The answer all of us, at some point, have given without further discussion: NO!
Why is that? My best assessment is because it’s easy. It’s the path of least resistance. Instead of stepping outside of our comfort zone, we resign ourselves to the fact that it’s just easier to avoid or disregard the issue at hand. Now, this answer is perhaps the single most negative syllable in our language and it is certainly the most complex to dissect, because there is much, much more to what is behind those two letters, but we’ll get to that shortly…
For now, lets discuss the questions that require honest and meaningful conversation that would lead you to the “WHY” behind the “NO.” Questions like:
“Can we talk?”
Men are certainly the more dismissive party in discussions that aren’t mere routine. While I’m not a biologist, I feel it’s widely recognized that women have an innate disposition to conversations involving emotion. Men- I speak from experience, and ladies if you don’t believe me, ask my wife. I have had my fair share of conversations with my wife where I have been dismissive or unengaged when she needed me the most. Obviously, there are a plethora of different reasons to why men do this. Whether it’s the stereotypical scenario of a wife talking to her husband while he is watching a game, the husband who is tired from work, or perhaps the worst scenario that our generation now faces- the world around us being outshone by the back light of our smart phone, it’s plain and simple: Sometimes we’re just checked out at times when our families need us the most.
Now why am I telling you all this? Well, I want to share a time when my wife needed me the most and I wasn’t mentally or emotionally available. I still remember the conversation clear as day, well what brief discussion we had before I so hatefully shut down and left my wife feeling alone in something intended to be a partnership. Are you ready for this horrible question that she asked me to invoke the vehement answer “NO!” Leading to the eventual, “NO! END OF DISCUSSION”
…Are you ready???
“Honey, I think I want to have a home birth..?”
While there may be some rare scenario where that answer may be warranted, this certainly wasn’t that day or question.
Before we dissect the reasons behind my “NO” let’s discuss how we got here:
So in July of 2014, we received the best news to date in our life, that we were 9 months away from a blessing beyond all blessings. After almost 8 months of online searches, supplements, ovulation monitoring, and ultimately waiting on answered prayers, we were over the moon to know that we would be blessed with a baby. My lovely wife had left the positive test on a bath towel as I showered and waited for my reaction. I had to contain my excitement because my brother-in-law was just down the hall, and seeing as it was our starter home I could’ve hit him with a poorly constructed paper airplane. So we did what anyone would do in this scenario; we had a whispering, secret celebration. You know, the type of celebration you have when that co-worker you dislike finally quits. It goes without saying, we were ecstatic and couldn’t wait to schedule our first OBGYN appointment to confirm the good news.
Fast forward about 4 weeks and we’re at our first OB appointment grinning like a couple of big goobers, oozing excitement. The first appointment was very routine: confirm the pregnancy, blood work, lightsaber ultrasound (ladies you know the one) and top it off with the dad’s favorite part- setting up the payment plan. We were somewhat disappointed we didn’t meet the OB as we had hoped to establish the relationship, but since it was very early on we weren’t too concerned and we went on our way thankful we were given healthy marks across the board.
Another month later at our 12 week appointment our OB was present and by this point, like many first time parents, we were still ignorant to the whole pregnancy and birth process. We were looking for some input and help from our care provider. We had been doing some online searches and had bought the notorious “What To Expect When Expecting” book (which in my honest opinion looks much more like an encyclopedia than a novel). But really, we were relying on our OB to give us some much desired info on our plan for the actual birth and how we would go about some of the things we had in mind for the event. Our chief priority, thanks to the bravery and strength of my wife, was no epidural. We received the dismissive, somewhat laughed-out reply, “Well, you can try that if you want.” Now hopefully you read that with the same inflection as we heard it. It’s completely within the realm of possibility that he said it in a very normal manner. However, to us as young, budding parents-to-be looking for support, he might as well have said it as if we had just asked “You think we could score a Chick-Fil-A sandwich on a Sunday?”
The entire appointment with the OB lasted at best, ten minutes. Everything was very transactional much like a drive-thru restaurant, but we left feeling like we would’ve gotten a more cordial “bed-side manner” out of the attendants at Chick-Fil-A. Yes, for those of you all counting, that’s 2 Chick-Fil-A references in the same paragraph, a couple more and it may warrant an endorsement, but as for now its just making me hungry. Unfortunately we left with much to be desired from that visit, but little did we know we would be back soon.
We were very grateful and relieved to have made it to the 12 week mark, for the fact that chance of miscarriage dramatically reduces after that point. However, it would not be without its scares and challenges. At about 14 weeks my wife began to have some spotting. This obviously was a concern that gave us quite a scare, and essentially left us tumbling down the hill we thought we had just gotten over. We immediately contacted the OB office to inform them and we scheduled the earliest appointment possible. We were told that my wife had a low-lying placenta, but was not yet considered a placenta previa, and it would need to be monitored but would likely grow upward as the pregnancy progressed. Thankfully, after this visit we left feeling relieved about the questionable symptoms we had been experiencing. What we left feeling uneasy about at this point was our OB. An issue had come up that scared the daylights out of us and we didn’t even see our doctor- just an ultrasound technician. If we would have known then what we know now, we would’ve switched care so quick it would’ve made our necks snap, but since we were relieved to get good news, it would take a few weeks for the realization to set in. Little did I know my wife was already doing her research and had discovered the reality of the home birth option, and that emergency visit would come to be the last nail in the coffin of the hospital birth plan.
Back to the fight.
“Home birth, what are you? A hippy?” Now folks, you’ll have to forgive me on this one, since uttering those words I have very much embraced home birth and currently volunteer with my wife within a local organization that advocates for access to home birth practices and birthing centers. But the more I talk to those who aren’t aware of home births, the more I hear questions like that. They’re usually followed by the always popular “Are you going to eat the placenta too?” To which I now answer, “Yes” with as straight of a face as I can manage just to see the reaction. But I’ve come to expect these answers now, and seeing the path that we have taken, I can understand this response.
The overwhelming majority of you who are reading now were born in a hospital. People tend to follow the trends and paths of their upbringings. Obviously, there are the exceptions to the rule. But think about it- in your relationships, marriages, education, finances..the majority of what you do is usually mirrored off of what you have seen growing up, typically from your parents. When you observe the majority of the populous, you then get the “societal norm” which, with regard to birthing in the United States, is hospital births. Seeing as my wife and I were a pair of hospital babies, we had the same predisposition: our children would be born in hospitals because it was the “norm” of our culture. Thankfully we had an awakening.
And back to the fight:
“I’m not going to let you die just so we can have our baby in the living room.” Whoa, big leap there, huh? So we went from young, healthy, first time mother, to definitely going to die giving birth. But this is the world we live in, right? The national average c-section rate is 32%, and everyone has a story of how they were rushed off to the OR for an emergency C-Section for one reason, or another. It’s terrifying. I wanted nothing more than for my wife to give birth to our beautiful, healthy baby, but at what cost?! Was I to hold my tongue, and sit idly by as my wife wanted to make a decision that would mean certain death? Possibly, she would need to be rushed to an OR, and as I said before this was our starter home, there was no way that we could set up a birthing pool and an OR in the living room. THE SPACE JUST WASN’T THERE! These are the thoughts running through my head (ok maybe not the last one) but the more my wife would plead her case the more angry I became. Of course, that less-than-standard size filter that us men have between our brain and mouth continued to deteriorate as the argument went on. Finally the filter was gone, and the next words out of my mouth would cut my wife deeper than I ever thought the four words could… “NO! END OF DISCUSSION!”
Now I’m sure the men reading this, at some point, like me, have said something close to those 4 words. Maybe slightly different, but the premise is the same. Call it posturing, call it patriarchal assertion. Now, I don’t have a name for what that outburst was, but what I know it as now was the look of complete sorrow and dismay as tears welled up in her eyes. At that moment I knew I had broken her heart. This was something that she truly wanted on a visceral level, and I had just taken a baseball bat to it. in any other context if I had said something like this the fight would have mutated, and evolved into a next level, even more anger-fueled fight, and the fact that the argument ended right then I knew that it had cut her deep. Then I knew that the “winner” of the fight never really wins anything.
The one thing that we both needed at this point was time to think. Unfortunately, I was the one swinging the bat but we were both hurt in the process. So a word from the wise, if you are reading this and you’re in this situation, calm down and just know that each of you want the best for the situation and that is why the passion comes out in the conversation. I had many reasons on why there was no way I would support a home birth and they were mostly centered around fearing for the safety of my beautiful wife and our baby, but the more we talked and learned together, the more my fears started to disappear.
I certainly wasn’t going to be swayed easily, but I was starting to come around to the idea of a home birth. My wife was very strategic in how she approached the topic from then on. She gave me information from sources like Evidence Based Birth, and we watched “The Business of Being Born”. There was enough evidence to begin to convince me that these disastrous circumstances everyone had a story about were linked to medical interventions that interfered with the natural process of birth. Through this I saw the home birth light, and the more I began to learn, the more I understood the idea that pregnancy wasn’t an illness. It wasn’t an emergency, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. With a healthy mother, provided her body is saying “everything is good” there is ample opportunity to have a safe birth anywhere, without interruption, and that includes at HOME!
A story I will continue to tell throughout my lifetime is the day we met with the midwife duo that would ultimately help us deliver our beautiful baby girl. We had scheduled an early morning interview with 2 very prominent midwives in our area We met in a small cafe in the east end of town. We walked in and didn’t see the midwives, but they would soon thereafter walk through the doors and sit down. They showed no fatigue, though likely exhausted from the night before since they had just finished with a successful home birth. They ordered their breakfast as the another couple in the interview began to ask questions they had prepared. My wife and I sat looking at our napkin that had a couple of questions scribbled down on it (ok it wasn’t a napkin but it could’ve been). The midwives began to answer the questions in detail and with a confidence that made us glad to hear the competent answers. This continued for a while until their food came. At this point, we really only had one question left and it was in reference to their procedure in the event of a post-partum hemorrhage. The CNM with 35 years experience of catching over 6,000 babies looks up as she casually says “Well, we will administer a shot of pitocin to attempt to stop the bleeding, and usually that will do the trick. However, if that does not work, I shove my fist up the vagina, apply pressure on the inside and hold pressure on the abdomen until the bleeding stops.”
The look on my face had to be priceless. I turned to my wife and said, “That is the most gangster thing I have ever seen. She just said she would turn you into a hand puppet and she didn’t even flinch!” At that point I looked across the table and in my best Donald Trump voice said, “You’re Hired.” Ok, I didn’t, but I should have…
After seeing and hearing the confidence displayed by these ladies, it was more than enough to convince me that I could and would be comfortable with a home birth. Tack on the fact that these ladies, on no sleep, met with us in a free consultation and took the time to answer our questions, when formerly we felt that we had to run behind our OB to keep a conversation…It meant the world to me. That day they set the example of the Standard of Care provided by midwives that proved far superior than that of an OB, and my wife and child never received any care that convinced me of the contrary.
Learning about the birth process was a huge key to putting my mind at ease. My wife was lightyears ahead of what I knew, but learning together was the game changer. As much as I may not like to admit it, during 6 Sunday’s of football season, we went to a birthing class (3 hours long that I initially dreaded). We learned a lot together, but through that class and our appointments with the midwives, it was a complete game changer in not only putting my mind at ease, but at making me confident in having a home birth.
To those considering home birth, I encourage you to reach out to people who have experienced it, meet with midwives and ask questions, and if you’re on the fence you may surprise yourself in the end. Not much can describe the intimacy between my wife and myself during our home birth. Being able to “catch” my daughter, getting to hold and spend time with her in the comfort of our home without her being whisked away within minutes of birth, eliminating all the distractions and enjoying the experience was simply amazing. I not only learned a lot about home birth, I saw the unbridled strength that my wife had to not only grow our child for 9 months, but bring that life into the world and sustain it. It was truly a powerful thing to experience. My wife did the heavy lifting but it certainly does take a partnership. You need each other throughout this process and it’s an amazing experience. Because of it, I will be a lifelong home birth advocate.
Thank you for choosing me to be your partner for life. I love you LB.
*This story was originally posted at www.notionsofmothernurture.wordpress.com*