Over the next two days, I am going publish my account of Matilda’s recent home birth. As you will read, I was not always convinced that a home-birth was the best option. The almost complete lack of information on home-births from the dad’s perspective has lead me to write these posts for other new dads whose partners want a home-birth…
From the moment we found out she was pregnant, Jo said she wanted a home-birth. Now, you know me well enough on this blog to know that deep-down I am probably a bit of a “hippy” when it comes to parenting questions but this took even me by surprise.
We had seen several of our closest friends enjoy home-births so I guess it was logical the idea was on Jo’s radar. Plus I had forgotten that first time round, with Archie, Jo had had a very difficult experience at hospital. Don’t get me wrong – the warmth and kindness of all the midwives and nurses as phenomenal – but, for a number of reasons which I won’t bore you with now, the experience was a very stressful and exhausting one for Jo.
The first thing which came to my mind was “What about the dangers? What if there’s a problem?”. In reality, I think it may stem from the misplaced notion (in my opinion) that pregnancy is a “condition” which needs treating. When a pregnancy is smooth and the foetus is healthy, there is nothing more natural. And when things are natural, Jo’s angle was they do not need “medicalising”.
Jo still had her fears though and felt that she wanted to hire an independent midwife in order to have consistency of care throughout the pregnancy and the birth itself. I was slightly torn on this. On the one hand, how could I disagree with anything which could help Jo feel safe and comfortable? On the other hand, the midwife would command a not insignificant feee – money which I can’t honestly say we really have.
In the end, we took the former route and quickly discovered that home-births are a bit of a legal minefield. The NHS is not too keen to recognise home-births carried out independantly – and any midwife who wants to specifically practise in people’s houses has to (somewhat scandalously) leave the “system”. In our litigation culture, independent midwives are seemingly very much under the microscope and under threat. This is a crying shame.
I can’t deny that for much of the pregnancy, I found the whole process somewhat difficult. While it goes without saying that our midwife was there for Jo, I somehow felt myself edged out of what was going on. I wasn’t conscious of this at the time – and once I did realise it, it felt slightly incongruous of me. Jo was, after all, the one doing all the hard work. But if we were to have a home-birth, it was going to happen in my home (obviously!) and I wanted to feel more part of what was going to happen.
More than anything, I think I wanted Jo and my midwife to ask ME how I felt about what we were undertaking. Had they asked, I would have said “unsure, nervous and, actually, very concerned”.
With about 3 weeks to go, I broached the subject with Jo. She was remarkably open to what I was saying. Maybe even surprisingly so. She decided to discuss it with Jane, our midwife, and Jane was equally receptive. I was now officially in the loop and a subtle shift in the sands meant that Jo’s home-birth was to be OUR home-birth. From the dad’s standpoint, this was a very pivotal shift.
Jane managed to allay my concerns. In 20 years of practicing, she could count the number of times she had had to take a mum in labour to hospital on the fingers of one hand. I also learnt that 99.9% of the time, a skilled midwife can detect if there are any problems afoot, well before they turn into a last minute dash to A&E. The fact that we are only a 4-5 minute dash to our local hospital also worked in our favour, in the extreme case.
We were to have a pool in our lounge. You have all seen how small our kitchen is. Needless to say, our lounge is barely any bigger! This, combined with a boiler which only fires 50% of the time (at best) meant that my role was to sort out the practicalities of the birthing space before Jo would be comfortable to go into labour. Cue costly boiler repair, new thermostats and a space-saving redesign of the lounge.
So were we ready? Of course not. Two days before Jo’s due date, the downstairs toilet packed up too. More unexpected expense but Jo was categorical – no toilet, no labour. In the end the whole thing needed to be replaced. We were now ready.
As the dad, I really enjoyed the organising the practicalities of organising the home-birth. There was something quite primal about preparing the space for Jo to give birth in.
We were now left with two unknown quantities – when would Jo go into labour? And how would it all work out with Archie? He was fully aware of what was happening and, I think, blissfully unaware of the scale of it too. We were convinced Jo would go into labour at night and hoped he would sleep through.
In the end, none of this happened! Jo’s waters broke at 4am. I immediately knew we were headed for a daytime birth. I felt surprisingly serene. I think the bit where you have to go to hospital is terribly stressful. Being at home, comfortable in the knowledge that we were going to stay there, was hugely reassuring…