Guest Writers

Is Your Birth Partner Supportive?

12 Comments 22 April 2011

a guest post by Jeremy Dyen

Where I’m Coming From

My wife, Madhavi, planned on a hospital birth.

She had it in her head that she would get an epidural to deal with what she assumed would be the most painful thing in her life. She also worked in a hospital as a physician for years, so this was a familiar setting for her. I’m pretty sure most of her friends and colleagues had hospital births. Hospital birth is what she new. She didn’t even realize birthing at home was an option.

As a pusher of things natural, I asked her what she thought about a natural birth. She wasn’t into it. Her paradigm was a hospital birth with an epidural, and whatever typical interventions were “necessary” for a safe and least painful birth. I was supportive of that.

The coolest thing happened.

In her last trimester, she decided to switch to a home birth. Of course, that decision didn’t come over night. There was a lot of learning, talking to home birth friends, a doula, midwives, and mindset changes that occurred, though it really happened in a short amount of time. When she told me she wanted a home birth, I was totally supportive of that.

I think that if my wife said she wanted to give birth on the moon, I would have been supportive (though I don’t know if gravity would have worked as well there!).

After all, it’s her birth and her body. She is the one growing and carrying the baby. She is the one going through plenty of physical, hormonal and psychological changes. She is the one physically going through this intense rite of passage.

Men Have A Voice, But It’s Ultimately A Woman’s Decision

Yes, of course it’s my baby too, and I do have plenty of things to say. I have plenty of opinions and suggestions–both educated and intuitive. But, ultimately, it is her decisions. I am there to give support to her in the most positive and beneficial ways I can.

I had to trust Madhavi’s decision, as an intuitive mother, a critical thinker, as my wife and as a doctor. I also had to trust our midwives as experienced, knowledgeable, supportive and loving. As we read more, as we talked more with our friends, and as we met with our midwives, the more I realized how amazing the experience would be.

With Education Comes Peace Of Mind

In fact, I was really happy and really into the home birth. I’ll admit I was a bit anxious about it, but that’s mainly because I didn’t know much about it. Fear often comes from lack of knowledge. In my case, as supportive as I was, there was still plenty I didn’t know, so I was secretly freaked out on occasion–wondering if everything would be okay.

I remember getting butterflies sometimes, when I would think about my wife’s birthing day. I had questions. Would the baby be healthy? Would it be too painful for Madhavi? Will I be calm and confident? What if we need to go to the hospital? What if something goes wrong? But these thoughts didn’t shake my unwavering support for Madhavi’s choice, and my strong belief that homebirth was the best choice.

Watching “The Business Of Being Born,” was a real eye-opener. Among other things, that movie gives a fantastic history of birth, and how it got usurped by the medical establishment. That movie opened up a lot of things for us, in terms of learning about childbirth, and realizing how deep the medical mindset was for us. From there, we read books, searched online, and talked to close friends about their homebirth experience. The more I learned, the more comfortable I felt, and even looked forward to the experience.

More Mindset Shifts

I was totally down with the guided hypnosis CDs my wife was listening to. I listened too. I was totally into the whole mindset shift–the positive thinking, blocking out of negative thoughts and images, the birth tub, prenatal yoga, nesting and preparing the house…All of it! Honestly, it gave me a better sense of connection, both to my wife and to my daughter. It gave me a better connection to myself, to the process of life and to our ancestors who went through this process.

My Experience Has Blinded Me A Bit To The Mainstream Birth Partner

I think the small community that has been created by and around our midwife and our home birth friends, has blinded me a bit to how a lot of husbands can be. My wife was telling me about our friends who are having a home birth with their second baby. In the first meeting with their midwife, her husband was being very directive and overly critical–telling the her that she need to do this and that.

Worse still, I read and hear about dads that are completely unsupportive of a home birth, or pretty much deny their wives the right to make the decision. They feel it’s unsafe. Like so many women that have deep fears about birth, these husbands hold that belief that the hospital is the safest, and perhaps only, place a woman should give birth.

I think it’s natural for husbands to be protective. It’s just unfortunate when our protective nature gets in the way, thus undermining the very protection we’re trying to provide.

In a society that has overly medicalized birth, it’s no wonder expectant fathers have fears about birth. In other words, birth is thought of as a medical procedure, so doctors must know best. Most women don’t really know much about birth, so it’s no wonder men know even less. There’s a lot of stuff out there about women grappling with fears about birth, but not nearly as much about helping men cope with it. There aren’t a lot of websites, groups or forums for men to share their experiences about birth.

Fear is thus perpetuated through lack of education, and lack of community. That’s why I needed to write this post. Then again, maybe I’m preaching to the choir a bit. Maybe I find a way to reach those that are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

How you might gain more support from an otherwise an un-supportive husband:

Although your emotional and intuitive reasons for wanting a home birth should be good enough, men often need well-thought-out and logical reasons. So, that being said…

  • Find studies showing the benefits and safety of home birth. Men like proof and facts. Just present these things in a digestible way, rather than pointing to 50 links with long articles or studies. Here is a good place to start: http://www.homebirth.org.uk/
  • Quote any reputable physicians or OBs that support home birth. Stuff like this: “The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) support home birth for women with uncomplicated pregnancies. There is no reason why home birth should not be offered to women at low risk of complications and it may confer considerable benefits for them and their families. There is ample evidence showing that laboring at home increases a woman’s likelihood of a birth that is both satisfying and safe, with implications for her health and that of her baby.”
  • Help your husband understand that this is your body and your pregnancy, and that what he can do to ensure your baby’s and your health and safety is to support you wholly in the decision to home birth. At the same time, don’t shut him out. Listen to his point of view and take things into consideration. Open Communication is the key to finding common ground and resolution.
  • Work on a thorough birth plan with him that accounts for what will happen in the event that you need a hospital transfer. Including him in the plan will give him a better sense of control.
  • Explain how much more relaxed and comfortable you will be at home, and that birthing in a stressful environment like the hospital puts you more at risk. Explain how much more relaxed and comfortable he will be at home as well.
  • Watch The Business Of Being Born with him.
  • Remind him that hospitals are festering with germs and bacteria, which is the last place you actually want a newborn baby who has a yet-developed immune system.
  • Get him the Home birth Dads DVD and/or The Father’s Home Birth Handbook. I didn’t see the DVD, but the Father’s Home Birth Handbook was great. Reading actual stories from a dad’s perspective is helpful and inspiring. Your husband likely isn’t surrounded by a community of home birth-experienced dads, so opening him up to that world may be really helpful in building his confidence.
  • Find a birth education class that is supportive of natural childbirth. The more your husband is exposed to the process, the better he will be able to support and understand you. He will also gain that community interaction with other natural and/or home birth parents.
  • If you have friends that have home birthed, or are planning a home birth, talk with them. Talking to one of my good friends about homebirth is something I value so much. The conversations we had made it all real, and in the most positive way. Now we share a lot of the same parenting ideas too: AP, cloth diapering, EC, baby-led eating, etc.

By the way, I’m not trying to brag about my being a supportive husband.

I’m just curious to know more about the mentality of the unsupportive husbands, or the husbands that are supportive, but are maybe outspoken about certain things they don’t like about a homebirth. Is it that they just hold onto their beliefs, without learning the facts about it? Is it that many men just have this overly-protective nature.

I’m really curious about what the readers and contributors at Bring Birth Home have experienced with their birth partners.

Were/Are they totally supportive and involved? Were they against certain choices you made? Were there things you wanted that you had to battle for? Were there things you had to give up because your birth partner just wasn’t down with them? I’d love to hear from you!

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Jeremy Dyen is a musician, father and husband who blogs at Stay at Home Papa. He and his wife Madhavi are advocates of hypnosis and affirmations for mindset shifts about birth, and they even created a free hypnosis mp3 download available at Fear Free Birth.

Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Sara says:

    Mine started out as one of those partners you described that “takes the decision away from their partners out of fear.” He said, and I am quoting here “I am bigger then you. You can make whatever plans you want but you ARE having that baby in the hospital.” (He must’ve forgotten who he was dealing with when he said that ;-)

    But I had a head start over many women. We had already had a natural childbirth w/a Midwife, only it was in the hospital. So, all I really had to do was un-brainwash him in his beliefs that birth=hospital. I did all the things you suggested. He was hung up on the “what-ifs.” I had him name his specific fears. Then we discussed those specific things w/our MW & researched those. The clincher for him was the Business of Being Born. Guys are very visual so this barrage of visual aids was VERY helpful :-)

    By the end of the pregnancy, he was proudly telling whomever would listen that we were having our baby at home. And when ppl would tell him he was “crazy for letting me do that” he would start spouting off statistics & the “dangers” of hospital birth (MAN I LOVE him!)

    When the time came he was totally supportive. He was kinda freaked out about the possibility that the baby would get here before the Midwife (he had nightmares about having to deliver the baby himself). But once she got here before the baby & he realized that wasn’t going to happen he was the picture of calm. He kept me centered and made me feel safe and supported. And loved. If he still had any fears or uncertainties he kept them hidden. That night, as we lay snuggled together in our bed w/our new baby, he told me this was the best idea I ever had. Told me how strong I was & how proud he was of me. That our children were lucky to have a Mom that would stand up for what was best for them, even in the face of opposition.

    He is now a PROUD Home Birth Dad. And an outspoken, educated advocate :-)

  2. Jeremy says:

    Sara,

    That’s an awesome story. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    I think you hit it on the head when you said that “guys are so visual.” Like I said, that movie had a real impact on me (us), and I think it would for many expectant fathers. The movie sucks you in, and lays out the stats, as well as taps into the emotional aspects.

    I know what you mean about his worrying about the midwives not making it before the baby was born. Anjali was born the day after the biggest snow storm of the year–almost 2 feet! Good think we weren’t planning on trying to get to a hospital. I had read some birth stories about guys who had to end up delivering their babies, with the midwife on the phone guiding them.

    Lastly, I can completely relate to his being so proud and in awe of you. One of my friends said to me, “It’s a good thing we aren’t the ones who give birth…” And I said, “Or our population would be in trouble.”

  3. Domini says:

    When we made the decision to birth at home I was already on the path to becoming a childbirth educator. So my dear husband was already being indoctrinated towards the natural route. He patiently listened to me ramble on and on about how THIS birth would be better than our previous hospital experience. He had no concerns about the safety of a homebirth. He trusted that I wouldnt make an unsafe choice. His main concern was that the midwife wouldnt arrive in time. He did NOT want to be the one catching, haha. He was also concerned about the mess. He remembered the state of the hospital floor after our daughters birth, and didnt want to be responsible for getting that out of our new homes carpet.
    Having my best friend attend as our doula relieved all his fears. He knew that even if the midwife missed it, there would be another set of experienced hands there. He also knew she would be able to deal with any accidental messes.
    After our very successful birth, where the midwife barely made it in time and we got u/s gel on the carpet, he became a great homebirth advocate. He is a mechanic, works with a bunch of ‘tough guys’ and a few were expecting their firsts around the same time. I loved hearing back from their wives about how my hubby was talking about the amazing experience of natural homebirth.

  4. Jeremy says:

    I know about messes. Maybe because it was our first, I certainly didn’t know about messes prior to the birth.

    Awesome that your husband is sharing with the “tough guys.” Word of mouth is the best way.

    I was talking to one of my neighbors about our experience. She really wanted to talk to my wife about homebirth after that, saying that she wanted one, but was too afraid. I think talking to people that had a positive experience is therapeutic.

  5. Christi Johnson says:

    Subscribed through the feed…great post, lady!

  6. Jenny says:

    We mostly decided to birth at home for our second child because our first son was born via cesarean for being breech. We were denied a full and complete chance to birth naturally with a supportive provider at a hospital as a VBAC so we were sort of guided into home birth as our only option. (Well, I suppose we could have abdicated our choice and done what the docs told us to do which was to “try” labor but schedule a repeat cesarean at 38 weeks too). But over the course of the pregnancy we began to really fall in love with the idea of home birth. Things that I said/did with my husband and family that seemed to switch their mindsets:
    1. Watch Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth
    2. Speak directly with a home birth midwife (or more if you can)
    3. Interview several home birth doulas
    4. Speak directly to regular doc/OB about home birth and the risks and benefits associated with it
    5. Read anything and everything online about home birth (even and especially the ones against it)
    6. Discuss our fears openly and make definitive plans and choices about how to mitigate those fears during the labor & delivery
    7. Consciously choose not to live in fear but with and through the fear
    8. Take a natural birthing (and VBAC) class
    9. Make lists of pros and cons of birthing at home or at hospital and prioritize them (this really opened my own eyes because I realized that the only thing that the hospital had in its favor was access to medical equipment but also got to see all that the hospital lacked in terms of comforts and ability to move about freely)
    10. Consciously choose to live in the present moment as opposed to the future of worry or the past of regret and to trust ourselves that if our baby or I was in danger we would have the ability and swiftness to deal with it in that moment but to worry and fret about something that may or may not happen is useless.

    Our daughter was born warmly, quietly, safely and proudly at home in the wee hours of the morning. Her older brother didn’t even wake it was so peaceful. I am now so passionate about empowering women and men to choose the right birth path for themselves.

    All the best to anyone out there planning an empowered birth!

  7. Chelsea says:

    We had our first in the hospital and it was traumatizing for all 3 of us, so when I decided on a home birth with baby number 2 he was so supportive. He did reading with me and educated himself on what he would need to do to help me. My husband, and yes I love to brag about him, was/is amazing. We were so happy with the how the birth of our son went, I remember him telling anyone who would listen how we will never go back to the hospital unless for an emergency.

  8. Jeremy says:

    This is such a common comment from people who know nothing about homebirth:

    “You had a homebirth? Oh, you’re so brave…”

    Madhavi and I always think that it’s the people birthing in the hospital that are brave.

  9. Kristi says:

    Love it! Though my fiance was supportive from the beginning, watching TBOBB with him was a fun experience. Definitely recommend it!

  10. Jean says:

    I think homebirths and hospital births are amazing, but what I don’t get is why women always make childbirth about their husbands. They go on and on and on, and over do the bragging. Childbirth is about the woman giving birth and her baby. The husband should be bragging on his wife. Wives….shhhhh….let your husband brag on you, okay. Don’t talk, just let him talk about what a great job and how courageous you are. I will start…………Women are awesome::)


Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why Homebirth Is Necessary « alivingfamily - May 6, 2011

    [...] Home Papa and Fear Free Birth) had  written a great guest post on Bring Birth Home called “Is Your Birth Partner Supportive?” BBH’s husband also wrote a his experience and wisdom in a [...]

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    [...] Is Your Birth Partner Supportive? (Stay at Home Papa) [...]

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