Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Homebirth Dad

This post was originally published on The Bloomington Area Birth Services Blog where Garry is a regular contributor. 

Though it seems far from possible, my once-newborn son is now almost two years old.  The day Ezra was born seems like both yesterday and a hundred years ago.  As with all memories, his birth is quickly fading into a flash of moments. Luckily, Ezra’s birth was recorded with both photographs and multiple birth stories.  I always felt like my primary contribution to this series was fun to write, but lacked any insight into my experience as a father attending his child’s birth.  Looking through the birth photographs almost two years later, I realize I probably will never be able to capture in words exactly what that moment felt like.  I also realize there is no need to recount the circumstances of the birth.  The birth itself has been well documented, but what I have never discussed is how happy I am with our decision to birth Ezra at home.

Before continuing, I want to state that I do not think everyone should have a homebirth. How to birth your child is a choice that varies from person to person, and I do not think there is a wrong or right decision – only a wrong or right decision for you and your circumstances.  Homebirth was a great option for Amanda and myself.  The pregnancy was low risk.  We had a great birth team including a wonderful midwife and supportive backup doctor if a hospital transfer was ever required.  Most importantly, Amanda and I were both completely comfortable with the idea of homebirth.

When I mention Ezra was born at home, a common response I hear from mothers is that they were interested in homebirth, but their partner’s reluctance vetoed the option.  If Amanda had been pregnant at the time we first approached the subject of homebirth, I probably would have echoed this same unwillingness.   Fortunately, Amanda and I thought about having a child several years before we actually committed to it. During that time, Amanda began reading about pregnancy, birth options, and discovered a local pregnancy, birth, and parenting education and support center, Bloomington Area Birth Services.   We discussed homebirth in the safest atmosphere possible – one where the pregnancy was only theoretical.  During the gap between the first thoughts of breeding and the actual progeny, I had plenty of time to slowly become familiar with homebirth, learn more about it, notice when other people including several friends had their children at home, and realize what a supportive environment Bloomington is for homebirth parents. By the time Amanda became pregnant in 2009, I was not only comfortable but also excited with the idea that our child would most likely be born at home.

I am really happy that all of the circumstances came together to allow Ezra to be born at home.  I believe a homebirth made me more comfortable with the birth process, a better support person for Amanda, and helped me feel more relaxed in caring for a seconds old newborn.   Since I knew from the beginning of the pregnancy, that we hoped to have a homebirth, I felt very motivated to learn as much about birth as possible.  Hospitals give an illusion of an endless amount of staff.  There is always another doctor or nurse just around the corner to help out.  For our birth, we planned to have a midwife, her apprentice, a doula, my sister, and brother-in-law in attendance.  Knowing there were only 7 people attending the birth including Amanda (and my sister and her husband had never seen a birth before), I wanted to know and understand as much as possible about what to expect.  The statistical likelihood of me needing to “help out” seemed so much higher than in a hospital.  I was thankful for all of this extra preparedness when Amanda’s labor went faster than expected and I was home alone with her very close to transition.  I could not help but ask myself if I had prepared enough to actually deliver a baby.  I was relieved to not have to find out.

Having less people around also helped me to be a better support person for Amanda. Everyone at the birth had clear roles and jobs during the birth, and mine was to support Amanda and help her to manage pain.  The importance of this role was clear to everyone, and they insured I was able to stay focused without interruptions. Everyone also knew our wishes, needs, and personalities well enough to not distract us with unwanted advice or unhelpful suggestions. Everyone was on the same page the entire birth because the same few people were present for its duration.

Of course, homebirth allows more control over the birth, more privacy, and many other advantages during labor, but I think the true payoff is once the baby is born.  You and your partner are in the comfortable surroundings of your own home with your healthy, new baby. This made initial bonding and learning to care for Ezra much easier.   Everyone attending the birth stepped back to let us, the new mom and dad, care for our new son. We held him; we comforted him; he and Amanda learned to nurse; we gave him his name.  The process of getting to know Ezra seemed quiet and natural.  Personally, I would have felt panicked leaving a hospital with a brand new infant. After having hospital staff around to monitor the baby and supervise our caring for him, I would have built up lot of anxiety about caring for Ezra on our own without “experienced” people to help. Not having this unnecessary supervision actually made us feel more confident as new parents.  We had no reason to doubt our ability to care for our newborn unaided because we had already begun to do so.  Two hours after Ezra was born, the three of us were alone.  We were a new family caring for each other in the same place we would do so for years to come.

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