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!
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.