Monday, December 28, 2009

Unassisted Homebirth: A Father's Story

© Bob Griesemer
Photos courtesy of J&J Quesada; by Sandi Heinrich Photography
posted with permission



I have put off for a long time writing my comments for Lynn's book. She has the whole thing written now except for my input so I better write this. I guess one of the reasons it's taken so long for me to write my thoughts down about our home birth is that it was just so awesome that I feel like I can't even come up with words adequate enough to describe it. Let me try anyway.

When Lynn first mentioned the idea of giving birth to our baby at home I told her she was crazy! No way was I going to allow that. I was the man of the house and it was my responsibility to protect and watch out for the well being of the family and I just felt that giving birth at home away from the professional medical support was just plain irresponsible if not downright dangerous. Well, that was because I had bought into the prevailing notion that childbirth is inherently risky and fraught with danger that requires the constant supervision of trained medical people. Little did I know just how wrong that notion was.

Lynn does not give into me that easily so she worked and worked on me to educate me about the idea of homebirth. I am not too stubborn and will change my mind if I am presented with new information so I did some reading and listened to Lynn with an open mind. It was when I read Marilyn Moran's book Birth a Dialogue of Love that I realized we should have a homebirth.

It was Marilyn who made me realize that birth is part of a couple's love just as conception is. I concluded that I was missing something from our four prior hospital births. I was not a participant; I didn't have a role to play; I was extra. I just stood around trying to talk soothingly to Lynn and holding her hand (when she let me), but the focus of attention was on the medical surroundings and all the interventions, the constant stream of strangers into the room to check on progress, to hook up the fetal monitor, to insert the IV during one of the births. I felt so unneeded one time I went and got myself a sandwich for lunch, leaving Lynn there knowing the medical people would be watching her. I know that seems pretty cold and heartless of me, but I feel that the situation contributed to that. As I recall, it was actually the doctor who suggested I go to get some lunch.

Then we got close to delivery (still talking about the other four hospital deliveries) and that's when I really became superfluous. In all four of our hospital births there would come a time during labor when Lynn would not want to hear from me or touch me. One time she actually told a nurse she wanted to hear her, not me, and wouldn't let me touch her.

At the time I didn't think it bothered me because I'd heard all the jokes about the wife in labor who blames her husband for doing that to her and all that. I think we tell those jokes just so we won't have to seriously think about what's going on around us in that delivery room, because if you stop and think about it, which I've done now thanks to Lynn, you'll realize that in most cases the hospital delivery room is the last place you want to be to have a baby with your wife. Men, you would never let another man between your wife's legs while she's lying in bed half naked in your bedroom, right? Yet you give up that position when she's in the hospital to have a baby and you don't think twice. I think there is something wrong with that.

A baby is born and it is beautiful and wonderful and a miracle from God. In the hospital you have about a minute to contemplate that before the trained medical personnel grab the baby and whisk him off to do whatever their training says they're supposed to do with him. Once again I didn't think there was anything wrong with that because after all, they are highly trained, skilled medical professionals who know what they're doing. Well, that might be true but what they're doing is not necessarily for the good of the baby or the mother. What's best for baby and mom is for them just to be together, to start nursing, but at a minimum to be held close and to look at each other. Don't believe that talk about how newborns can't see. If you were in a dark room for nine months and then were suddenly brought out into a room with bright lights like the average hospital room and then had some eye drops put right in your eyes, you'd probably not see very well either. But, if instead, you were brought out into a room with low lighting and were left alone, like a a baby is if born at home, you'd see much better.

I thought about those four hospital births and about what I'd read in Marilyn Moran's book about birth really being a dialogue of love between husband and wife and realized that giving birth in the quiet comfort of your own home really would be much better.

The moment of Millicent's birth will be forever etched in my mind as the most significant moment of my life. I can hardly begin to describe the feelings and the emotions of the moment, to see that little purple head start emerging from my wife's body, and then the rest of her just slipping out into my waiting hands. I was the first one in the whole world to hold my baby. What a miracle from God, what a gift from my wife! Time stood still. The rest of the world ceased to exist. All that mattered was the task at hand, assisting Lynn as she labored and catching Millicent as she came out in the world. When it was all over and Mom and baby were settled down and comfortable and things were cleared up, I couldn't get back to sleep. I was on an adrenaline rush the whole time. I remember feeling like I just had four or five cups of coffee. It was such an intense experience.

Guys, if you want to gain a whole new appreciation for the miracle of life and for your wife then catch your own baby. You'll also feel more of an attachment to that child too. I feel different about Millicent than my other four that were caught by doctors in the hospital. I don't mean to say I love Millicent any more than Robby, Melanie, Hilary or Christina. I love all my children as unique and special gifts from God entrusted by him to my and Lynn's care, but there is just something there with Millicent that isn't with the others. I really believe she even reacted to my voice differently as an infant, almost as if she knew that I was the first one to hold her. I should have had that with all my children and if I had it to do over again, I would have had all of them at home.


More Q&A With Homebirth Dads at Natural Papa



16 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. I hope other men educate themselves like you did and follow in your steps!

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  2. Definitely on the list of things fro my hubby to read this week! Thanx for posting!

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  3. thankyou for an amazing story. i will be showing this to my OH, as i wanted a homebirth for our last child and never got it as i had a csec for the first. actually never got a vbac either, so i'm gonna break all the rules this time round and have bubba at home!! x

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  4. Beautiful..Thank you for posting this!

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  5. This is a great story and it's so wonderful to read something from the dad's point of view! If you want to read our unassisted birth story (we had a baby 8 weeks ago), you can access it here:

    http://mothering.com/jennifermargulis/child-birth/a-baby-born-on-wednesday-the-story-of-the-unassisted-birth

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  6. I just realized that I posted that comment as About the Book. Sorry about that. I'm not a spammer. My name is Jennifer Margulis. (I'm a writer and you can find out that I am a real person at www.jennifermargulis.net!)

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  7. Thanks for this story! Do you mind if I repost it on my blog? I love having affirming stories to show papas-to-be.

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  8. Mayari -
    This post and photos were published here with permission from the authors and those in the photos. Feel free to write an intro/summary for your blog and link to this page.
    :)

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  9. Thank you for posting your thoughts. My husband has caught three of our babies at home and I wish he'd put his experiences down to paper. It's an amazing gift to give your wife, to trust her and support her so that she can have a peaceful non-violent birth.

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  10. We've had both our children outside the hospital. My husband has always been supportive in labor and not displaced by our midwives (act. our first at a free standing birth center the midwife was mostly absentee!)
    I'm ready to move onto unassisted and he still wants the midwife as a crutch.
    Bob's story doesn't fit for him. I'm looking for fathers(web sites, etc.) that can talk to him about the difference between homebirth with a gentle quiet midwife and unassisted.

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  11. Oh I enjoyed reading this so much! Thanks for sharing!!!!

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  12. What a wonderful story from such a loving father! Straight from the Dad's heart. May you & your family Love, Honor & Cherish the Mother who made all this possible...

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  13. Thank you for posting this! I wanted a homebirth with our second but was unable to, in part because my husband wouldn't support me (despite my attempt to show him extensive research and help him prepare). Thank you for your confidence in yourself and your wife, to allow you both to experience this miracle. Thanks for sharing it so that others can hear your story - a story that stands out, as you say, from those we normally hear and therefore accept as normal.

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  14. Reading this was enlightening and I think you have some good points. However, it is still dangerous to have an UNASSISTED homebirth . At the very least a responsible parent should hire a doula/midwife to be there because they are trained. If anything should go wrong during labor it would be good for a trained midwife to be there so that they can use their training to help the mother and baby through it or know when they need to call an ambulance in an extreme emergency.
    I think this post will have me thinking twice about a homebirth but I don't think I will ever feel an UNASSISTED homebirth is responsible.

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  15. Midwives and doctors are not born with the knowledge that they possess nor do they have special powers. Believe it or not, the knowledge a midwife possesses can be obtained by anyone through educating yourself... you can even purchase midwifery schooling text books online. Any dangers or risks that may or may not be associated with a homebirth will be there whether or not a midwife is present. It's not hard to figure out what the worst case scenarios could be and then educate yourself (and your partner) on what to do if those situations arise.

    Some homebirths (assisted or unassisted) go beautifully, others do not. I remember reading a case where the mother bled to death after a midwife-assisted homebirth. The mother and the father wanted to go to the hospital. The midwife felt everything was okay and convinced them as well. In that case, if the mother had been birthing unassisted and left to her own natural instincts, she might have been able to get help for herself instead of being convinced that she was okay.

    Regardless of whether you go unassisted, midwife assisted, at home, or at a hospital, you should always educate yourself and never leave it all up to the "experts" to decide what is best for you and your baby. Educate yourself and use your brain and your instincts to help guide you. Doctors aren't all-knowing gods.

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  16. Anonymous,
    Your response is perfectly valid, inasmuch as you are entitled to your opinion, and if you wouldn't feel comfortable in UC it is certainly something you should not attempt.
    However, there are many who feel very strongly that UC is very responsible, and are confident in their abilities to birth naturally and without any interventions and interferences.
    A woman contemplating a home birth at all, and UC in particular, will doubtless feel deeply in tune with her body. I can not believe that most women who feel thusly would continue to labour unassisted should they feel anything amiss. Confidence in one's own ability to perform an everyday miracle like child birth is not dangerous and irresponsible.

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