“Dad Stuff” will be a recurring column I’ve had in my mind for quite a while. As I’m sure you can surmise, it’ll be about my experiences as a dad. I’m thinking it’ll include stories, anecdotes and maybe even some dad related reviews. I figured the best place to start would be at the beginning. About nine months back after realizing we were expecting, the missus came to me and said she really wanted to do a natural birth. Her mom had had her and her brother at a birthing center with a midwife, but that apparently isn’t an option in our area. So, the only way to do a birth with a midwife was at home. The concept spooked me to be sure. What if there were complications? What kind of training do midwives have? What happens if I pass out from all the blood and whatnot? What if it was messy? I had my questions and concerns, but it was clearly something important to her, so I went along with it.
From there we talked to a few different midwife groups and decided on one that fit really well called River and Mountain Midwives. The missus watched a few documentaries about birth like The Business of Being Born (on Netflix Instant) and I saw one or two myself like The Orgasmic Birth, and I was convinced. See, I haven’t been around babies much. I’m an only child and my younger cousins were all born in hospitals. I figured the normal way to give birth was to head to a hospital, get some shots, have the baby and go home. But it turns out it’s a lot more complicated than that. I don’t want to get into the horror stories, but I bet if you started asking your friends and family how their hospital births went, you probably won’t get 100% positive responses. The main point that talking to the missus, the midwives and watching the movies made for me, though, was that birth is natural and should be handled as such unless there are circumstances that present themselves that require medical attention. People have been doing this for millions of years right?
From there we had regular meetings with the midwives where I learned more and more and saw my baby grow and grow. We also went to a birth class with three other couples in our general area who were also having home births, so I really got a crash course in all this stuff and met other like-minded folks that gave me a pretty good feeling going into the birth.
As I’m sure everyone is aware, word got out on Sunday May 1st that Osama bin Laden had been assassinated. We were pretty fascinated by this and even though the details wouldn’t be made prominent for a couple days (and even longer for us), we staid up to watch the news. The missus had planned to go on pre-maternity leave starting the previous Friday, so she staid up later than usual. Eventually we turned the TV off and I did some reading. Not much further into the evening I heard a pop and thought “Oh man, I bet that was her water breaking,” but she didn’t say anything and it’s good to sleep through some of your labor, so I didn’t say anything. A few moments later, she was up and said “I think my water just broke…yeah, it broke.” That’s when I kicked into stereotypical dad mode and started pacing, playing with my hair and wondering what I needed to do. That was at 1:23AM.
I got control of myself, got her a towel and then called the midwife. She said to try and get some sleep, but it soon became evident that it was very uncomfortable for her to try and go through a contraction while lying down. We also noticed–thanks to an app on her iPod Touch–that the contractions were coming closer together than we expected, but not alarmingly so, so we waited to call the midwife again. Around 4AM, after finding a good laboring place in our hallway bathroom, things were starting to move faster, so I called the midwife again and then called our parents. The original plan was to have her mom there for the birth with her dad waiting in a hotel, but that wasn’t in the cards. I called the midwife again at 4:30AM and she said she’s be there in a half hour to forty five minutes. Right before she did get here, the missus went through one helluva contraction that brought out a whole different sound than the others. Thankfully, the midwife got there and everything was moving along just as it should have been.
The hardest thing for me during the home birth was seeing my wife in such pain. She says now that the contractions and pushing weren’t super painful, but that’s not how it looked or sounded to me. I completely understand why the time-saving birthing procedures were created and why people schedule C-sections after all this because there really is no schedule to go by and I am a fan of such things.
However, the most amazing thing about the whole process was how my wife seemed to instinctively know the perfect way to move her body to not only get through the contraction, but also to arrange herself in the perfect way to maximize the efficiency of every movement. She said afterwards that she honestly could not have imagined giving birth in one of the more uptight hospitals that make you lie on your back during labor (a fairly unnatural practice when you think of how everything’s laid out) because the very thought of doing anything different than what she did was not working for her.
So, all in all, it was a great experience. I saw things I never thought I’d see and didn’t even pass out. The missus went through everything like a champ and wound up tired but felt great about what she had done. Plus, our baby got to be born in her own house without all those crazy lights and noise. It was just the three of us in a tiny bathroom. She also didn’t come out feeling the effects of any drugs and got to see things pretty clearly right away. Big ups to both of them and our midwife Susan for doing such a great job.