Fathers-To-Be Handbook: A Road Map for the Transition to Fatherhood
By Patrick Houser
Creative Life Systems, 2007
Softcover, 160 pages, $16.95.
Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE
I am delighted to see another contribution to a growing body of birth and fatherhood literature written for men. Unlike other fathering books I’ve reviewed recently (which were also wonderful) the Fathers-To-Be Handbook was actually written by a man! This man-to-man, father-to-father perspective is a valuable strength of the book.
Patrick Houser is the father of two boys, both born at home with a midwife. His second son, born in 1980 in Missouri, was the first documented water birth in the U.S. The author has been based in the U.K. for a number of years now and is the co-founder of a wonderful organization called Fathers-To-Be, offering resources and education for expectant fathers as well as to the childbirth professionals who work with them.
Fathers-To-Be Handbook is a quick read and is a small-size paperback; like a “pocket guide.” It is definitely meant to accompany other reading and classes. It does not have an index, but does have a helpful resources section.
The first several chapters of the book are about the experience of fathering—about becoming a father, your personal history with your own father (“fathering school”—what was your teacher like?), the importance of fathers, and the journey through pregnancy. The final four chapters address preparing for birth, giving good support, empowered birth, and fathering the newborn. The handbook is very supportive of midwifery, homebirth, and doulas. It also encourages fathers to have a male support person nearby the birthing room (or perhaps available for support by phone).
As the author states in an article included at the end of the handbook, "Humanity cannot invent a drug that can work better than a mother's body can manufacture or a knife that is sharper than her instinctual nature." I deeply enjoyed an addition to birth literature that both honors the father’s experience and is rooted in a positive, healthy, celebratory approach towards birth and the inherent capabilities of a woman’s body.