Homebirth Dads: 10 Questions with Nick Chambers

[This is the third in the series Homebirth Dads: 10 Questions. If you would like to participate, contact me at derek at naturalpapa.com]

Homebirth Dads: 10 Questions with Nick Chambers

Nick is a future car and sustainability nut who writes for both Gas 2.0 and the New York Times Green Inc. Blog. He is the proud father of a 3 and a 4 year old who were both born at home.

1. Why did you choose homebirth?

A little background first: When my wife was pregnant with our first child she was finishing up her PhD in Switzerland. She moved to the US about 2 months before the due date.

In the end we chose home birth for several reasons:

– My wife felt she would be more comfortable with the language barrier if she was surrounded by people who she already knew and didn’t have a constant barrage of new nurses and doctors coming and going. She’s a German citizen and, at the time, was not that confident in her ability to convey her thoughts and concerns in English under stress to a bunch of random strangers.

– In a general way, the idea of having no “machines that go ping” seemed much more conducive to creating the kind of environment where a baby would want to come out on its own.

– We could set up the birth the way we wanted with a birthing tub, music, proper lighting/mood lighting, and different rooms with the ability to get into a multitude of different birthing positions.

– We were comforted by the fact that if we did need to go to the hospital in the very rare case of an emergency, it was only a 5 minute car/ambulance ride away.

– We took the long view of civilization: modern humans have been essentially having births at home for the better part of 50,000 years. That kind of thought was a comfort to us. It’s only in the last 60 years that people started having births in hospitals. What has that led to? The average rate for births by cesarean is about 1 in 4 – in some areas of the country it’s as much as 1 in 2. Basically the modern hospital setting is telling women that their bodies are incapable of doing what evolution designed them for. We weren’t confident in our ability to keep the doctors and nurses from dosing my wife with drugs and choosing cesarean even if it wasn’t really necessary.

2. Whose idea was it, yours or hers? If hers, what convinced you to agree? If yours, what gave you the idea?

I think it was my idea at first. It took some convincing, but in the end my wife – for all the reasons in #1 above – thought is was the best way to go too. I got the idea initially after thinking about all of the issues I brought up in my answer to #1.

3. What homebirth books or resources did you find to be the most helpful?

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
– There was also a Birth Stories book that we borrowed from a friend that was from the 70’s that was very helpful, but I can’t remember what it was called and it’s for sure out of print. I think that any book containing other people’s homebirthing stories is very helpful to show you the many different outcomes.

We also took a birthing and breathing class from a woman who specialized in home births. Aside from her advice and guidance, she also had an old documentary (70’s again) that chronicled 5 different home births. That was extremely helpful.

Of course, finding the right midwife is key. Our doula was very helpful too.

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 think I was worried I would be too grossed out to help catching the baby and cutting the cord. I also worried I would run out of energy to help in a meaningful way. In the back of my mind I also kept thinking about the possibility of having to go to the hospital and seeing that as a bit of a failure if it did happen. I was worried that if something went wrong, I wouldn’t know what to do. Stupidly, I was also worried about cleaning up after the birth too 🙂

Most of those fears were unfounded. I had so much adrenaline running through my system that I could have cut the beating hearts from a thousand savage ravaging natives without blinking an eye. I did get tired about 8 hours into the birth because not much was happening and I didn’t have anything to focus on. But after the late stages of the birth kicked in and my wife was in considerable pain and needed me, my body took over and provided the correct amount of chemicals to get me through. And the midwife and doula cleaned up everything after the birth while my wife and I cuddled with our new baby.

5. What do you wish someone had told you before your first homebirth? What advice would you give to a first time homebirth dad?

Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Your wife is capable of things that you currently think are humanly impossible and you just need to accept that. Don’t spend too much time in the birthing tub. Your wife needs your help to take her over the edge of no return. I found that I could see my wife was scared to let go and let the birth control her body, but I didn’t know how to help her just let go. That will be your biggest task and hardest to figure out.

6. Which part of the birth did you find to be the most difficult or challenging for you?

The middle stages of the birth where my wife was in considerable pain but it didn’t seem like anything was happening to take us to the end point. It’s very hard to watch the person you love in so much pain and not be able to help. This is when you’ll need to call your mom 🙂

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 help from my guy friends. My wife wouldn’t have been comfortable having them around. I think it was absolutely crucial to have a doula and a good midwife to take over when you get too tired and need a bit of a break. Plus, 3 sets of hands are way better than one.

8. How was your interaction with the midwife during the birth? What could have made that better?

We shopped around quite extensively, so I was very comfortable with our midwife. She was great and only stepped in when I asked her too. We had a lengthy conversation with her about just this topic beforehand and we all knew what the expectations were.

9. How has the relationship with your partner changed after having a homebirth together?

I think the biggest thing is that my wife feels incredibly empowered having gone through the birth without any medication and using just her own mental fortitude. That is something that changes your wife forever in a positive way. I think we both have a sense of pride and accomplishment that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. So, in a more global sense, these things just bring us closer together and weave the rich tapestry of our lives more intricately.

10. Would you have another homebirth? Why or why not?

Definitely. We’ve had 2 so far and they were exactly the type of birth we both wanted.

Bonus: Will you describe the emotional/spiritual side of your birth experience from a man’s viewpoint?

It’s one of the greatest tests of a man’s will and fortitude to remain the rock during a birth. You will be the one who your wife looks to for assurance during the hardest parts and you have to be ready to provide that assurance even if you’re not sure. It is emotionally very draining. I did my breakdown over the phone with my mom away from earshot of my wife. At the end, when the baby’s out and your wife is in the afterglow of birth and has all the energy in the world, you’ll be extremely tired. Don’t be afraid to say so and take care of your body’s needs.

[Thanks, Nick! I think the more that we as homebirth dads tell our side of the birth stories, the better it is for anyone considering one. Be sure to catch the first two in the series: Homebirth Dads: 10 Questions with Damon Young and 10 Questions for Homebirth Dads: Sean Daily]

Image: Raphael Goetter at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

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