The His and Hers Guide to Pregnancy and Birth – an interview with authors Steph and Dean Beaumont

Here at The Natal Family we have impatiently been waiting for months for the publication of the His and Hers Guide to Pregnancy and Birth (available for pre-order here), written by The Natal Family amazing founders Steph and Dean Beaumont and out on the 9th of June 2016. The His and Hers Guide is the second book published by the Beaumont’s, with The Expectant Dad’s Handbook published by Dean in May 2013.

Steph and DeanHis and Hers Guide cover are very much of a team – married, and parents to 4 beautiful children, they founded The Natal Family together and have successfully trained antenatal educators up and down the country in their unique programmes DaddyNatal, MummyNatal and BabyNatal, which offer non-judgemental, empowering and all-inclusive education to expectant parents.

Today, we asked Steph and Dean to spend a few minutes apart and answer a few questions about their upcoming book… separately!

We hope you’ll enjoy reading what they both have to say about their latest project…

When did you decide to write the His and Hers Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, and why did you think this book was ‘needed’ by the expectant parents out there?

Dean: “We had been discussing a book for mums and dads from the very start of beginning to work as antenatal teachers, even before we wrote The Expectant Dads Handbook. We finally were inspired to write it with some nudging from our publisher late in 2014, after she approached us with a similar idea.

Steph: “The idea for the His and Hers Guide first came up back in 2009! At the time, we were writing the format for our very first antenatal classes for couples, which Dean and I co-facilitated to meet the learning needs of both mums and dads. So many classes barely mentioned fathers, or had a very tokenistic reference to what they could do to help. Our approach was to treat both parents as integral in the pregnancy and birth; bringing a couple together to prepare for and welcome their baby, and recognize each role for its importance and value. Our classes were unique, and we thought that our approach would also make a great book!

Dean: “With all the work we do with expectant parents and the more we see the unhelpful stereotyping and poor use of language dividing parents, this book is for mums and dads to read together, getting them working together as a team, and understanding that their journeys although shared, will also be different.”

Steph: “Our initial concept back in 2009 was that the book would be co-written, in the same way that we co-facilitated our classes back then, but our focus then went onto other things – like antenatal teaching, starting up The Natal Family Teacher Training School and writing The Expectant Dad’s Handbook in 2013. However, out of the blue in 2014, the editor we had worked with on The Expectant Dad’s Handbook at Random House approached us with the bare bones of an idea she was thinking about, for a book aimed at mums and dads, and we were immediately reminded of those first ideas we had for our co-authored book all those years ago and wanted to make it happen!

Seven years later, there is still not much out there which explains how mums and dads will experience parts of the journey through pregnancy and birth differently and why. Men and women are different, and understanding what is going on in the mind of your partner is a unique and important aspect of our approach; it allows for increased understanding, less stress and fewer arguments! We hope that the His and Hers Guide will be as popular and enjoyable for parents as the classes that we co-taught – we have certainly enjoyed working on it!”

How is the book laid out and why did you decide to write it in this way?

Steph: “Thdean-200x300e book is split into three main sections: Pre-conception, Pregnancy, and Labour & Birth, with various chapters which cover key points or milestones within these.”

Dean: “It takes mums and dads from conception through to birth and those early postnatal days. Each chapter has a section for mum, a section for dad and a section for them both. This is so that we deal with their changes and experiences individually, but also look at what they can be sharing and doing together. It also gives them the opportunity to read each other’s sections and understand what the other is experiencing.”

Steph: “It felt important to have sections which were specifically aimed at mum or dad and covered what they specifically would need or want to know. However, it was also integral for us that the book created an opportunity for parents-to-be to come together to be able to discuss key decisions or options which are theirs for the making, which is why we created the ‘Get Together’ section within each chapter.

Of course, it is expected that some parents will want to read all the sections, including those aimed at their partner, especially if they want to gain more insight into what he or she might be experiencing and going through. As with everything we do at The Natal Family, it is about the parents using the book in whatever way suits them best.”

How is your book different from all the other pregnancy books out there on the market? Why do you think it will stand out?

Dean: “The book takes you through a journey, and at every step we have information specific to both Mum and Dad, and we treat them as equals – I think the approach is totally unique. Again, our non-judgemental and unbiased ethos will come through, as we support both parents to explore their choices for their family.”

Steph: “Part of pitching any book proposal to a publisher is about looking at any existing potential ‘competing’ titles and why the book being proposed has merit. Our initial research suggested that there was a gap in the market for a single book which catered for both mum and dad. Existing books which covered pregnancy and birth preparation largely fell into one of these two categories:

  • Generic books on pregnancy/birth, which seemed to be aimed at women – these books are seen as being overview guides to pregnancy or birth, and as such they focus mainly on the mother. These books will include a reference to the father and his role (a couple have a single chapter dedicated to him), but the vast majority of the book will be mother-focused in terms of what is happening, what women might feel etc., which can make it unattractive, inaccessible and unsympathetic to fathers.
  • Books for dads, written by dads, based on their own experiences – with the exception of our first book The Expectant Dad’s Handbook, these books are based primarily on personal experience/diaries, which means that they are inherently biased (see situations from their own view point, not realizing all fathers will not feel the same as they did), and they don’t provide the kind of unbiased and informed antenatal education which a professional teacher can offer. These books are very much written from the ‘male point of view’ and don’t include much information or text which is aimed at, and sympathetic to how mum might feel. They also tend to be quite ‘male humour’ based which again doesn’t necessarily make them appeal to the mum-to-be demographic.

We wanted to write a book which covered the needs of both parents, rather than just one of them. After all, we wanted to recognise that many couples will feel that as they have created their baby together, and they are going to raise their baby together, they therefore might wish to prepare for the birth together. It seemed like an obvious idea, but even 7 years after we first came up with the concept, the book still didn’t exist! We decided it was well overdue and our publishers agreed!”steph

What is the ONE key message that you want to give expectant parents out there and that you’re hoping will come through from reading this book?

Dean: “I hope it will help new expectant parents understand that although they are on a shared journey they will go through it in their own unique ways. Their amazing journeys will be different, but there is so much they can do together and to share with each other by discussing what is raised in the book.”

Steph: “ONE? I would say there are two 😉

First up – this is your pregnancy, your birth and your baby. As a family you are unique, and having a positive birth and parenting experience is largely about finding what feels right for you. Understanding that you have choices and exploring what those choices are is a key theme throughout the book.

Secondly, communication aids teamwork! At a time when we feel like life is changing all around us – when we are sleep deprived, trying to learn new skills, and with well-intentioned friends, family and professionals trying to tell us what to do, all couples come under a little strain. To help keep relationships strong through these changes, talking to each other and listening to each other is so important. Being heard and reassured is an important part of processing feelings, and it safeguards against potential misunderstandings becoming feelings of resentment or isolation. The His and Hers Guide explores some of the different feelings that parents-to-be commonly may experience, but everyone is different, and the only way to really know how your partner is feeling is to ask them. Every chapter of our book has a suggested topic for discussion, so if you are unsure where to start, this will help you find a place to open conversation.”

Would you recommend this book to parents who are expecting further children, or is it mainly for first time parents?

Dean: “The book is for all expectant parents, whether this is their first or their tenth baby. Steph and I continue to learn new things with each child we have, but also, approaches, evidence and information change all the time, so there is always something new to be taken from the book.”

Steph: “We have to remember that every couple, every pregnancy, every birth and every baby is unique, so even if you have had a baby before, you haven’t had THIS baby before – there is always something new to experience or learn! Dean and I have four children, but we have made different choices for pregnancy, birth and parenting with each of them, as each time, they, we and the situation were different. It is always good to remind ourselves that we have choices and that we don’t have to do something the same way – we can have confidence to try something new. The His and Hers Guide can support second/third/fourth time parents to look afresh at their options and choices, and to understand what they or their partner might be experiencing, which could be different to last time.”

What would youBeaumont children and books_May16 like to say to people (dads maybe?) who have already read The Expectant Dad’s Handbook? Would they still find this useful? Why should they read this book as well?

Dean: “The books are very different. Some of what we discuss is the same in each book as there are important messages that need to be covered. That said, The Expectant Dads Handbook is very much tailored for dad to give him the depth of knowledge he needs to help him prepare for his role. The His and Her Guide is for them as a family, so there are differences, such as exploring key choices they will need to consider and creating an understanding of the other.”

Steph: “The His and Hers Guide goes into a lot more detail about key pregnancy birth choices and options, whereas The Expectant Dad’s Handbook focuses more on the role of the birth partner and specifically on being a father.

Over the years, many women have contacted us after ‘borrowing’ their partner’s copy of The Expectant Dad’s Handbook, saying that they had tremendously enjoyed it and found it really useful, and they were asking us whether we had a book which was more aimed at mums that they could read. The answer up until now was always no, but it is wonderful that we will now be able to signpost women to this book.”

You two are very much a team and worked on this book together – what was the best part about writing a book with your spouse? And what was the worse?

Dean: “To be perfectly honest this is not the first time we have worked on a book together. The Expectant Dads Handbook was as much Steph’s book as it was mine – she just didn’t get her name on the cover! Really, most of what we do is a joint effort, and it works so well, especially in respect of pregnancy and birth, as we can both bring our own areas of expertise together. One of the best things is that, as we write, we talk, and we are always learning from each other and gaining deeper insights into mums and dads’ perspectives.

There isn’t really a worse side for me, although I’m sure that having to be the grammar police and edit my writing drives Steph up the wall!”

Steph: “Dean and I have worked side by side for many years now, so we are quite used to being around each other as we are working and handling competing deadlines or work-related disagreements! Most of this book was written in the 6 months after our fourth baby was born, so out of everything that was probably the most challenging part of writing it at all.

Of course, thBeaumont children_May16e main benefit of co-writing with Dean is that because we have worked together for so long now, we are very much in tune on our key messages and approaches, and because of that there is little disagreement between us when it comes to content or wording.

The downside of working together on such an intense project as writing a book is just that, if we are not careful, 99% of our time can be taken up discussing the book or just work in general, which can be utterly exhausting! We had to consciously choose to make time which was just for us, which, with a little baby at home, was not usually any more exciting than watching Netflix on an evening, but it was still important to have it. As we are spouses, we also have our four children to consider, and finding a balance which gave us time to write, alongside our responsibilities of other work commitments AND parenting too was hard, but even more so because of all of this, there was a great sense of achievement when the book was completed!”

Well, we’re sure you’ll agree that Steph and Dean’s words complement each other beautifully, as they both complement each other in their personal and professional lives…

We want to wish Steph and Dean the best of luck with the His and Hers Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, and we hope there will be many more books (and babies) to come! We also hope that you’ll join us in reading the book and spreading the word about the great work Steph and Dean are doing!

If you have grabbed yourself a copy of the His and Hers Guide and have any thoughts, please post them here!