A couple weeks ago, Sara said to me that she was concerned because I hadn't read anything much about being a birth partner and helping her during the birth. Normally, I prepare in such a way well ahead of time and I'm a non-fiction reader in general.
The temptation at first was to get defensive. Why didn't she trust me? Didn't she know I was going to be there for her? But that lasted for about a nano second. I realized very quickly that I didn't know where to get the information. So I asked her if she could get the stuff I needed. Of course she obliged and a couple books and thee handouts were in my hands within a day or two. I read the handouts and I'm currently skimming a book.
Two things about these interactions. First, what I didn't say at first was that Sara used what John Gottman (Ph.D at Univ. of Wash.) calls a "soft start up". She didn't demand I did it, nor did she "not-so-subtly" put the books on my nightstand without addressing the issue first. She simply raised the issue, named her desire, and then left her desire with me to consider on my own. No attempt at manipulation on her part.
Second, I named my quandary to her about a lack of known resources. This required my vulnerability. Yet I also named my willingness within the context of my limitations. So at this point, at minimum, Sara knew my desire to engage and learn was on the table. That was enough and she was more than willing to do a little research on her own to get me the needed resources.
On a final note, what if I weren't a reader? The same would apply. I name my limitations and see what we can work out. Maybe I or she are able to find audio-visual resources, for example, or maybe I become willing to find a birthing class for fathers that I can go to.
The important point is that Sara can only raise the issue of her desire and then she has to wait and see how I respond. That is the act of courage.