Homebirth: A Father's Perspective - Beyond the Comfort Zone
|Homebirth: A Father's Perspective|
|Beyond the Comfort Zone|
Beyond the Comfort Zone
I don’t think I freaked out in an obvious way, but on the inside I just did not know what to think. My paradigms of how a child should be born had already been twisted once; couldn’t I at least hold on to something, like an OB-GYN and a hospital? I was almost consumed by worry, on several levels:
Would our insurance cover a homebirth with midwives?
Did midwives have enough training to do this?
What if something went wrong? Wouldn’t we want to be at a hospital?
I had such a good rapport with our male OB-GYN; would that change with a female midwife?
In time, my hesitancy about the first three concerns melted away. There was no way in hell that our insurance would pay for it, but we had the money to pay a midwife out of pocket; the difference in costs between a OB-GYN/hospital and midwife were simply staggering, with midwives costing about a tenth as much. I remembered the negative aspects of our hospital experience— the machines, the induction of labor, the overwhelming sense that this most human and natural of experiences was being molded to fit a pre-defined process—and suddenly realized that having more control over the environment and choices would be a great gift. And as I learned more about our midwives, and about midwifery in general, I came to understand and respect the amazing ability and knowledge they had—so my concerns about their ability to solve problems, large or small, was also erased.
But the last problem was huge for me. With our first child, I felt truly connected with our OB-GYN. He knew so much, and, more critically for me, he understood a father’s perspective—what we worry about, what we hope for, and how we express it or choose not to. In all of our visits, he responded to my nervous questions with humor and candor, and I felt like we had a “guy thing” going on that made this traditionally “feminine experience” accessible to me. In short, he helped me see that it was okay to be a man and yet be fully engaged in every aspect of the pregnancy and birth, concerned and emotional along the way. For me, the joys and overall positive experience of Ginger’s first pregnancy and Kai’s birth were enabled by his understanding and demeanor.
And now I had to deal with women. I have no problem at all with women; in fact, I like women a heck of a lot more than I like men. But I now had to take this intensely personal experience, one in which my wife and I connected on a level beyond what I had known to be possible, and share it with someone who had already been there and done that.
I was sad. I was nervous. And more than anything, I was jealous. I’m not talking “I just saw my girlfriend with another man” jealous. I’m talking about a jealousy that was all-consuming and actually depressing in its depth.
The jealousy sprang, in the main, from my concern that injecting a woman into the process, a woman with so much knowledge of the emotions, physical changes, and subtleties that women go through during pregnancy and birth, would serve to do only one thing—replace me. With our first birth, I felt like a translator of sorts; I could listen to what the doctor said and then reframe it later in ways that made sense so Ginger and I could discuss it and learn together. I was the one who asked the questions when things seemed strange, the one who could take our OB-GYN’s sometimes clinical attitude and add the emotional undercurrents that made it more palatable for my beautiful mom-to-be. This role helped me feel important and needed—a critical part of the birthing process. But with that role gone, I felt just the opposite—peripheral, unneeded, an appendage to my wife’s birth experience. Our midwives and Ginger seemed speak the same language and share similar spiritual and emotional beliefs. I saw this amazing connection between the three of them and Ginger’s body, and I simply wondered how I could ever fit in and be an important part of the birth.
If you know me at all, you know that hurt like hell.
I am compelled to say that our midwives, Tosi and Claudia, did nothing to make me feel this way; it was all me and my own insecurities and uncertainties. It was clear, eventually, that they loved Ginger deeply and connected with her. I just never felt the blessing of the same connection with them. Ginger, of course, was wonderful. She went out of her way to make me feel loved and valued, despite the fact that our second pregnancy was far more challenging than the first. With her help, and with continued effort on my part, I was able to work through all of this shortly before the birth, thank God. To my surprise—and joy—it all clicked perfectly the day of Kade’s birth. During the birth itself, the midwives were extremely respectful of the fact that Ginger and I needed to be absolutely connected partners throughout. They were extraordinarily non-intrusive, and fostered a feeling that they were there to assist, not control. Personally and professionally, we could not have asked for two people better suited and more loving and capable. They were amazing.
Home Field Advantage
Any reservations I had about having a homebirth were erased almost from the first contraction. Having our own vibe—the sounds, smells, sights, and feelings of our own things and our own home—made a huge difference in our level of connection and relaxation. There were no machines, no beeping noises, no nurses bustling in and out, no charts or rules. There was just relaxation, comfort, connectivity, listening, laughter, tears and love— with all four (soon to be five) of us, working together in perfect harmony to bring a new child into the world. Poor Kade did have some difficulties getting his shoulders in the right place to come out, so we all got in the pool together to help. Because of the challenging delivery, he wasn’t too sure that he was ready to breathe and join our family. As Ginger and I knelt in the pool of afterbirth after hours of intensity, we held him, and talked to him, and rubbed him gently, until he finally took his first breath and let out the most glorious sound in the world—a baby’s first cry.
From that point, I knew that if we were ever lucky enough to have another child, we would definitely have it at home. Instead of the presence of the midwives damaging my connection with Ginger, it did exactly the opposite; their calm, soothing presence allowed us to connect deeply in our own space and in our own time. Their ability, their presence, their understanding, and their love for Ginger—their love for all of us—shone through in all they did, for the pre-natal, birth and post-natal visits. A similar birth experience in a hospital would have seen Ginger rushed into surgery, with forceps and needles and tubes and tens of doctors. But at home, it was all us; we were responsible for bringing this kid into the world and bringing him to life. Without that experience, and without the privilege of experiencing it with people I knew and trusted, my life would be less complete.
Homebirths, or any non-traditional birth, can be challenging for men because it violates our status quo, pushes us out of our comfort zones, and leaves us feeling out of control. But if we can trust and be open to the fact that billions of women have given healthy, wonderful births in ways we view as “non-traditional”—even though such ways are actually traditional and natural— then we can benefit from one of the most rewarding experiences of all. We can experience a pregnancy and birth the way it was intended to be—connected, beautiful, peaceful and in perfect harmony with nature.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #34.
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