Two years ago as we planned a home birth for our fourth child, my husband was included in the birth plans just as he had been my support our previous three babies. But, sometimes birth and timing is unpredictable! Sometimes, the whole entire family is sick with the flu and daddy needs to be in charge while you birth somewhere flu-germ free. I decided to move my birth to the local birth center run by my midwife and enlisted the help of two friends to act as my doula support that go round. It wasn't my plan, and it was stressful at first to change up how I envisioned my birth to be — but it actually ended up our favorite birth!
He was less stressed. Well, he wasn't even there to be stressed! He was able to sit at home, caring for our kids and getting them to bed most of my laboring time. We kept him updated through text messages and phone chats as new progress came and, when our daughter was born after 10 p.m., he was playing Xbox. Sounds like a dream for guys, right? My husband dreads the birthing process because he worries about me as his wife, the mother of his children, and one he loves. He worries about the blood loss after, whether I hemorrhage some or not, and worries that something will go wrong. He was less stressed not having to see any of the normal gory birthing stuff, but only the end result of a healthy momma and baby once it was over.
I was less stressed. Since he wasn't there to be stressed (even if he hid it well, like our past births), I therefore felt less stressed. When a momma in labor is less stressed, hormones are more free to do what they need to do to have a baby more easily! Worries and tension can be felt in an atmosphere, especially when you are so emotionally close to your partner. This time I was able to just relax into the contractions with two friends by my side — one rubbing my hair and one massaging my back — feeding me words of encouragement. I wasn't worried about what he was thinking this time, just about the task ahead and dealing with one moment at a time.
So, when we found out that our fifth baby was on the way and I began envisioning what I wanted in this next birthing experience, I imagined one much the same. We planned another home birth, and I hired a doula to be my support as things ramped up later in the laboring game. I love my husband, I do, but he doesn't rub my hair or my back like a doula does! However, I did leave the possibility of needing his presence open ended. He was okay with being whatever I needed him to be, but preferred not to be there. I requested my midwife or doula to ask me if I wanted Mark to come in once I hit transition to be there for the birth. When labor did begin with my water breaking at 39 weeks, he was with me and a great support all throughout the day. He knows how to make me laugh, encourage me, and gives the best hugging support throughout intense contractions! But, by night time we were all tired, and he let my doula take over so he could get the kids in bed and rest himself. Things picked up quickly after that, and this time when transition hit, he was upstairs taking a nap, and when they asked me if I wanted him to come down I said, “Let him sleep.”
He came down once he heard the meow-like fresh newborn cries, and all was well, much like it was in the old days when daddies were ushered out for the birth as it was a “woman thing.” While our choices surely aren't for everyone and many dads want to be present for birth, that's the great thing about having choices these days. We can decide for ourselves about how, where, and with whom we choose to birth in many cases. Thinking through our options and who we want there for our support is one of those choice to make!