Answers to Some Questions About Our Homebirth Experience
-Briefly state why you had a DIY homebirth:
I must admit that I originally did not want a homebirth. When my wife first mentioned the idea to me I thought she was nuts, quite literally. She had to work on me for awhile to get me to accept the idea. After having gone through it now I can wholeheartedly say that I'm glad she convinced me. She gave me lots of reading material to help me understand the process. It wasn't until I read Marilyn Moran's book, Birth and the Dialogue of Love that I became convinced that a homebirth was the way to go. I think at that point I was convinced of a homebirth but still wanted a midwife present just in case.
Well, we interviewed one midwife but just didn't click. We weren't comfortable enough with her and we didn't really have any other choices so I think that's when the unassisted idea started to gain a hold of us. We decided we would do it ourselves and just ask a couple friends of ours over to help out with the children. One friend is a registered nurse and the other is studying to be a midwife so we felt like that was good expertise to have around. We got a copy of Emergency Childbirth by Dr. Gregory White and I read through that. I think between that book and Marilyn Moran's book, I was definitely convinced that we could do this ourselves. I was especially impressed by Emergency Childbirth when it ended one chapter by saying that any reasonably intelligent 8 year-old could do it. When I thought about it, I realized that they don't have any books called "Emergency Appendectomies" or "Emergency Brain Surgery" for laymen to use if they should just happen to find themselves in that situation, yet they have one on childbirth that anyone can use. It really made me wonder why we had allowed highly paid obstetricians to deliver our other four children while I stood by watching. All four turned out to be textbook pregnancies and from what we've read, 80 to 90% of deliveries do not need qualified medical intervention.
-How was your frame of mind regarding fear, anxiety, tension during the pregnancy? How did you prepare to deal with fear?
My frame of mind as the father was actually based on Lynn's frame of mind. She's the one that goes through it directly and she had done it four times before so she felt very confident and so, I felt confident. My religious faith helped tremendously. No matter how humans try to control the process of life with artificial means of contraception and abortion, there is still that unknown, unexplainable element. It is truly a miracle the way new life enters the world and it definitely is evidence of a higher being controlling it all. To have a belief in God provided the source of strength we needed to deal with this most natural of conditions that God provides for us for the procreation of the race.
-What are some techniques, strategies or practices you can share that helped you have a smooth delivery?
You need to prepare beforehand and have everything ready to go. We had prepared some homemade containers made out of rolled up newspaper surrounded by plastic to catch the afterbirth and fluids. We also had big plastic sheets we were able to lay down between the bed and the bathroom door to help keep things clean. We also had a plastic sheet down on the bed under the regular sheets. That all removed the worry about messing things up and helped me concentrate on the task at hand which was assisting Lynn in giving birth.
We ordered a homebirth kit which had all the medical supplies like plastic gloves, sterile pads and umbilical cord clamps that they use in the hospital. I didn't bother with the gloves but the cord clamps were handy. Just having everything ready helped make it a smooth birth.
-Did you experience any fear, anxiety or tension during the birth?
I did not experience any fear or anxiety. We had done a lot of reading and were pretty much prepared for just about anything and had done a lot of praying and really felt God's presence. I just remember having this sense that this is the right thing to do and that God was right there with us helping out, comforting me throughout the whole thing because I really didn't think about it. It was amazing, that's all I can say. I never felt so fully human, so fully alive before in my life. Lynn was a psychology major in college and I would always kid her about her "touchy, feely" theories that she studied, but after our homebirth, she happened to read aloud to me the following passage:
"In such states of peak experience, we experience phenomena in their simplicity, 'oughtness', beauty, goodness, and completeness. There is a lack of strain, an effortlessness, a spontaneity about the experience that is almost overwhelming. Typically there is a lack of consciousness of space and time. Intense emotions such as wonder, awe, and reverence are felt. During these intense experiences, individuals transcend their own selfishness. Events and objects are perceived as they truly are and are not distorted to meet the experiencers' needs or wishes."*
I thought she was reading something out of a book describing homebirth, but it was from one of her psychology textbooks discussing Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs; in particular, the highest state of self-actualization. That passage on peak experiences describes our homebirth experience exactly. It was astounding.
-How did the emotional experience compare to other births.
This one was much different. I was always impressed with each of our other four births in the hospital. I saw them as miracles from God regardless of where it took place, but I always felt like there was something missing deep in the back of my mind after all of them. After Millicent's birth, I realized that what was missing was my involvement. What a difference it made.
-What would I do differently next time?
We would stay away from the doctor's office more. We'd probably make one visit in order to obtain a doctor's signature certifying that Lynn was pregnant so that the State could provide the birth certificate. We would also be honest and forthcoming with the doctor to avoid any misunderstandings and/or resentments. Lynn's doctor would not release her records and wanted to charge $50.00 just for a letter saying she was pregnant. We finally asked our primary care physician to do the letter and she agreed.
-Give a few adjectives to describe 3 months postpartum.
This time was much less stressful due to having the baby at home. It was just the family and it was nice. We even had a birthday party for Millicent the day she was born. Of course she didn't get much out of it but we had fun! Lynn baked cupcakes and we had a little party and gave the other kids gifts to celebrate all around. It was great. We kept Millicent away from the well-baby pediatric visits and that greatly reduced the stress level. I think well-baby visits is an oxymoron. If you're well, you don't need a doctor.
My experience with my co-workers after the birth was very different compared to my other children's births. When I called our secretary to tell her the good news, I said Millicent had been born at home but didn't say whether we planned it or whether it was an emergency or what. Well, I found out when I got back to work that many of them had speculated as to whether we had planned it or whether it just happened too suddenly for us to get to the hospital in time. There was almost an office pool going to bet on which way it was. I was sort of a celebrity for awhile when I returned. They started calling me "Doctor Bob." I think almost everyone was impressed with what we had done.
-How has the DIY birth changed both of our lives? Do you feel more connected to your mate/child?
I think it's definitely brought us closer together as a couple. We each have a better appreciation for each other. I have a much greater respect for Lynn as a woman now after uniting with her in this birth. I'm even more amazed at the whole process of pregnancy and birth now. I definitely feel more connected to both Lynn and our children now. Even though we had the other four children in hospitals, I think having the last one at home has given me a closer connection to all my children and definitely with Millicent. She seemed to be very relaxed in my arms from the very beginning. There were times with all of our children when I just couldn't quiet or comfort them and would have to hand them over to Mom. With Millicent, there were very few times when I had to do that. She would be making noise as an infant and I would walk into the room and say something and she would immediately quiet down and start listening. It was amazing. I think that because I was the first one she came in contact with in this world, there will always be a special connection. Every father should have that kind of connection with his children. This doesn't in any way diminish the mother's role, of course, since it is she who carries the child for nine months and can breastfeed the child, but what it does do is increase the father's role and make it more significant.
-Any other suggestions or comments?
Fathers, catch your babies! You will find a closer attachment to your family than you had before and a better appreciation for them. I think that the unassisted homebirth method is best so that husband and wife can be as intimate as they were when the child was conceived. If you feel you need an attendant there, be it a midwife or a doctor in a hospital, insist that you be allowed to catch your baby. You won't be sorry.
* Theories of Personality, Second Edition by Richard M. Ryckman, pp 370-371