[When people hear that we birth our babies at home, they inevitably have questions for us, and while my wife generally answers them for women, I’ve had numerous dads-to-be ask me about my experience with homebirth. I thought it would be a neat project to ask a series of 10 questions to a number of homebirth dads, in order to give a more rounded perspective to it than just my own experience. I sent out the word on Twitter and Facebook, and have received responses from men who are willing to share their answers with us. This post is the first in the series. Enjoy, and if you would like to share your experience, contact me at derek (at) naturalpapa.com.]
10 Questions for Homebirth Dads: D. Young
D. Young is a musician and puppet wrangler in Atlanta, Georgia.
1. Why did you choose homebirth?
It was my wife’s idea. Eventually I came to agree that if you don’t need to go to a hospital, why would you? As my wife put it, “Hospitals are for sick people. I’m not sick, I’m pregnant.”
2. Whose idea was it, yours or hers? If hers, what convinced you to agree? If yours, what gave you the idea?
My agreement came slowly. It seemed preposterous at first. Like most Americans, I had been raised on the assumption that hospitals are necessary and good for birth, and homebirth is only for accidents or hillbillies. My wife did extensive research on the benefits of natural and home birth, and then it was my turn to do research, so we could come to an agreement.
One “revelation” for me was that women are literally made to give birth though a slow and naturally progressing labor. It seems strange, but I had to break this cultural misconception that somehow it is impossible to give birth without manual intervention and people yelling “push!” There’s all sorts of real data about how modern medical intervention actually gets in the way of the process and causes unnecessary problems and trauma. The upshot for the medical industry is they are trained to interfere, and they get paid more the more if they interfere. The The Business of Being Bornwas not out yet. I think that would have helped with the deprogramming, The film should be required viewing, though it’s certainly not the “end all” to the subject.
In any case, we started prenatal appointments at a recommended OBGYN and it was terrible. They treated the women like sheep and were really irate with us asking questions and having opinions. Medical people seem to not be trained so much as indoctrinated. So we bailed and found a great midwife who did the prenatal tests, tracked the baby’s position with her hands, monitored the baby’s heart tones with a fetoscope, kept track of momma’s blood pressure, and empowered us to do many of these things at home as well.
3. What homebirth books or resources did you find to be the most helpful?
A big help was to watch movies of people’s homebirths, especially unassisted ones. Many are on youtube and in the video Birth as We Know It. These videos show women just doing what their body is made to do, and following their own cues. There are cats walking by, people on the phone, music playing, kids are running around, here is momma laboring in whatever positions come natural for her, then out comes the baby and momma puts her on to nurse. Simple as that.
The short video Birth Day (Lopez) is gentle and was helpful for getting the extended family closer to the idea of homebirth. We took a Hypnobirthing class recently in preparation for the 2nd birth – this was very useful. They screened the excellent video What Babies Want. The movie and the class are for couples planning hospital birth and a big part of the class was how to defend yourself from hospital interventions, so I never had a doubt we were doing the right thing planning to birth at home.
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?
The fear is plain: What if something goes wrong that would require a hospital? The answer is that either you and/or your midwife simply need to know the stages of birth, things that can go wrong and what to do then, and most importantly when to get to the hospital should you need it. Having an emergency plan is a comfort so you can focus on momma and her birthing and not obsess with “What Ifs.” Fear is natural, though highly exploited by the medical-industrial complex.
After the birth? I felt very liberated.
5. What do you wish someone had told you before your first homebirth? What advice would you give to a first time homebirth dad?
The most important person who needs to feel strong and empowered is the mother. You can help her by cultivating this in yourself and helping to make a strong place for her to feel supported. You should be totally cool with crabbiness and don’t argue; I’m not saying don’t have discussions or opinions, but losing your temper is never useful. You should prepare your best and learn all you can, but mostly work on being fully present as often as possible for the pregnancy and the birth. This strong presence in you will have the added benefit for fatherhood after the birth.
6. Which part of the birth did you find to be the most difficult or challenging for you?
The hours of labor were exhausting after a while, but we persevered.
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?
No, but that’s an interesting idea. My wife connected with a homebirth mom group and had some friends. I don’t see anything like that in the male community at all. Is there such a thing? I found Natural Father after the 1st birth, but before the 2nd. You are the only one I know of doing this and I love it, so THANKS!
8. How was your interaction with the midwife during the birth? What could have made that better?
Both of our births were unassisted, but we talked with our midwife on the phone twice during the first labor. She was very reassuring to have on the line when we were getting a little squirrelly about how things were progressing. She was calm and sagacious in her analysis, having experienced thousands of births.
9. How has the relationship with your partner changed after having a homebirth together?
I think we are closer than ever for this tremendously bonding experience.
10. Would you have another homebirth? Why or why not?
Without a doubt. What can I say? It worked. We had two beautiful healthy babies in our own home without medical interventions. Its sad though that here in Georgia midwife certification is not made possible under the law, so most people don’t even consider home birth with a midwife as an option.
Bonus: Will you describe the emotional/spiritual side of your birth experience from a man’s viewpoint?
As a man, this is the archetypical role transformation from being a son to being a Father. Personally, I’d have to call our homebirths the most profoundly spiritual experiences possible. To be there with your own child as they emerge fresh into the world is Joy Indescribable. The moment our hands raised our son from the water to take his first breath is the peak experience of my life and feels in me now like a bottomless reservoir of gladness.
[Thank you, Damon. Sharing our experiences empowers others to make good choices for themselves, and lets others know they’re not alone.]
Image: timatymusic at Flickr