Jeremy Dyen makes his digital home over at Stay at Home Papa: “A musician-papa shares his fatherhood, work and family experience. Here you can get attachment parenting ideas, listen to new music and more…”
1. Why did you choose homebirth?
The more my wife and I educated ourselves about the birthing process, the more we realized that homebirth was really it for us. Our doula suggested it during our initial consultation, and we ran with it. We watched The Business Of Being Born and that just really clinched it for us. That movie just made it very clear. From there we read more material and searched online, uncovering statistic after statistic that made us uncomfortable with a hospital setting birth. We saw how the birthing process has been usurped from women by this institution. We also saw how counter-productive a hospital birth was to a natural and procedure free birth. And keep in mind, my wife is a physician. We did a complete 180 in the last trimester. She had originally envisioned a hospital birth, epidural, etc. In a short time we shifted gears and neither of us can imagine it any other way.
2. Whose idea was it, yours or hers? If hers, what convinced you to agree? If yours, what gave you the idea?
As I said, our doula suggested it. I cannot say whose idea it was really. I think it was kind of peering out from the back of both of our minds and hearts. I know early on in the pregnancy, I asked my wife if she was interested in natural childbirth. She expressed no interest in it. For one, she had a notion that she was high risk because she was in her late thirties. Of course this is just untrue. Secondly, I’m pretty sure there was a lot of fear there for her–fear of pain, fear of the unknown, fear for the baby’s safety, etc. The Hypnobabies home program that we practiced really helped with processing and letting go of a lot of fear and the idea of pain. It is essentially guided meditation that focuses on a healthy and easy birthing process.
3. What homebirth books or resources did you find to be the most helpful?
The Business of Being Born was a fantastic motivator for homebirth. Also a movie called Orgasmic birth. The Hypnobabies program was really helpful as well. Our midwives had a fantastic library of books and resources. Perhaps the most helpful resources were our midwives themselves. They were a true foundation of information, support, insight and true caring. Also, having friends that had birthed at home was very helpful. Over all, having some friends around us that share our beliefs and ideals about birthing and being parents has been fantastic.
4. Before the birth, what fears or issues did you have surrounding homebirth (or birth in general)? How did those change for you after experiencing the birth?
I really had few fears. One fear, though, was that my wife would be overwhelmed by the intensity of the birth, feel pain, and not feel comfortable or confident enough to complete the homebirth. This was a small fear–nothing overwhelming. It was really something I thought about briefly during pregancy. During the birth it did not cross my mind. And, of course, my wife proved to be very strong and very capable of overcoming fear and discomfort.
I had little fear that my wife would be safe, and did not fear that she would end up in a hospital. Again, she was very strong and had mentally and emotionally prepared for the birthing. I too was prepared and in full support. The hypnobabies really helped us focus. And our midwives were so warm and supportive.
5. What do you wish someone had told you before your first homebirth? What advice would you give to a first time homebirth dad?
Get everything you need–food, birthing related items, etc–well enough in advance of your due date. We had most everything we needed, but there were a few items I needed to get the morning my wife started “laboring.” Not fun after one of the biggest snowstorms of the year (1 to 2 feet!).
Advice I would give: Prepare mentally and emotionally and educate yourself. If you have questions ask your midwives, doula, friends and family that have homebirthed. I feel like a lot of people–usually people who choose a hospital birth–leave the responsibility in someone else’s hands. They may not really mentally prepare for what the process is. They don’t face fear and realize that they are in control. They don’t have a birth plan. So easily the cascade of events happens that can lead to C-section: epidural, pitocin, etc…
I think if you prepare and feel comfortable, and yet let go of some exact pre-conceived notion of what the birth will be like, you will be fine.
Another word of advice: If you decide you want a “baby-moon” after the birth, in which you do not have visitors for a week, or two weeks, or whatever you decide, make sure you establish that clearly with friends and family. That period just after birth is a precious time for your (new) family. You cannot get that time back ever. Also, it is really important to give mama space and time to heal physically and adjust to all of the hormonal changes going on, as well as breastfeeding. It’s a lot. Be super supportive and yet give her space to feel comfortable and reflect.
6. Which part of the birth did you find to be the most difficult or challenging for you?
There was a lull at a certain point. My wife was really just drained it seemed. She had gotten to the stage of pushing, and started. But she was getting exhausted, and could not find a comfortable position. So there was just this period where I, and I’m pretty sure our doula and the midwives, felt like my wife needed to move or change rooms or positions, etc. Finally one of our midwives suggested moving to the shower and that that might help. Well, my wife never made it to the shower. Things sped up pretty quickly once she started down the hall to the shower, and it was not too long afterward that our daughter was born.
That lull was tough, because I really felt like something needed to change. But I felt uncomfortable being the one to say it because–well, who am I to say? So I was glad when our midwife made her suggestion.
7. Did you have support during the birth from your guy friends? If so, what was the most supportive? If not, what would have helped you the most?
I did have support, and I knew which friends would be wholly supportive and which would be generally supportive but somewhat indifferent. I don’t mean indifferent in a really negative way, but more that certain friends said things like, “Wow, a homebirth. That’s great,” but it stopped there.
The friends I found support from were those who had already had a home birth, or were choosing a homebirth. I know my friends, so I knew who to gravitate toward for that support. The most supportive things those friends would give was to share their experiences and allow me to see how really amazing and positive the whole homebirth process could be. The great thing is that they shared their experiences and yet weren’t judgmental of us prior to our having chosen homebirth. And that kind of support really played a part in our choosing homebirth just before the last trimester.
8. How was your interaction with the midwife during the birth? What could have made that better?
I felt very comfortable with our two midwives during birth. I always felt comfortable asking them questions or for help. But they really gave us a lot of space, which was great. It was interesting to see how hands-off our midwives were in the early parts of “labor.” I mean, we knew the plan is that they would really allow my wife her space and they would keep checking in and monitoring her progress from time to time. They would give support when it seemed needed.
I felt so confident in them. There were key moments when I felt like they said just the right things to my wife to boost her confidence when her energy was waning. I honestly don’t know what could have made our interaction better. From pregnancy to post-partum I felt very at-ease with our midwives. And I was especially impressed with the type of care and support they gave post-partum–completely invaluable and like nothing I imagine getting from a hospital post-partum. For those first 6 weeks after birth they were pretty much on call. We could call them at any time with questions. They offered so much great help and advice during their visits too.
9. How has the relationship with your partner changed after having a homebirth together?
Well, birth and having a first child is life-changing all around, and my relationship with my wife is no exception.
The homebirth experience definitely bonded us even tighter. During pregnancy we really focused on preparing for the birth as well as for being parents. Our communication has always been strong, so partnering on our soul-searching as parents-to-be was no exception.
The actual homebirth experience was so intense and ended in such joy and exhaustion. Going through that experience together is quite indelible. Seeing how my wife birthed our daughter–how she went through such an intense time and really did it of her own accord, strength and will–has definitely raised my admiration for her to new heights. Even more so, that she went from a hospital birth mentality to birthing our daughter at home naturally just makes me so proud of her.
I am so glad we each recorded our birth stories so we could share this experience with others, and more so that we can look back in detail and reflect upon an amazing, intense and wonderful experience that we shared.
10. Would you have another homebirth? Why or why not?
Should we decide to have another child, I would definitely have another homebirth, for all the reasons stated above–a wonderful and amazing experience. A birth at home is simply more comfortable than I imagine a hospital birth to be. The last place my wife and I want to be is in a hospital room, with her on a hospital bed on her back (perhaps the worst position to birth in), with all kinds of monitors, and people likely to try and persuade my wife to get an epidural, etc.
What better place to bring our child into the world, in the comfort of our loving home.
Bonus: Will you describe the emotional/spiritual side of your birth experience from a man’s viewpoint?
It might be best to read my birth story because I was much closer to the emotions when I wrote it. However, I will point out two stand-out moments during our birth experience:
The first was in the first 4 or 5 hours of labor. My wife and I stood embracing, swaying–almost dancing–while she experienced birthing waves. Time sort of dropped for me. I felt so connected to my wife and the baby inside of her. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or teary. I just felt so connected and loving. And I know that my wife felt the same.
The other moment I want to point out is when my wife started having pushing urges. This was one of the most intense moments, aside from the final moments of birth. I just saw my wife in this completely new light. It was so raw, guttural and primal. There was no veil at all. I also saw this timelessness in her face and heard the same timelessness in her intense grunting pushes. I felt so connected to all of the birthing mothers that ever were. I could feel so intensely that this is how women have been giving birth to our race since the beginning of time. It was an enlightening experience.
You can read our homebirth stories here:
[Thanks, Jeremy! Readers: If you know any other homebirth dads who would like to share their answers for this 10 Questions series, please have them contact me at derek (at) naturalpapa.com]
Homebirth Toolkit: A comprehensive guide for expectant families who are planning or considering the option of home birth.
Image: Just Taken Pics at Flickr