Our home birth – from a dad’s perspective [PART 2]

Yesterday I gave you the first part of my account of Matilda’s home birth. We got up to the point where Jo’s waters had broken and we knew labour was imminent. Today’s it’s time to read about the the actual birth itself. There is such little information about dads and home births that I really hope these two posts inspire other dads (and mums of course) into possibly thinking about having a home birth too…

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At 9.30, I sensed that Jo’s labour was progressing quicker than she felt (or was admitting to!). I called the midwife and took what can best be described as an executive decision. No the contractions were not yet unbearable, yes Jo could still talk, no these were not signs of active labour – BUT I asked her to make her way to our house immediately, not least because she lives an hour away.

Archie and I pumped up the pool together and, once I had managed to bribe him to jump out of it (easier said than done), managed somehow to fill it up, in spite of the hose connector leaking more from the tap than it was actually sending into the pool.

Of course, one of the keys to a successful labour is a calm and relaxed environment. Hard as he tried, Archie was not conducive to this. He set himself up, in the lounge, with his “Sword and the Stone” DVD. “Mummy can watch it too”. Er no! Back-up was called and he agreed to go out to lunch with his grandparents. In the fantasy scenario, he would have been there to welcome his brother or sister. In the reality, he was in the way and Jo’s contractions were slowing down to a standstill the longer he stayed.

In a revolving front door operation, Archie left and Jane, our midwife, arrived. Once again, I think the home-birth worked in our favour here. Archie left with an image of his mum relatively content and in her own familiar surrounds. I suspect this was much less traumatic than it would have been had myself and Jo had to rush off out suddenly to the maternity ward.

It soon became clear that having a home-birth was going to be a dramatically different experience to the hospital birth Jo had with Archie. For starters, I was going to be much less involved. Surprising? Yes, but logical. Jo needed all the support in the world to help her through last time at the hospital. This time, she was at home, surrounded by familiarity and with her own midwife. I am not for a moment saying I felt left out. On the contrary. I just felt very mellow.

Home comforts are important for the dad too. Having my own toilet was an unexpected bonus. Having my laptop was another! There was a period of about 20 minutes where Jo just wanted to be alone with Jane upstairs. Had this been in hospital, I would have been kicking my heels in a corridor. Instead, I was in my revert-to position, on my laptop, chatting away on twitter! Oh, and not forgetting the fact that being at home meant that I had more than enough time to choose my birth t-shirt. After all, birth photos stay with us for many years to come – it’s important to have the right one!

Back to more serious affairs. At 12.05, Jane sensed Jo was getting close and invited her downstairs to the pool. I was “on” now. Jane chose to adopt a very non-interventional approach. This worked really well for both me and Jo. We knew she was there, closely supervising and supporting but, at no time, yelling “push” at Jo. With Jo in the pool and the babies heartbeat taken, Jane was confident the labour was going to progress completely normally.

Jo was in total control. By about 12.20 she had disappeared off into an almost parallel space. Focused, intense, almost other-worldly. Some of her songs were certainly not from this planet. All I remember at this point was feeling very serene, very at one with the process. I was also in awe of Jo’s bravery. She seemed to be controlling the pain. She wasn’t panicking. She was following Jane’s gentle prompts. I sensed the baby was close.

Matilda’s head crowned about 10 minutes later. All I could see was the top of her head but noticed a huge amount of hair – in complete contrast to when Archie was born. I told myself off for hoping this meant we were having a baby girl.

What struck me at this moment was how different this birth was becoming, compared to the movies or soap operas. Jo’s body was doing all its clever work. There was no need to push or scream. Natural gravity from kneeling in the pool and the powerful contractions were gently easing the babies head out.

And then… literally, time stood still. Matilda’s head was now fully exposed. I have never encountered a more surreal moment in my life. How best to describe it? With difficulty. Through the refraction of the water, I didn’t immediately realise I was looking at her face. Of course, at this stage, the baby is not yet alive. Mouth tightly closed, eyes clasped, she thinks she is still in the womb. Then, suddenly the thunder bolt in my heart, I realised I was looking at the face of my baby. She looked beautiful, peaceful and, more than anything, ethereal. Have you seen the 4D scans you can have of foetuses? Her face looked exactly like one of those. So near and yet so far. Seemingly alive and yet, in real terms, not at all. It is an experience I can barely quantify. All I do remember is that she was extremely beautiful, suspended in time between being an unborn foetus and a living baby.

That image is imprinted in my eyes for ever. And I fell instantly in love.

Matilda was a girl in a hurry from this point. Perhaps coloured by time, my memory is that the rest of her body was out in a matter of seconds. She sunk, gracefully, to the bottom of the pool and Jo was able to take her and cradle her, still in the water.

In the brief moment when Jo took Matilda and laid her on her chest, I excitedly proclaimed that we had a little boy. Don’t ask! Keen not to interrupt the maternal bonding process, Jane didn’t pick up Matilda to check. She believed me. Jo believed Jane. Yes, we had a little boy.

Jo sat in the pool for twenty minutes with our baby. We couldn’t quite get the name right. Did he look like a Finlay? Or a Frankie? Neither really – no surprise really when you consider he was actually a Matilda. In the end we settled for Finlay and set about announcing the good news, including phoning Archie to tell him he had a little brother.

Even when Jo and Matilda got out of the pool, we were still convinced we had a little boy. It was only an hour later, when Jane took the baby out of the towell that she called out, “Nick, it’s not a boy. You’ve got a little girl!”. I thought it was a big joke. Jo was in the shower and nearly fainted, literally. Suddenly the “not quite” face of Finlay became the very obvious face of Matilda Lily Rachel.

I felt so thrilled to have a little girl. So did Jo. I also felt terrible to have deprived Jo of that initial moment of ecstasy when she would have found out that she had had a girl just after giving birth. It’s not that she was in any way disappointed to have a boy. I just know that she missed out on an intense moment due to my inability to distinguish an umbilical chord from a, well, you get the picture!

Within minutes, Jo was snuggled up in her own bed, with her little girl, drinking a home-made cup of tea and eating some home-made toast. Then, after making sure we were all in good shape, Jane left. If there was one moment which summed up why I loved the home-birth experience so much, it was that one. Instead of me having to leave the hospital, leaving behind my wife and my baby, we were staying put. We were home.

I soon went off to pick up Archie. It was so lovely to be able to introduce him to his sister (yes, I explained what happened to Finlay) in the comfort of his own environment. His mummy was relaxed and extremely content. This was very important to him.

All that remained was the extremely unglamorous tidy-up operation. Jane had sadly forgotten her electronic pump and there was 200 litres of pool to empty in our lounge. I didn’t fancy the syphoning technique so opted for the good old-fashioned bucket. It took me over 40 backbreaking minutes to empty that pool. And you know what? In spite of my initial concerns about the safety of home-births, I was the only one to get injured. How? When emptying the pool, I tripped head-over-heels on our now treacherously slippery and wet decking in the garden. A grazed kneed and seriously hurt pride were my only battle scars of an amazing day.

So, am I a convert? Well, yes, I am. Having a home-birth was one of those experiences which seemed laced with concerns and complexities and yet, once I had experienced it, it suddenly seemed like the most obvious, natural and comfortable thing in the world.

We owe a huge debt to our highly-skilled midwife Jane and, more than anything, my debt is to Jo – for having the courage, creativity and foresight to think differently and take me on this most wonderful of journeys.

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Other reading: An article on home births which really inspired me by Sali Hughes in the Guardian.
Another account of a home birth from a dad’s perspective, on Diary of a First Child.

53 Responses to “Our home birth – from a dad’s perspective [PART 2]”

  1. babyrambles says:

    Such a lovely positive birth story, and great to see it written from the bloke's point of view! Sounds like you and Jane did amazingly (and although you may have felt you didn't do much, you would have done)

    • mydaddycooks says:

      Thanks! I know what you mean. I probably did more than I realised but it was all more subtle this time round…

  2. Vonnie says:

    I love your writing, what a beautiful description of seeing your baby for the first time!

    Also, howling with laughter at the Finlay story. That's one I doubt you'll live down. Congrats to the four of you!

  3. @StephLewing says:

    WOW! I am surprisingly speachless! xxx

  4. Luschka says:

    Awesome story Nick! You had me laughing at one point and filled with tears at another. What an amazing experience. Reading your account of Jo's transition was incredible, and made me relive my own happy memories. I am so happy for you guys that it went so well and I'm so pleased you have such amazing memories. Oh, and good move about the t-shirt! Martin was wearing something I totally dislike and I think it every time I see the photos but wasn't even AWARE of it on the day! LOL

  5. LisaD says:

    Wonderful, wonderful story! Absolutely loved reading this, thanks for sharing your story. I too had a very "hands off" midwife (an IM called Jane, coincidentally enough) and had much the same experience…and I was also on Facebook and Twitter giving live updates. Technology is great, isn't it?

    And what a fabulous story to tell Matilda one day! It reminds me of a line from the Simpsons when Maggie is born. Homer: "It's a boy! And WHAT A BOY!!" Doctor: "Mr Simpson, that's the umbilical cord." ;)

  6. squashedtomatoes says:

    What a lovely story, thank you for sharing! And sorry, it is very funny about Finlay!

  7. Emma says:

    Amazing story! Thanks for sharing. When our daughter was born we knew she was a girl, as we'd been told at the scan. But I was still confused whether she was a boy or girl after she'd just been born!!

  8. BBx says:

    Wonderfully emotional and moving account – the tears are flowing. Very proud of your family.

    BBx

  9. Emma says:

    Such a well written lovely account of an amazing event – it brought tears to my eyes – makes me want another now!

    • mydaddycooks says:

      Wait til I write about how I had forgotten how much hard work a new born is! That'll soon help change your mind!!

  10. Rachael says:

    Oh I have tingles and tears in my eyes. There is something so magical about waterbabies, isn't there? I can remember seeing that face too with no4, looking down into the water and saying 'head! out!' (unfortunately I'd told the midwife that I wanted gas and air so she'd gone to the car – against her better judgement – and missed that bit). There is something otherworldly about a newborn, isn't there?

    As for the Finlay aspect – hahahahaha! x

    • mydaddycooks says:

      yes, that is exactly it. Something otherworldly. Almost part of our world, but not at all… it's the calm before the storm that is life hits them in the fact!! x

  11. Skip says:

    Nick, I am in floods of tears. Such a beautiful story, written so lovingly. Enormous congratulations to you, Jo and Archie, and I hope you're having a lovely babymoon. Hope to see you soon. XXXX

    • mydaddycooks says:

      awwwwww thanks Skip. I didn't mean to make you cry!! Babymoon is very sleep deprived, I must say!!! Yes, I hope I can shed my title as crappest friend in the world very soon! xxxxx

  12. Twinkleberry says:

    Amazing! Your story has given me goosebumps. What a lovlely little girl she is – enjoy this time with her cuddling up to you!

  13. @JanMinihane says:

    Awesome post Nick, well done you for sharing it – you should seriously pass it on to the NCT etc, such a positive, real, story that will inspire others!

  14. Cat1976 says:

    What a beautiful birth, you've actually reduced me to tears! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Congratulations to all of you, looking forward to seeing Matilda assisting Archie in the kitchen in the future!!

  15. Sharon Spink says:

    What a beautiful account of what sounds like a very beautiful day. Congratulations to the both of you once again.

  16. @Mrs_PickIe says:

    What a wonderful story – I have a huge lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. x

  17. Emma Boulton says:

    Literally in tears Nick. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. X

  18. geekmummy says:

    What a lovely story. It is great to hear about the birth experience from the Dad's point of view.

    Don't feel too bad about the Finlay thing – I'm sure it happens a lot more than you might think. Certainly my husband announced to the whole operating theatre that the geekdaughter was a boy when she came out. Then the midwife gently shook her head at him, and he corrected himself! :)

  19. Kat says:

    Such a lovely arrival, welcome to the world Miss Matilda xxx

  20. EmNZ says:

    What a beautiful story – has brought tears to my eyes as well! Lovely to hear a dad's point of view. We had a very easy, calm second birth after a intervention-heavy first birth and it really makes up for the first experience. Enjoy the newborn snuggles.

  21. Pagea says:

    Fantastic account, thank you! Home births rock! (As does Rachel as a middle name!)

  22. Anna says:

    Beautiful! I am so happy for you all. I had a home birth with Leo and it was a wonderful experience. I felt a deep inner calm, here in my own home, knowing that the people I loved would be with me throughout and for the first night with my baby. I was sure that my body knew what it was doing and it did me proud. I have just found out that I am pregnant again and definitely want another home birth.

  23. @RenBehan says:

    Oh Nick, I cried, then laughed, then cried, then laughed again reading this. It is such a lovely account, very real and emotional. I hope Matilda your precious little daughter is settling in well.

  24. Sue says:

    A beautiful account of your babys arrival into the world. Congratulations to you all again. Lovely to read it from the man's perspective…….I'm waiting with baited breath for a guest post by the lovely Jo, for her version of events.

    Sue xx

  25. monster says:

    Wow Nick, thanks for sharing your perspective of Matilda's wonderful arrival. Homebirth is definitely the way to go. it's interesting to hear how it went with Archie for a day-time birth, I have a feeling we'd have been in the same position with my boy, but were fortunate it all happened after he was asleep. Hope things are going well for you all.

  26. Matt says:

    Great posts these last two… as a soon to be dad my wife and I have chatted about homebirths. It's our first and I've not been 100% convinced although lots to mull on here. And birth t-shirt!!! Hadn't thought of that! Seems like I'm going to need a bag by the door too ;o)
    Congrats to you & yours

  27. Tina says:

    Such a wonderful story! Congratulations to you all and a huge welcome to Matilda.x

  28. pianoliz says:

    what a great story! I realise as I finished reading that I'd been holding my breath. Hope this will be an encouragement and reassurance for other parents. You and Jo must have been on Cloud 9 for ages afterwards. And what a relief Nick that you had time to choose the right t-shirt. One has standards after all… And I do hope that you've all since enjoyed much viewing of the Sword In The Stone

  29. Holly B says:

    Such a lovely story. Highly highly amusing mistaken identity! A very good father of the bride speech. x

  30. Estelle says:

    Wow, what a wonderful birth story. Many tears here too at your wonderful description. What a fabulous thing for your children to read as they grow.

  31. Amanda says:

    Nick, of course firstly congrats to all of you; takes a lot for me to get a tear in my eye but your description of that moment when Finlay Matilda became a person really did make my eyes water.
    And I had exactly the same experience of wrong sex with my husband. We already had a three year old boy and when our second was born his exact words were 'that's definitely not a girl'. It didn't take as long for the midwife to put him right, but methinks it may be a 'dad' thing – you know what they say about men and their bits! He made the same mistake as you, and was delighted when the midwife corrected him.

    keep posting pics of the gorgeous Matilda and can't wait to see her in the kitchen!

  32. @mammydoula says:

    Fabulous story. Reminds me of what I tell my dads "If you think the baby's hung like a donkey's donkey's donkey… that's the umbilical cord".

    There is nothing lovelier than leaving my clients tucked up in bed with their babies.

    Congratulations again. What a wonderful birth.

  33. Rachel says:

    I feel very emotional reading your story. Well done to all of you and welcome to the world Matilda.

  34. I think that is one of the best blog posts I have ever read! It made me laugh, cry, gasp & laugh again! Cx

  35. You can't beat a home birth that goes like that and indeed there's nothing better than getting into your own ed afterwards as a family. Both mine born at home also by an IM called Jane. Possibly the same one as we are in the 3counties area. If so she was truly fab.

  36. Part 1 & part 2 best blog reading I've done in ages, been looking forward to them being published too. Huge congratulations to all of you & massive well done to Jo! You had me crying & laughing – kinda like parenthood itself! Enjoy your family of four & these extra special first weeks. Claire x

  37. Beautiful, just beautiful!

    xxx

  38. @robferrer says:

    Finally got round to reading this. What a wonderful story. You've also prompted me to add my homebirth story (also from a dad's perspective) to my blog. Quite different!: http://blog.robferrer.co.uk/2011/02/08/homebirth-

  39. A beautiful story – so glad you shared this. Just into my 2nd trimester and planning a homebirth too after a not good hospital experience for my first. I've sent this to my DP to help illustrate why it's such a good idea! And of course, a belated welcome to the world for little Matilda. Hope all is going well for you all.

  40. @pandcands says:

    Lovely story, really enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

  41. What a beautiful birth story and so nice to hear it from a Dads point of view for a change. As for getting the sex muddled up, my husband did the same with our daughter. We said that we wanted him to announce the babys sex so as she came out I asked, what is it? He said "it's a boy, no a girl, no I think it's a boy – ooh ooh is it a girl, hell I don't know" then the Doc finally announced we had a daughter. Those pesky cords can really get in the way ;-)

  42. Victoria says:

    Love these two diary entries. I had a home birth with my boy. My husband was in full support from the start, but he works in a hospital, so had great faith in our midwife. It was a good experience before, during the start of labour and after, but being my first one, I really wanted some painkillers at the end and had to do with gas and air. Overall I think home births rock!

  43. andmybaby says:

    Wow. Just wow. Thanks for posting, what an incredible experience. After reading that, I will consider a home-birth next time. I found the hospital experience was terrifying. It must have been amazing for Jo to know her midwife. Congratulations on your little girl : )
    Áine

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