A Father's Perspective: The Journey from Hospital to Home
Many women have questions about how to approach their partner about natural birth, and especially an out-of-hospital/home birth. I don’t ever remember being worried about convincing my husband, David—but then again, my feisty side comes out pretty often (and I don’t let go of an idea once it is in my head). It was a process, however, moving my husband’s mind from hospital birth to home. I even had to convince him of the safety of natural birth. I know my view of the process, but I was curious as to how my husband viewed his journey. So I interviewed him about it. Here’s what he had to say.
How do you remember me approaching you about the subject of out-of-hospital birth?
We were at a friend’s house, and we got on the topic of babies. You looked at me and said, “I hope you know we will be using a midwife and having an out-of-hospital birth.” I was dumbfounded, and said, “No we’re not. We’re going to use a hospital like normal people.” You said, “We will finish this conversation at home.” Over the next two years, we talked about it—it was an ongoing conversation. Honestly, we talked about it from the time we got married until you actually got pregnant [two years later].
Why were you against home birth and natural birth in general?
As a guy, I thought it wasn’t normal. I just knew about TV and movies—rushing to the hospital, yelling and doctors, and then you have a baby. And at that point in our lives, none of our friends were even close to having kids, so I had no one to talk to about it. I was brought up not knowing any better. I read about midwives in school in history books, I had no idea that they were still a viable option. Natural birth scared me since I thought you had to have the medicines to have a safe birth. I thought that without the epidural and drugs, you would harm the baby.
When was the turning point for you?
After you were pregnant, I realized this was very important to you. I felt that I needed to respect that and at least go to a meeting with a midwife. I was half hoping that you would give up on the idea and that this would appease you. That first appointment was all it took— I knew this was the way to go. I apologized to you for not trusting you in the first place.
We had appointments with both an OB and our midwife. What was your take on the care/respect of both settings?
The OB was exciting, since it was our first appointment to confirm pregnancy. We were not sure if our insurance covered the midwife yet. I remember the OB came in, and we both had questions, but I didn’t feel like we could ask them. It felt structured and rushed; we didn’t get to really talk. No one asked how we felt, and I left confused. I didn’t feel included—in fact I didn’t even feel like you were included. Several people were rude or, at the very least, very rushed. When you said you wanted a natural birth, and she laughed at you—that got me angry, but also ashamed. I thought that at the time [that you shouldn’t do it], but when someone else said it to you, I realized how wrong it was to ever tell a woman that. No one should tell you you can’t give birth naturally.
When we met the midwife, I was nervous. I was expecting hippies and long skirts. But it was different. It was comfortable and set up like a home. I didn’t feel like I was in an office. I felt more comfortable. Everyone [the clients that were waiting] was talking and having snacks. I felt like a guest in a home. I remember watching everyone and thinking, “Who is the midwife? Do they have a stamp on their head or something? I don’t see anyone in scrubs.”
When we sat down with the midwife (who was not wearing a long skirt or smelling of incense), she talked to us for over an hour. Asking questions about our life, our relationship, our plans, what names we were thinking of. We talked about the ideal birth that you saw in your mind. It felt so nice—and it felt exciting. I felt informed and encouraged to find out even more. We were encouraged to call the midwife anytime to ask questions—I felt like we had 24/7 care from day one. I saw the confidence you had walking out of that room after the appointment. That was my major turning point—I was on board 100 percent. I also realized that you were right all along. Yes—I said it!
How did you feel the prenatal care went? Did you feel included by the midwife?
I felt very included. I felt like that was the core of midwifery, that the whole family is part of the process. I didn’t feel like a spectator as much. Obviously, I can’t grow a baby, so I will always be outside the experience in many ways. But the midwife made me feel included as much as possible. I was given the responsibility to be ready for you and I felt empowered to be strong for you. I felt validated in my wish to be a part of my child’s birth.
Tell me about your view of the labor and birth. What are your lasting impressions?
It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. After that, I can’t imagine a birth going any other way.
I was not watching from a distance, I was there with you. I watched you push out a baby not even a foot from my face. I was really there with you.
I felt that the midwife protected the experience. For a while at first, you wanted to be alone but I was able to watch you for signs of needing me again. At one point, you would start to reach for me—no noise, never looking at me—but I knew I had to be there for you. Those contractions needed my support because you wanted me there.
At the time, it seemed so long (15 hours), but now it seems like such a fleeting moment. I felt like this was proof to you that I would always be there for you in tough moments, for our entire life. I tried to encourage you and make you laugh, like I always do.
Pushing was intense for you, and I’m not sure you heard me most of the time in those moments. I realized during the crowning that I should have watched some birth videos with you—I didn’t realize how it would look. Not gross; it was really awesome. But it was an “oh my gosh” moment. I felt that those moments of him crowning were my part of the birth process. I felt like watching that is what flipped the switch in me to being a father. I knew right then that I had to remember this for you. You were in your own world. It was the coolest moment of my life, seeing you birth our child.
What advice do you have for mothers who are trying to get their partners to be open to the option of out-of-hospital birth or natural birth in general?
Patience is a virtue. The earlier you can start this conversation, the better. I am sure you wanted to wring my neck at times, but you knew when to hit the brakes for a little while. But you never gave up—and I am glad you didn’t. My love for you is what really changed my mind and let me be open to the idea. Husbands should realize how important this is to their partners. It’s important to realize that you should not be a spectator in this process, you should be a partner.
What words of wisdom do you have for expectant fathers who are hesitant about natural birth or home birth?
If you are nervous, tell your partner your fears. My wife asked me all the time, “Why are you afraid? What don’t you like about it?” And visit a midwife— at least be open to the option. It’s OK to be nervous about what you don’t understand. I was so ready to prove everyone wrong, but my eyes were opened to a whole new way to birth.
Ask all your questions in the beginning. Don’t fight about this the whole nine months. Learn to ask your partner questions, too. Have open lines of communication and always research from both sides on all subjects. Try to connect with other dads who have supported their wives in out-of-hospital births and natural births. Your partner probably would be glad to help you find other dads! Even if this is your second or third child, treat this like a new experience and start that research all over again.
What would you suggest for partners to help prepare for a natural birth/homebirth to best support the mother?
Research, research, research. Watch birth videos. Watch The Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America. Help the mother decide if she wants to use a method like Bradley or Hypnobirthing, then take the class with her and read the book. Talk through how she would like the birth experience to go and what role she sees for you. Become “tuned in” to the mother throughout pregnancy, and it will be second nature by the time the birth comes.
Do you feel it helped prepare you to be a father (being a part of everything)?
Definitely. I voiced fears several times that I felt like a spectator, but I had to change my outlook. I realized I was a partner in this and I would be as a parent, too. I knew I could be a dad because I felt like I was already practicing by protecting the pregnancy and birth experience for you.
Any final thoughts?
When it comes to the birth of your child, don’t make a decision lightly or out of fear. Research and get out all the fears. Support each other and own your experience. As long as you go in with that perspective, you can have a positive experience. For me—having done a 180 and changed my perspective, I can tell you that I am glad that I let my love for my wife lead the way. I can’t ever imagine having a baby any other way. Going through pregnancy as a partnership gets your new family off to a great start.
I am so touched that my husband shared all this with me—some of this was news to me! I am so thankful that he let his love lead him, and not his fears. If your partner is not excited about the idea of homebirth, or even just a natural birth in a hospital, please don’t give up. If this is important to you, show your partner it is—and let your love for each other lead the way.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #50.
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