground too. It is sad that NCT Breastfeeding Counsellors are not mentioned as an excellent source of support, and I felt it would be useful to include the helpline numbers, as in my experience, it is very often new fathers who call the line seeking help on their partners’ behalf.

Men, Love & Birth is humorous, practical, and pitched at just the right level for men who want to figure out what their role is in birth and early parenthood. It’s also rather saucy in places.

Disclosure 1: I was sent a free review copy of Men, Love & Birth by Pinter and Martin Publishers. To order your own copy with a 25% discount, just follow the link and use the discount code KH25 at the checkout.
Disclosure 2: You can’t not like Mark. I’d recommend going on one of his super workshops.