“I`m sitting in the pool, embracing my Love to whom I`ve just handed over our born son. I`m crying from happiness, from relief, from something that has no name. Time has stopped. The miracle has happened and is happeing right here and now”.
Several days passed after home solo childbirth of our son Tamerlan, first troubles ended and I decided to write on the spot my impressions and conclusions about one of the most powerful and emotional experiences in my life. I would like this text to be read by men first of all: if my story of father- obstetrician inspires somebody for such an act, I`ll be happy. Don`t be afraid to criticize the usual ideas. “It is used to be like that” doesn`t mean that it must be so forever. Guys, now I know what I say, believe me!
Evolution of my attitude to home birth
I remember myself 5-7 years ago. When I heard about somebody who gave birth at home, I sincerely believed that they are clearly “not all there”, that they are sectarians or something. If somebody had told me that I`ll give birth with my wife at home, I would have twisted a finger at a temple and been offended just in a case)). So, I`m not “advanced” and super-conscious father at all as I can seem to be. No, I`m a usual man who was lucky to meet his fairy woman who persuaded me that I also can be involved in birth miracle. That it isn`t “awefully aweful” but rather the best what can happen with a man – to take your child in arms, to be with your beloved during this intimate process, become protector of birth space. For me it means to feel myself a Man!
My first child was born without my participation at the final stage. The participation ended with delivery of wife to maternity house) Everything was like everyone else: grey building, father is walking nervously under the window, one small shot or more with friends “for daughter`s birth” (while wife was in maternity house with a child), the solemn taking with flowers from lying-in hospital. No, you know, I was happy, but only now I understand that the best time, which will never repeat again, was literally stolen from me – time of birth and the first, the very first moments of presence with the new native person and your love. The wife was deprived of my support, protection of her space, joy of common experience. But then I didn`t know any of this, I didn`t know what Miracle and Magic had passed me by. Hearing groaning in a handset, looking at your baby from the street outside the ward, somehow having no rights to be near in the most important minutes and hours of your (!) family`s life – who said it is right?!
When Lucy told about her personal experience of partnered births with her first husband for the first time I was amazed like that girl from the joke: “Is it really possible or what?” In fact I have never thought that father is able and “needable” to participate. To be near in maternity house during all process, support, calm, take on the communication with doctors and nurses, so much more dad can make. And then to be near in the moment of birth, take your child in hands right now. I scrolled it through the head gradually recognizing that this variant is absolutely natural and more logical than traditional. But it turned out that this isn`t the limit of the depth of the father’s participation in the mystery of birth).
In Indian state Goa, where we were spending winters the last few years, we learned about the possibility of home birth with a midwife. Our friend gave birth in our presence this way, we saw how natural everything was, how calm and relaxed the child and mother were. Of course, we also wanted the same: to give birth at home with a midwife. But the more we learned about this new theme for us, the less we saw the need for a special “birth attendant”, the less we wanted the presence of someone else in this intimate process. So quietly came the idea of so called solo births where the father plays the role of an obstetrician and assistant. In our case, our 9-year-old daughter took on the role of video and photo operator, person for bringing and taking away, for what we are very grateful!
I`m not going to show myself as a superman, I was afraid, of course, when I realized that I take on the responsibility, which is usually willingly passed on to doctors. I`m an anxious person in general, just let me and I’ll soon find out what to worry about. And here – a whole field for fantasies: suddenly something will go wrong, suddenly I`ll do something wrong, suddenly, suddenly, suddenly … Uncontrollability, uncertainty of events frightened. Hmm, in fact, we don`t control anything, we just live in a comforting illusion that hides this stern truth from us. But in childbirth this illusion disappears quickly. You should just let the situation go and do everything you can, following the hidden current of a more powerful process. This is the best thing you can do. But I’m so clever only now. And then, I confess honestly: it was a huge challenge to my courage, trust in Providence, self-confidence and the natural wisdom of my beloved woman.
This challenge was even stronger because two months before the expected date of birth we were going to change the known and familiar atmosphere of the beloved Goa to the unknown and distant Brazil. Giving birth in a distant country, that we didn`t know anything about, where they speak only Portuguese! We even didn`t know in advance in which part of the multimillion Brazil we`ll live. We only had tickets to Sao Paulo and … that`s all! For two months (what if the child decides to appear earlier?!) we needed to find a suitable town on the spot, rent a house and build a family nest in it, find out everything about the hospital (just in a case), to negotiate getting a birth certificate, and much more. A shitload of the uncertainty, you know. At the same time you have a very-very pregnant woman besides, who is moving with great difficulty and a 9-year-old child. After that, the solo birth looked not so frightening)) Hmm, such adventure.
We can be judged or considered as reckless, but from the very moment of the emergence of this idea, we were left with the deepest confidence in the correctness of the choice. You know, as if the child itself chose the place of its future birth and led us there. And all the events that followed showed that some higher forces invisibly helped us during all this difficult time: the right people appeared from nowhere, the most courageous dreams materialized. Everything happened at the right time and in the right place, it was worth to relax and trust what was happening. But I`ve run ahead) Let`s rewind the time back.
So, we decided – we give birth alone! It means, we need to prepare in full.
About our preparations to solo birth
Absolute tranquility of a sleeping baby
I know such parents who choose independent natural births, who rush to the other extreme: if this is natural, then it`s not necessary to prepare. Like, the Mother Nature will take care of everything. She, of course, will take care, but common sense hasn`t been canceled. I like the other proverb more: “God helps those who help themselves.” Otherwise it happens that we conceal the responsibility of doctors and don`t take it for ourselves.
We wanted to be maximally informed about the “mechanics” of pregnancy and the birth process, about the advantages and disadvantages of independent births, about possible complications, about the signs of the need for hospitalization, etc. After all, only in this case it is possible to make a truly informed choice, based on all available information, the results of scientific researches and the experience of many other married couples.
We read through many books on the theme of home births. The more we read, the more convinced we were that childbirth at home isn`t the irresponsible whim of crazy parents, but a natural consequence of wanting to take care of the most important event in life of each family. If you want, we can write a complete list of books that we`ve read, 3 sources were very helpful for me personally as a future obstetrician)).
1) The amazing book of François LeBoyer “Birth Without Violence”. This French doctor managed to go beyond the usual scheme: “the doctor (subject) – the patient (object)” and literally feel how it feels to be a newborn. He makes a comparison of traditional births in the hospital with natural in extremely poetic language. I was amazed at how much suffering and harm is caused to the baby in childbirth because of beliefs rooted in maternity care. You read and wonder: “It’s so obvious! Why don`t we see this? “The most surprising thing is that the effect of reading is reminiscent of the effect of communicating with a wise person, Teacher, or reading the books of truly enlightened Masters.
2) The book “The Father`s Home Birth Handbook “. Here is a huge man’s thanks to the author Leah Hazard for his attention to the topic of dad’s participation in childbirth. The book is structured very logically and correctly: one or another aspect of childbirth is examined in turn, which will certainly excite every future father, a detailed comment is given. What’s the most cool – here are some stories on this topic, told from the first person by real dads. I was very touched and inspired by personal experience, that was frankly shared by such men like me. I saw that not one faced these fears, doubts. I was inspired by the fact that no matter how difficult the birth may be, all fathers unequivocally declared that this experience of direct participation in childbirth was the most powerful and magical event in their life and the life of their family.
By the way, it`s funny that this book was recommended to me by one of my acquaintances, who just happened to take birth in his wife. Our occasional short meeting in Izhevsk encouraged me: “Kolya, everything is simple there! Just put your hands on time!” This half-joking advice strangely defused the tension that had accumulated in me from the moment of making the decision to give birth at home without a midwife. Here he is standing in front of me, a living proof that the guy was able to take birth and now enjoys it like a lucky duck.
3) Midwife Zlata in Goa. We turned to this wise and experienced woman because of the recommendation of our friend, who had Zlata as the midwife. We are very glad that we`ve met her. First we asked for an individual consultation, after that I personally felt much calmer. Zlata described in detail all the stages of the birth process, busily explained our actions in case of complications, answered our questions. And all this in a simple and understandable human language, without science-like and catchy verbal momentum. After that, before leaving Goa for Brazil, we managed to go to her for a few group classes and felt that we knew enough to feel confident.
So, theoretical and sometimes even practical training was passed. We were preoccupied with all sorts of accessories, herbal preparations, oils, etc. Our baby wasn`t born yet, and his things had already taken half a dozen! The day of departure came, and we left such a customary and familiar Goa. The adventure began!
How we built “birth home” in Brazil
I won`t talk here in detail about our adventures in Brazil, if it`s interesting – read all the chapters of our Brazilian diary, which will be published soon. I only say how grateful we are for everything turned out that way. We constantly felt being led and guarded. Countless times help and support came in desperate situations simply magically. We met in Brazil so many kind and sympathetic people, without whose participation we couldn`t settle down so quickly and comfortably.
Illumination. Early morning in Paraty. The day before the birth.
As a result we were blown with a fair wind on the amazing colonial seaside town Paraty, rented a wonderful two-storey house in its picturesque area of Jabaquara and began to “build a birth home”, as I like to say. Houses are leased here completely empty, so you can imagine how much effort and money we spent to furnish it, decorate it, making it worth of our long-awaited guest. We bought and brought furniture, household appliances, painted walls, sheathed the lining, sewed curtains. We laughed at ourselves: Lucy, like an inveterate housewife, became a seamstress and needlewoman, while I was mastering on the fly the new professions of an electrician and a carpenter. So the kid taught and developed us at an accelerated pace. Guys, we haven`t floundered since the birth of “Bodhi”, I guess, we love to work under a very strict deadline)) Lusy made the last joint bicycle tour to the city for decoration materials literally with recent moral and volitional efforts.
And then, a month later everything was ready and we began to wait. To speak the truth, our entire world to the last 9th month had shrunk to our cozy cottage, we just “dumped” everything else. We simply didn`t have any time and energy on the “Bodhi”, although it always demands attention to itself. Probably some of our friends and relatives felt deprived. But, you know, there was a clear feeling that this self-isolation was very natural and needed that time. We were like sending all saved energy to our family, each other, to the future of the birth space. And it was being filled up gratefully and acquiring its unique atmosphere of home comfort and tranquility.
Although the estimated date of birth was February 2, Lucy was sure for some reason that the baby would be born earlier. Or maybe she was just very tired in the last month and really wanted to believe in an early birth)) The heat was strong, the 9th month began to “please” Lusy with various ills. It was really hard for her, so we started to wait much in advance, what also took away our strength. But when will it start finally?!!!
Home birth: how we were taking it
And it all started not like by everyone else)) I guess, Lusy can`t be like everyone else in anything. In the evening of January 29 regular contractions began with an interval of 6-7 minutes. Still, we tried to get some sleep, but we failed. We got up very excited and obviously nervous and began to prepare. I went to inflate the pool and fill it with water, Lusy made up and dressed up, prepared everything for photo-video shooting. Amely was allowed to sleep before the actual events begin. Lusy went moaning, I didn`t know what to do with myself. The pool was being filled, I made postpartum tea, brewed the infusion for bathing the baby. My wife let me go to sleep, she said like I was useless, that I was driving her mad with my nervous look. Nothing about sleep. I was already tight as strings, I was laying and listening to the sounds in silence.
In short, these regular contractions had almost stopped by the morning! The child, you see, changed its mind! We had literally an hour to sleep and decided to go to the beach in early morning to stimulate birth activities. Well, at least the pictures at dawn turned out to be awesome. Yes, yes, don`t forget, my wife is a crazy photographer! A normal woman would moan at home and complain, and this one begun to take pictures of the morning surface with the ships. Well, we went for a walk, the contractions disappeared completely, we went to sleep. I hurriedly went to the store for a weekly batch of products (as luck would have it, all the supplies had come to an end by that time). Contractions didn`t resume on that day, we felt tired and deceived. We didn`t know what to think and to do. But there were nothing we could do about. The kid continued to teach us patience and humility.
And, it seems, we learned the lesson quickly. The next night we slept peacefully, but in the early morning something like woke me up. I opened my eyes and saw that Lucy wasn`t nearby. I found her on the ground floor walking around the house with concentration in all seriousness. Let’s go, she said, to “walk” the birth pains to the sea. Well, to the sea so to the sea. The script had been worked out yesterday. We walked to the beach and back. No, the “walk” – too light-hearted word, having the meaning of a flying gait, a fluttering dress and something like carefree-airy. Our “walk” was more like a short rush from contraction to contraction. She was slouching her shoulders and breathing with a groan. My sweet was hurt. My heart was bleeding, but I couldn`t do anything! Again the same lesson: let it go and humble yourself.
We returned, had breakfast, Amely was still asleep. Contractions continued, but the regularity was somehow unobvious. We decided to go swimming in the ocean, everything is easier in the water, and the walk will stimulate the plot unfold (we didn`t want yesterday’s bummer with stopping the contractions). There was noon, the sun was beating down, we were like wounded fighters crawling along the coast in search of a place where you could lie in the water and shadows. But the sun reached its zenith, it was problematic to find a shadow. As a result, we were stamping along the coast for 40 minutes and, finally, laid down like crocodiles in shallow water, sometimes crawling away into the shadow.
Lucy is hinting that it’s time for someone to go out. The day before the birth.
Lucy was laying relaxed in the water on the swimming board, I fed her on apples and gave her water. Why we were so carefree, I can`t say now. As if we knew the exact time of future birth. I marked that Lusy had too much frequent and regular contractions . Let`s go home, I said. I put her on a board, carried a knapsack and towed my love like a hauler tows a loaded barge along the Volga. The last meters to the house were very difficult, we stopped every 3 minutes.
Only later, when we already gave birth, we undestood all the idiocy of our carefree decision to walk a kilometer from the house before the childbirth. After all, we didn`t take any cloth. We were preparing, yeah… As our favorite family proverb says: “I was sailing and sailing and sh**ed myself on the shore”.
In one word, glory to all the Higher Powers that held birth until our return home. There were all chances to give birth on the road. Here it is – conscious parenthood in all its glory!
No sooner Lucy got in the shower, her water broke. She had just made up her hair, made a haircut, set up the camera, I`d just prepared the pool for refilling with hot water, closed the tea cup with post-partum tea and, I remember, I`d even lit some incense … here it began!
heard a wolfish growl: “KOLYAAAA !!!” I saw my dear on all fours, sorry for the details, with a semi-dressed skirt (She wanted to show off being naive) and she was looking at me SO that my heart went right through my feet. We barely got into the pool, I barely managed to sprinkle the sea salt as Zlata taught. The extremely painful final contractions (as it became clear later) began. Since I promised to describe in the first person (Lucy will tell what she wants), I write about my impressions and experiences. It`s very difficult to find words, this experience is too strong and multifaceted. Part of me did all necessary (as it seemed to me that time), I said some words of encouragement, touched, breathed with Lucy.
And in the midst of the process, when Lucy rolled her eyes in a short period between the last and most painful contractions and whispered that she was losing consciousness, and I began to search smelling salt, I suddenly fell into a strange state. I don`t know how to describe it. As if I became so much calm and sensitive at the same time.
I saw the child coming out slowly. It was so much beautiful!!! I couldn`t stop watching! It was such harmonious dance of my beloved and child with music, which obviously was quietly sung by the Nature itself. First the head appeared, a long pause, millimeter slips, then the soft turn of the body and the shoulders stand as they should. Time almost stopped, everything stopped, all the sounds calmed down. He was coming out. With the fourth attempt, after the shoulders came out, my son slipped under the water in my hands.
I immediately gave him to his mother, sat down behind her and we watched in fascination as the baby shouted several times in a few seconds after coming out the water and began to breathe on its own. I understood his language, he complained a little that there was cramped, he was very tired and confused. Lusy was stroking his body in lubrication, kneeling. He calmed down and got quiet. Mom allowed Amely to stop shooting and sister was able to touch her brother. What happened right now? It’s a miracle, an incredible Miracle. Fascinating, beyond the human understanding. I only recognized with my entire being that I had witnessed Magic, it was streaming and happening in my presence, with my participation. I was finally and irreversibly smitten. I remember, I even cried, but still don`t know what about. Lucy and me looked at each other without words, only glances. Love, tranquility and peace are everywhere. Peace is everywhere. We feel good…
We weren`t in a hurry. It was like the time didn`t exist yet, so it was impossible to hurry by definition. Amely and I gave to mother chocolate and a post-partum tea with honey while she was sitting with her son in the pool. Then I prepared a bath with warm water and herbal infusion right next to the pool. The kid got warm and relaxed.
The first bathing of our “horse”
When the placenta was finally born, I washed it and put it in a nice special basket. Now she had to feed her owner in the new status for some time. We slowly finished all postpartum procedures and continued to enjoy each other.
Lucy organized a photo session in hot pursuit, of course)) I saw a happy woman in front of me, she was tired but still keeping up strength and energy.
The first family photo with new members. 3 hours after birth.
We all looked at each other and only cheerfully asked in a whisper: “What just happened? Who is this here? ”
What is the role of a man in solo birth
It was the emotional side of the process, and now I want to explain the technical side separately. Namely – exactly what my functions as a solo partner were. When I realized that it was me who was to assume the role of a midwife, I was very concerned about how I can cope without special education and experience. Childbirth – it’s so difficult! So, the main thing that I understood finally: giving birth is much easier than it seems. Nature has taken care of everything so deeply and comprehensively that you see indeed: the less you interfere, the better everything will pass.
The pool is being filled, the tea is being brewed. Full alertness.
So, here’s a short list of my tasks:
- To prepare the pool: to inflate, to fill, and to monitor the comfort temperature.
- To provide light food and plenty of drink before and after childbirth. It`s important to prepare everything in advance so you wouldn`t be distracted at the most intense time.
- To prepare a bath for a newborn: to draw water and to brew herbal infusion.
- To work the placenta after the coming out: to wash, to check the integrity, to put it in the basket. We decided to stick to the so-called “Lotus” birth, when the child remains attached to the umbilical cord for several days until the placenta drains its resources and the umbilical cord falls away naturally.
- To alleviate the suffering in the contractions as much as possible and at Lucy`s wish. Back massage, for example. Well, there’s not much you can do, not always a woman can let you in when the pain is acute. It can be very difficult to find the right words of encouragement and support, after which they won`t wish to kill you. I wasn`t good in it as it turned out later)) Lusy said that I was talking in such a boring and calm tone at the hottest hour that I’d better keep silent). In general, here’s my advice of the “experienced”: sometimes the best thing you can do nothing) Just be close, keeping a cold mind, but an open heart, being ready to act when it`s necessary.
But what I did NOT do exactly: I did NOT take birth. That is, I didn`t make any active manipulations during the birth process. I didn`t measure the opening of the cervix, didn`t turn the head in coming out, even didn`t touch the baby until the time of full birth. Of course, I was ready to act if it was necessary, prepared for different scenarios, but all this, thank God, we never had to use. I was just nearby, though I brought smelling salt a couple of times)
Everything turned out exactly as my friend said: “Just put your hands under!” In my case, you shouldn`t even put the hands, the child slipped under the water in the pool, so he couldn`t hurt himself.
So why do you need a partner in childbirth?
- A) for your woman
- B) for yourself
- C) for your “We”.
It`s more logical to let Lucy comment the first aspect, of course. Who else can assess, where exactly I was useful or wasn`t at all)). She already published her report. I personally think that in addition to the purely technical benefits of having assistant, it is easier to give birth to a child with a partner. To know you aren`t alone, that your loved one cares about you and is always near – it really helps you to feel safer.
For me, as a man, the importance of participation in childbirth can`t be overemphasized. I fully experienced the male aspect of my nature, getting real pleasure from it. I felt physically how I create and protect a safe space where my Woman can perform a miracle.
Well, the third reason to give birth together is strengthening and deepening of your Union. It`s difficult to find words how much stronger and more difficult becomes the connection between a man and a woman after the partnered birth. You together had invited a new person 9 months ago and together met his birth with dignity. Your “We” became even more alive, more multifaceted, even more complete. On the first day after birthday Zlata asked us not to hurry and to fall in love with each other again. This is true, we have fallen in love again, this experience has changed us both.
Myths about dad’s participation in childbirth
This is my favorite. I already confessed that I didn`t see value of man`s participation in childbirth. To speak the truth, I just didn`t think about it, preferring to use soothing stereotypes that are very common in the society. It seems they sound so right. But when I started asking myself questions honestly, I discovered that only my male fears are hidden behind these cliches.
MYTH # 1: “If a man sees his woman in childbirth, then his sexual attraction to her weakens”
Very popular statement! Where does it come from? I really want to talk with one man at least who was experienced in childbirth and got such a psychological trauma because of what he saw that he began to sleep on a couch separately. Introduce him to me, please! Forgive me for intimate details but my libido didn`t suffer at all)) I`m looking, for example, at this photo on the right and envy myself!)) By the way, at that time I was in the so-called hottest point of the process. In partnered births with a doctor-obstetrician nobody asks a man to look between his wife’s legs. Though I personally don`t understand these prejudices: it`s an absolutely natural process, far from causing any negative emotions, but, on the contrary, giving unique experiences in contemplating the beauty and wisdom of Nature.
MYTH # 2: “It’s psychologically difficult for a man to stand a childbirth”
Goddammit! When I hear it from my acquaintances, I really want to shout: “Isn`t it difficult for your woman to give birth? Psychologically, man, and physically! It’s hard for him! And what about her?” Of course, it’s hard to look at the wife screaming during contractions and feel unable to alleviate her suffering any way. In general, it`s difficult just to let the control. The sooner you understand that the best way is to relax and let go, the easier it will go. And what`s more, the nature itself has already taken care of the participants` psyche in birth – thanks to the hormone “oxytocin”, which is produced not only by the mother but by her partner in childbirth too. Inside the process, you fall into a kind of altered state of consciousness, in which everything is perceived quite naturally. And nature itself took care of the preservation of the psyche of the participants in labor – thanks to the hormone “oxytocin”, which is produced not only by the mother but her partner in childbirth. Within the process you are like in altered state of consciousness where everything is seen quite naturally.
Yes, participation in childbirth is a challenge for every man. As, in fact, for a woman, don`t forget about it. And, in my opinion, meeting the challenge and adequately dealing with it – that’s what guys do! But not crawl into the bottle with friends for a week until the wife returns from a hospital.
MYTH # 3: “The man will only interfere”
You know, everything depends on correct preparation and attitude. If a man tries to faint time and again, panics, fusses, molests with words of encouragement (when it is required from him to be there in silence) or tries to control everything, giving out commands “push!”, it`s better to do without him. But a man can provide invaluable support to his beloved, if he is ready in advance. In the hospital, he can take on all the contacts with the environment, which is the strongest stress factor for the woman in childbirth. He can fill in documentation, talk with a doctor, and call a nurse. A man can do massage, serve food and drinks, accompany in short walks, etc. Thus, he will give an opportunity to his beloved to focus on the main thing, protecting her peace and maintaining a resource state.
MYTH # 4: “It’s not a man’s business! From time immemorial women gave birth by themselves!”
Yeah-yeah, the mystery of the Women’s space, sacral intimacy, etc. etc. But I don`t see anything “sacral”, “intimate” in the maternity hospitals. And the obstetrician, man who skillfully manipulates between the legs of the parturient woman, doesn`t fit this statement, does he? Let’s be frank – we, guys, are just afraid. Because we are afraid of everything uncontrollable and mysterious that we don`t know.
To be fair, I note that women speak out against the presence of husbands during childbirth very often. And those are happy to agree: “She didn`t want to.” Sorry for the categorical, but I’m sure that this behavior of women has only one reason: she doesn`t want to let in exactly this man to herself at the most important moment of her life. Well then, in this union there is no true intimacy, trust, desire to share all the joys and sorrows together. This decision of a woman is like a litmus test for assessing your intimacy in a relationship.
Instead of conclusion
When I was writing this article, it was already the 6th day of our Tamerlan`s life in this world. I see how calm and relaxed he is. No hypertonus, no crying–screaming, convulsive twitching. I`m happy we help him to come to us in a very peaceful and ecological way. Everything happened naturally, we just didn`t interfere. It was so easy!
I am thankful to Lucy, Tamerlan, Amely, to everything and everyone for this amazing experience in my life. I feel that I`ve done something very good and right in my life.
I wish so much as many future fathers as possible counter the problem of prejudices, artificial fears and finally to recover the right to be a full participant in the most important event in the life of the family – the birth of a child. It will change your life, I promise.
That`s all, guys, I`m going to Tamerlan to admire how beautiful he is sleeping.
Write to me, I`ll be happy to answer all questions!
P.S. Don`t miss Lusy’s article on the topic of home births and her description of this amazing event in our lives.