birthing class

As the Father-to-Be, How Can I Help?

I’ve been singing to my wife’s stomach lately and oddly enough, this doesn’t feel too strange. As Yael enters her third trimester and her beautiful belly bursts, I find myself looking for ways to stay involved in her growing process. I’m reading books and hearing stories, wondering all the while: does all this really prepare me for the epic change we’re about to experience?

Our birthing class, full of New Yorkers from every background, serves as a weekly reminder of the universality of childbirth, and of the utterly awkward role the fathers-to-be share in these sessions. Some of the dads are note takers, others back rubbers. Some are really good fetch artists, returning with a scrumptious surprise for the mamas in the room, and some are glued to their phones. As our spouses learn and practice breathing techniques, we’re encouraged to take part and sometimes coach. Focal point, cleansing breath: how can we be of service? How can we feel involved?

At home we’re supposed to be practicing what we’ve learned: stretches, massages, and breathing cycles. But who has time for all that homework when I’m at the store picking up pickles, olives, tabouli, kettle-cooked potato chips, tomato juice, seltzer, and organic fat free milk? And don’t forget her favorite pasturized feta cheese, please! The exercises only take a few minutes and we practice the breathing occasionally, but I still find myself wanting a more constant reminder.

There is one preparatory practice I regularly engage in: singing. My wife and I met in a singing class over five years ago, and we’ve been trying to come up with new tunes ever since. And now, with new vocal chords on the horizon, we’re still singing. We sing after a full Shabbat dinner resting on the couch, or as we lie in bed, imagining our baby’s name, and secretly anticipating family responses.

At the opera recently, our baby kicked like a wild horse, especially during the first aria’s heavenly high notes. I joke with friends that our baby does the river dance when we’re listening to a record at home.

Maybe our baby enjoys the sound of our voices or perhaps the kicks are an aggressive plea to keep quiet–either way, it feels like a real connection with our future child. At a time when we’re left with more questions than answers, music holds a magical type of power to go where words cannot, reminding us, yes, our baby is there, listening.

Avram Mlotek

Avram Mlotek graduated cum laude from Brandeis University majoring in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.  His writing has appeared in The Forward, Tablet, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Week and The Huffington Post.  In 2012, The New York Jewish Week selected him as a "leading innovatory in Jewish life," as part of their "36 Under 36" Section. Mlotek's Yiddish cultural work has brought him to China, Ethiopia, Israel, Sweden, and Australia.  Mlotek currently works as a rabbi and co-founder of Base Hillel.  He is married to Yael Kornfeld, a social worker, and is proud Tati to their three-year-old, Revaya.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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