Same-Sex Couples: How To Create an Inclusive Vibe in Antenatal Classes

I must admit, we don't get many birth preparation course enquiries from same-sex couples. When we do, I’m keen to make them feel welcome, comfortable and confident about working with me during their pregnancy - as I do with all our clients.

Heterosexual couples, and sometimes women with a relative, make up the vast majority of our clients, so I'm used to using certain language and saying certain things. It can all be very heteronormative!

Language is central to Hypnobirthing - it can have a powerful impact on the person giving birth and their partner. Let me give you an example: If someone asks "how much pain are you in?" when you're trying to relax during birth, it can take you right off course by focusing your attention on pain. Asking instead: "How comfortable are you?" helps hold you in your calm, relaxed zone, by focusing on your comfort.

For some same-sex couples, language can be really important, too. I'm used to usually saying "he" in reference to birth partners, and that's bound to jar for some - maybe all - same sex-couples during a birth preparation course. I think these little things have the potential have a big impact for some people, reinforcing concerns about feeling ‘different, ‘othered’ or even excluded - the absolute opposite of what they should be feeling.

I'm always aiming to grow and learn as a birth professional, a teacher, a community member and as a business owner. With that in mind, I asked our Instagram followers for their advice on how I can make sure our work with same-sex couples is inclusive. It generated a lot of interest and some really helpful and encouraging advice. This, coupled with my Co-Director, Frances’ expertise of inclusion work in the youth, training and international development sectors, as well as my many year’s of experience as a Hypnobirthing Practitioner, has really helped ensure I have inclusion, language and support at the forefront of my mind.

Here are some of the comments we had on our original Instagram post:

Well done to you for asking! It’s always better than just assuming or even worse ignoring...for us just the use of the word “partner” was sufficient. It meant that we didn’t need to feel any different to anyone else in the class. ...The whole point is that we want and expect to be treated the same as other couples! x
— @mumandmama

The non-birth mother part hit me hard back then, but once my daughter was born we declared our selves mum and mama. It was obvious to our close friends and family, but apparently, not to others! I was at a stage in my life where I was offended if they asked and offended if they assumed
— @needleintheheighstack

We started using ‘partner’ or ‘birth partner’ from the off just so that it’s our standard go-to phrase as we were keen to show that we were understanding of it not always being dad; to date we haven’t taught any same-sex couples, but we have had couples where dad isn’t actually birth partner and have had a lady do our classes on her own! I think once you have a feel for the class you can adapt, so if we have a class where all birth partners do happen to be dads we would revert to ‘dads’ etc x
— @breathelancashire

I think “spouse” needs to be in standard usage vs. saying what the opposite gender is (wife vs. husband etc.) If not married, “partner” can also be used (of course) for same-sex couples, but can and should still apply to heterosexual couples as well.
— @jaciebbj

I think maybe asking in a consultation. I don’t think anyone would take offence. We usually go by wife and wife or use ‘partner’ in general. When it comes to our future tribe... my wife is Mama and I am Mommy/Mami. No distinguishing between non-biological and bio mom, not because we aren’t proud of where are babies will come from but because we will be two mothers. Heterosexual couples don’t go by non-bio dad and bio mom or the other way...We will establish what our “role” as a mother is when our baby comes and I feel as soon as you use the term bio or non-bio (outside of medical reasons) it just gives way for people to assume what our role will be or should. I think it’s very personal to everyone and just asking politely what we call ourselves in our family would be great :)
— @mari_ivana

The comments we received on this Instagram post reassured me that it's not hard and we're [hopefully!] doing all the right things. Same-sex couples should expect a fully inclusive birth preparation course during such a precious time in their lives.


Author: Miriam, Parent Tribe Founder and Hypnobirthing Practitioner