Where do I start? My wife asked me to write my birth story. I am thinking in my head “My birth story? I didn’t give birth? What right do I have to say my birth story when my wife gave birth?”
First some background of how I used to think: I am the youngest of seven; we were all born in the hospital. My 3rd oldest and myself are the only ones born natural with no drugs. I actually was born after a cesarean (VBAC baby). I didn’t know that this was a big deal, but now it is apparently.
Home births growing up were not that common. My family was on the poor to middle class side of things. My first hearing of a homebirth was from my cousin, I thought “Why? Isn’t that dangerous? Couldn’t the baby die? I think that’s stupid and careless.” When I heard that the home birth went just fine . . . I thought, “well she’s just lucky, I guess.”
Then I lived in Germany for 8 years. Midwives and homebirths are common there. Pregnant women are usually taken care of by midwives. Doctors take over only when surgery may happen, or the midwife consults them.
Home birth, Say what?! When we decided to have a baby, my wife said that we would be having a homebirth. I said “Why? What’s wrong with a hospital? It’s safe.” She said “Why not at home? It’s safe to have a homebirth.” She told me that only if she was high risk, then we would go to the hospital, but otherwise we can have it at home on our bed. I thought, “Oh great. On our bed with blood and mess and gore to clean up.”
She bought me some great books for first time/soon to be dads. She also signed us up for Birth Boot Camp. I thought, “I am so not into this . . . Do I have to? Look you’re the pregnant one, you go and I will stay back or I will just get in the way, I won’t know what to do . . .” Up to this point, I didn’t understand birth, my role, or my responsibilities . . .
Birth Boot Camp: We started going to Birth Boot Camp childbirth classes. It was a game changer. I learned the beauty behind birth, our options, and a fountain of birthing knowledge. It let me know that my wife was not going to do this alone and that I had a role. I was going to be there and that I needed to be there. I learned just how powerful women can be. I also gained the reassurance that women have been having babies for thousands of years – and often in their HOMES!
My Birth Story: On the night that it all started, I had worked all day and I was relaxing on the sofa. My wife was taking off to a Dancing for Birth class. Perfect time to relax. When she came home, it was around 8:30 at night and she said she was having some contractions. So I asked if they were the real ones or the Braxton Hicks contractions. She wasn’t sure, but decided to take a bath to see if they would calm down. It didn’t. She came out of the bath and said she was still having them.
So, I thought of what I learned in class – GO TO SLEEP AS SOON AS IT BEGINS! So I say ok so we should try to get some quick sleep; notify the midwife. She said to forget the sleep; yes, call the midwife; and my back is hurting. So now I am calling the midwife and setting up the birth bath (remember to put in the liner, I totally forgot). She was having back labor (It turned out the baby’s back of head was facing her spine, instead of her stomach, but we didn’t know since the baby was always in the right position before). Around 11:00 PM we called the midwife again thinking that she was getting close to delivery and so she should come over.
My wife was in and out of the birth pool, forehead to the wall, laboring on the toilet, and the bed trying to relieve some of the back pain. I was pushing on her lower back non-stop; and when I had to pee, I would run to the toilet and before I could start she was calling for me to come and put pressure on her back. Her favorite word that night was “JEFF!” The night was a blur, morning came, and still she was not getting any closer to giving birth. She was 6 centimeters around 6 AM. I was thinking, “How is this possible? My muscles are throbbing, and my mind is dead.”
The midwife and her assistant took turns taking naps; and when I would accidentally fall asleep, they poked me while I was in the birth pool when my face was about to hit the water. My wife would also lovingly tap (AKA slap) me when she felt me falling asleep and the counter-pressure would stop.
The midwife and her assistant kept trying to get us to eat, but my wife was having none of that. She was nauseous. My wife finally got some IV fluids and we both laid on the floor and got maybe an hour of sleep before it kicked back into full labor again. Back to the pool, then to the bed, the wall, the pool . . . and it kept like this for I don’t know how long. My wife’s mother was there, laying down towels and washing the wet ones. She must have done at least 20 loads of towels. I continued to push on her lower back, knowing that was what was needed.
Around 1:00 PM, the power went out. We assumed that it would come back on shortly. At 3:00 PM the midwife called the power company and told the worker on the phone that she was in the middle of a birth. Power came back on like 5 mins later.
Finally, my wife was fully dilated!! Then, the pushing started. I think she pushed for about 3 hours. At one point, the midwife attempted to break her water to help with pushing. This didn’t really work. At some time around 4:00 PM, I think, my wife started saying “I can’t do this. I am done.” I stayed with her saying “yes, you can.” (This was the reason for me to be there; to be her support).
In the end, it was on the toilet that the most progress was gained. We saw my son’s hair just barely sticking out. The midwife told my wife that we needed to move her to the birth chair and that she couldn’t have the baby on the toilet. My wife simply said “Watch me.” The midwife, her assistant and I all grabbed her, lifted, and moved her quickly to the chair. I think the midwife told her to slow down, but I don’t remember. My wife was done and wanted the baby out, so slowing down was not an option. She powered through the contraction and out came my son at 6:02 PM. I didn’t know what to do when he was coming out or how to catch him, but the midwife was on spot. The cord was wrapped around him 3 times. He was fine though. He was bloody from my wife tearing, but he was so amazing. I had tears coming down my face. So happy to see him, and so happy that the marathon was over. My wife tore fairly badly due to my son being “sunny-side up”, or occiput posterior. The birth was over 21 hours; time well spent.
Afterbirth: I know now that birthing in the hospital is not the only way, and neither is being at home. Your birth location should be wherever you are comfortable. For us, it was home. I would never recommend doing a homebirth without taking an actual comprehensive birth class. I will also never do another birth without a doula. A doula could have told us better positions to try, to make my wife more comfortable, and maybe even speed up the labor! She could have also given me a BATHROOM break!
It has been 15 months since the birth. I still feel and see the birth when I think about it. It was a challenge that we accomplished together. To me, birth is both man and woman, together in unison, working to bring a new life into the world. As men, and soon-to-be fathers, we need to learn our part. Being that guy in the waiting room is like missing out on your wedding kiss. I know I will never be that guy. I will be there and I will be involved (with the help of my doula)!
I am exactly 1 year 8 weeks postpartum from my first, and so far only, birth of my son. I was advised, even before my birth, to write my birth story as soon as possible, so that I did not forget. However, I’ve continued to procrastinate. I’ve asked myself why. I’ve concluded that it is because I have had conflicting feelings. How do you write about something that you are still processing and don’t know how you feel?
I had a natural, un-medicated, home birth (I know I don’t win any medals). It was a life changing event. It was traumatic, empowering, challenging, and what was best for me. I think this is why it has been hard for me to process; how can it be all these things at once?
Pregnancy – Nauseating (literally) and joyful. From 7.5 weeks to around 16 weeks I had severe morning sickness. I tried ginger chews and tea, lemon, protein, carbs, vitamin B, and large quantities of honeydew and cantaloupes. I woke up an extra hour earlier every morning and my husband would bring me half a honeydew or cantaloupe in bed. I would then slowly walk to the bathroom to get ready for work where I would suck on ginger chews. That is how I started every work day. I would then go to work in a busy PICU where co-workers and patients would urgently tell me everything they needed as I tried not to vomit in their face. Around 20 weeks the nausea was gone, and the happy hormones kicked in! I felt this natural high and deep connection to my baby. From then on, I loved being pregnant!
Labor – I went on maternity leave 5 days before my labor started. I was antsy – I kept busy with organizing the nursery, installing the car seat, cleaning the car, going shopping, going to the movies, walking the streets, cleaning . . . and by also going to physical therapy, chiropractor, massage therapist, Dancing for Birth, and acupressure. After I returned home, from my Dancing for Birth class, I felt really crampy, and soon after felt my first contraction! I asked my mom to give me an acupressure treatment and had contractions 10 minutes apart that first hour. Afterward, I took a bath with contractions 5-7 minutes apart. They soon progressed to 3-5 minutes apart, and then I stopped keeping track. They were always at least a minute in length. I told my husband I was having contractions, he shut off the TV, and said “I should go to sleep then” (we were taught to do this in our Birth Boot Camp class), and I said “yeh, that’s not happening.” My midwife and her assistant came shortly after. I labored for 21 hours. I still feel cheated because I never experienced the early happy labor (you know when you’re excited, watch TV, go on walks, and spend quiet time with your husband . . .). I planned a water birth, so I labored in the birth pool for a large amount of my labor (which in hind-sight I really shouldn’t have done). I was nauseous most of my labor, so I refused food, and instead drank water and Kefir yogurt. Half-way through labor I received a liter of fluids to help with hydration. I received oxygen periodically (which I would quickly pull off because it was annoying). I screamed my husband’s name at least a hundred times because he HAD to apply almost continual counter-pressure to my back (yes, he too, was very sore the next day). The electric company decided to perform a scheduled power outage during labor, so after a couple of hours my midwife called to tell them she was doing a homebirth and the power needed to be turned on immediately, which it was shortly afterward. My mother did at least 6 loads of towels during labor because they gave me a new dry towel every hour when I went from the birth pool to the bathroom.
Birth – The pushing phase, though long, was my favorite phase. I felt this surge of energy (though still exhausted), nausea gone (and very hungry), and the ability to do something. It was intense, but productive. At one point my midwife asked me what I was afraid of and I thought “nothing, this just freaking hurts!” However, soon after I feel that things turned around for me psychologically and I was able to push through the pain. I finally labored on the toilet, which was the most productive for me. When birth was eminent, my midwife told me that I needed to move off the toilet, and I said “no”. She said I could not birth my baby in the toilet and I said “Watch me!” The midwife, midwife assistant, and my husband all lifted me and put me on a birth stool (This is one of my favorite humorous memories). The “ring of fire” sensation occurred soon after. I thought, “ok, ring of fire, I’m almost there, ok, slow down, let it stretch, nope, I’m too tired, if I don’t do this now, I won’t do it!” – So I powered through (which I later regretted), my baby was born, and I felt intense relief! He exited “sunny-side up”, hence the back labor. After the midwife unwrapped the cord from my baby’s body, I scooped him up and exclaimed “He’s so cute!” (Though, I really hadn’t even processed him yet). I looked over to my husband, who was beside me, and locked eyes with his teary eyes (when I think of this moment I get teary eyed myself). I then walked to and laid in my bed. Shortly after, I coughed my placenta out.
Postpartum – I had many second degree tears, and I was sutured at home. I also had swelling for many weeks after. I was not ready for the level of healing my body would have to do, while pregnant I only thought of the baby. Almost 5 months after my son’s birth, I still had not healed, and had to have reconstructive surgery. By 7 months, I finally healed. I also had issues breastfeeding initially, resulting in using a nipple shield for 2 months. I saw a lactation consultant around 10 days postpartum, and it was a game changer! My church members brought food for the first week and my family helped with cleaning and caring for me. My midwife also came to me for visits, which was also nice.
Some things that I would do differently next time would be refusing vaginal checks (once I said yes, they kept happening), labor more on the toilet and upright, avoid using water early in labor, hire a doula (that was one of the first things my husband also said he was doing next time), work on building up my abdominal muscles more in pregnancy, see a lactation consultant sooner if needed, have a freezer full of meals for postpartum, and have my husband take off more time from work.
I didn’t have the romantic water birth that I envisioned, but if I had, I might not have had that eye-connecting moment with my husband and they wouldn’t have had to lift me off the toilet (two of my favorite memories). My body took longer to heal than I could ever have imagined, but it also forced me to slow down. I had my natural un-medicated birth, but I can appreciate why some women choose a different route (and I even asked for it at one point during my labor). I thought I would return to work when my maternity leave ended, instead I stayed home with my son. Even though my son’s birth was hard, I would do it again. I am now at a place in my processing, that I see it as a challenge, and think about how I can do it better next time. My birth did not go as planned, as many life events often do not, but I remained an active participant, trusted my body, birthed my baby, and I am proud of that!
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