How the Role of Men as Natural Birth Advocates Positively Affected Our Home Birth Experience

2 Comments 24 June 2010

by Eric Walker

To tell this home birth story, you first have to know there are strong male home birth advocates in the world today, working to normalize birth and give power back to women.

This post will highlight two of those men and how they influenced our home birth experience.

One such man is Marsden Wagner, former director or the World Health Organization (Women and children’s health) and author of Born in the USA.

The other male figure featured in today’s post is Michel Odent, French obstetrician who in 1970 introduced a home birth like room in maternity wards. Odent also founded the Primal Health Research Centre and Database, has written 11 books and been featured in several documentaries.

Both of these men are terrific and outspoken advocates of natural birth for the sake of natural process and positive experience as well as see a need to drastically lower the rate of unnecessary medical interventions.

The point of this home birth story is to tell it from a dad’s perspective, and convey the following perspective:

  • home birth labor, and labor in general, can have its fun moments. I mean that in the most literal sense – actual fun i.e. laughter.
  • the importance of an experienced midwife and doula, and how they can keep a helpful “birth pace.”
  • how your own home is most conducive for important moments of silence and privacy.

Marsden Wagner is a passionate man.

He’s outspoken, and noted as saying in the video clip above, “If you really want a humanized birth, the best thing you can do is to get the hell out of the hospital.”

In video we were watching (not the one above), he was talking about the power of women.

And in this video, he passionately referring to the moments when he witnessed the raw power of a woman. He said point blank, “I saw the power of a women…<dramatic pause> and it scared the shit out of me.”

In another scene, (was it Orgasmic Birth or The Business of Being Born? I can’t remember…) Michel Odent was talking about oxytocin, which is a natural hormone released in large amounts after distension of the cervix and vagina during labor.

He talks about the importance of this natural hormone during labor, how it acts as a drug, providing a euphoric feeling to mothers as they are about to or are giving birth.

Well, we couldn’t help but giggle at his heavy French accent, for whatever reason, each time he said “the oxytocin…”

So let’s fast forward the scene during our home birth

It’s like two or three in the morning. We’re at home in the thick of our home birth. Katie’s contractions have slowed.

Our midwife and doula are silently sitting across the room with one another. Katie’s Mom and Grandma are both sleeping. It’s a moment just between Katie and me.

Katie is sitting on the birth ball slowly rotating around in her night gown. I am across from her on the couch. We’re intermittently holding hands or I’m rubbing her shoulders.

Katie starts to get giggly, perhaps a little punchy. She’d made it through intense contractions like a champ.

Suddenly she starts to imitate Michel Odent.

We’re both laughing hysterically, as she mimics, “maybe it’s the oxytocin! The oxxxxxxeeeeeyyyytoooociiinnnn!”

This went on for a few moments and we all got in some laughs – doula included who had been played that part in the movie during our childbirth education class.

Then I get called over to the kitchen by our midwife.

“Eric,” she says softly, “I think Katie is losing her focus. Let’s get her back on track.” She asked me to remind Katie that we need to keep the contractions “moving.” She needed to return her focus inward toward breathing and movement to help stimulate her contractions.

I obliged. And that was one of many important turning points (and lessons) that occurred during the 24 hours of laboring we experienced.

It wasn’t much longer that Katie left us all to walk up and down the stairs. She then went to be alone in the bathroom where she labored in the quiet, all by herself in the privacy of candle light and her own birthing experience.

In the quiet space by herself, we heard through her influx of moans and chanting that the intensity of labor pick up again.

Here’s the point of this story.

  • Home birth can be fun, which is to say that there is the comfort of home. Nothing can replace your personal place of familiarity and closeness.
  • Our midwife was instrumental when she needed to be. When she didn’t need to be, she was quiet, observant and let the process of labor be what it was. Along with our doula, we worked together as a team.
  • In that moment when Katie and I were laughing, they let it be what it was until they felt the need to connect with me so I could prompt Katie’s focus back to labor. This kept the “birth pace.”
  • Katie had multiple birth stations and birth places set up around the house. The downstairs bathroom was her alone place, an area where she went by herself to do “her thing.” At home, we have such control to create multiple environments because you have the entire house (not just a room).

Thanks to both Marsden and Michel for impacting our lives so positively. You hold a special place in our hearts and memories.

Now I’m one heck of a natural (home) birth advocate. Glad to be among good company.


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