[I’ve had a great bunch of fathers answer these questions about dads and homebirth already, but I haven’t taken the time to answer them myself until now. Here’s my contribution to the 10 Questions series.]
10 Questions for Homebirth Dads with Derek Markham
1. Why did you choose homebirth?
My wife’s mother had homebirths with her last two children, so my wife got to experience it as a kid by watching her mother give birth at home. She was convinced that was the way to go for her, and I trusted her intuition and comfort level with it. I had never been exposed to homebirth before, as my mother always had hospital births.
2. Whose idea was it, yours or hers? If hers, what convinced you to agree? If yours, what gave you the idea?
It was my wife’s idea, and because I wanted her to have the birth experience that she felt most comfortable with, I read up on it and asked a bunch of questions until I felt comfortable with a homebirth as well. It also appealed to me because I tend to be very independent and a do-it-yourself kind of guy.
3. What homebirth books or resources did you find to be the most helpful?
Spiritual Midwifery had the best info for both of us. For her, it was all of the birth stories – the emotional and spiritual aspect to birth. For me, it was the specific details about birth in the back of the book that I needed to read and learn about. I didn’t ever find a homebirth book that specifically spoke to dads, unfortunately. We also watched a number of homebirth videos together, which somehow made it more real – watching someone else do it.
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?
Before the first homebirth, I had the usual fears about the health of my wife – would she be ok, would we have to be transported to the hospital, issues like that. I didn’t really fear for the baby, but perhaps that’s because the baby didn’t seem as real – it was just a belly to me, not a baby yet. During subsequent homebirths, I definitely had the baby’s health and safety on my mind as well.
I had been to two hospital births before, so I only had that to compare to (which is more than many first-time dads). Because hospital births had roomfuls of equipment and we didn’t at a homebirth, I think there was a bit of the male ‘gadget dependence’ on my mind. The truth is, you don’t need much to have a birth – all of the stuff at the hospital is ‘just in case’.
5. What do you wish someone had told you before your first homebirth? What advice would you give to a first time homebirth dad?
I wish that someone had told me how to more fully support my wife during labor, instead of trying to talk to her so much. I was trying to make the birth experience an intellectual one instead of an emotional and spiritual one, and had a hard time getting into the flow of birth.
My advice to first time homebirth dads is to remember who is giving birth, and to completely give yourself over to making her feel loved, supported, and comforted. And also to realize that a big part of giving birth is the primal knowledge that a woman’s body inherently has, without her having to learn it.
6. Which part of the birth did you find to be the most difficult or challenging for you?
I think the most difficult part for me, mentally, has been when the baby is crowning (the head is right there, but still inside). My mechanical side thinks “There’s no way the entire body is going to fit through there,” and yet it does, as the human body is an amazing creation.
Another part that can be emotionally difficult is when she enters the transition stage – being fully dilated and the contractions are coming on strong. It’s hard to see your wife under such conditions, as you want to relieve their pain or discomfort, yet there’s really nothing you can do.
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 haven’t ever had support from my men friends during a birth. We’ve never told anyone outside the family when my wife goes into labor. Perhaps if we did, we would have emotional support via prayers and focused intentions.
We have invited men to my wife’s Blessing Way ceremony before the birth, to try to involve them, but the reality is that birth is still predominantly a woman’s world. I don’t know that having my guy friends around would have helped me any, as my attention is focused almost entirely on my wife during birth.
8. How was your interaction with the midwife during the birth? What could have made that better?
I have never had to deal with interacting with a midwife other than with our first – We’ve had 3 unassisted homebirths (unattended by a midwife), but our first child was a planned homebirth that ended up in an early induced hospital birth (due to preeclampsia/toxemia). That birth was tough, as our midwife was there, but the OB/GYN was really in charge, and we didn’t really know her beforehand.
I recommend getting comfortable with the midwife before the birth, perhaps with some social interaction and not just visits on a professional level. It will help with the birth experience if you feel at ease with her. Having a doula can also be a very positive addition during a homebirth, and so can a very close friend.
9. How has the relationship with your partner changed after having a homebirth together?
Giving birth together at home (actually, just giving birth together anywhere) is a fantastically bonding experience for a couple. We’ve definitely grown closer each time, and it gives me a greater appreciation for her as I watch her go through the experience.
10. Would you have another homebirth? Why or why not?
We definitely will always choose homebirth. The only thing that would change that would be if there was something that put us into a higher risk category – we would never try another homebirth if we knew there was a factor outside of our control that would endanger my wife or child.
After three perfect homebirths, I can say that for us, it’s the best way.
Bonus: Will you describe the emotional/spiritual side of your birth experience from a man’s viewpoint?
Watching my children get born is one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It’s almost indescribable. This tiny being, who is helpless without you, is suddenly a part of your life, and once you see them, you can’t imagine life without them. It is quite like an instant heart connection, as if they’ve always been there.
Here’s a shot of the birth tub we used when our (now) 4 year old was born – in a tipi in our yard:
Homebirth Toolkit: A comprehensive guide for expectant families who are planning or considering the option of home birth.