Doing the deal
Richard Storch tells how homebirth contributed to the joy of welcoming his son to the world.
After six and a half years together, and not a sound from Mary, I was begging for a child to be conceived. Mary wasn't. Men don't have a biological clock - right? - WRONG. Mine was booming like Big Ben. I blame my niece for that, Ellen supplied me with copious quantities of unconditional love. That will set off any man's biological clock.
After protracted (2 years) discussion - negotiation, some coercion and lots of persuasion, I was presented with Mary's "suggestions" on how to proceed.
a) "You will have to show me HOW you can be much more useful around the house".
b) "Home birth".
c) "Pre-natal classes" (I slept through most of the classes - no reflection on either).
d) "Time off for exercise classes and walking every day."
e) Suggested reading list" (lengthy).
f) "New bathroom" (with bath deep enough to birth in).
I'm sure any resemblance to an ultimatum was quite unintentional. Knowing that nothing would ever be the same again, I accepted these conditions, sorry, "suggestions".
Then there were the objections:
My mother said - "Do you think its the right thing to do?" I replied, "It's not what I think that's important but what Mary thinks is important". My Mother said "But you've got a say too." I said, "But I'm wise enough not to say it." And then I said, "but perhaps you'd like to say something to her?"
My father's reaction was, "There's a hospital so why not use it?" I generously repeated my offer to "take it up with Mary." We also had very strong reactions from my mother's friends - who had been nurses - about all the things that could go wrong. That created quite a lot of pressure.
I feel good that this all happened the way it did because, like most men given the chance, I would have withdrawn from the situation, feeling awkward and useless. Instead I was committed and involved 100% immediately and sometimes feeling awkward, useless and so on. A player, not the match winner, but important nonetheless! Definitely not a spectator.
My son was as punctual as ever. He was conceived on the first invitation and commenced his arrival on the stroke of midnight the day he was due. Mary woke me at 6 am telling me she was in pre-labour and called Akhal, our midwife, who arrived at about 11 am. and matter of factly told me labour hadn't started as Mary screamed her lungs out.
This was NOT reassuring to me. As the day wore on and then the night I actually did very little apart from some Reiki, massage, and gofering. I phoned all the relations, reassured the neighbours that no one was being murdered, went to the shops - and WORRIED about everything, particularly about all the things I hadn't gotten around to worrying about!!
Mary seemed to particularly need the empathy and support of Margaret (her sister support) and Akhal. I saw very quickly that to be truly supportive I would have to remain in the background, which was something of a relief.
After 9 pm I was starting to ask the midwife
Q. Is this okay? A. Yes.
About 5 minutes later Q. Is Mary OK? A. Yes.
About 4 minutes later Q. How long? A. Silence.
About 3 minutes later Q. HOW LONG CAN THIS TAKE? A. Shrug.
About 2 minutes later Q. IS THERE A PROBLEM? A. NO.
Finally, in desperation Q. HOW AM I DOING? A. A pat on the shoulder, a smile, then she said "You're both doing fine".
Ah. What I didn't ask was "should I warm up the car?"
I realise now how supportive her tough responses were. I know if she had talked more, I would have worried more. By 3 am the labour had slowed to a crawl, and l decided to have a cat nap, and slept until 6 am. WOW did it start again.
I can't really describe how I felt about watching Mary in labour pain, other than it just deepened my respect and admiration, and those sort of things, that I have for her as a person. I still marvel at her endurance, and strength.
Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty and glory of my son's presence, and the elation and joy I began to feel. When I look at him even now I still feel it. I know that the birth and its form were important steps in our connection.
There was one connection that had to be severed though - the umbilical cord. As I cut the cord I felt a contraction in my testicles like a kind of electrical shock. I believe this was an important action on a level I can't explain, and don't fully understand.
A friend said to me "When you first hold your child it will be the biggest thing in your life". I couldn't grasp what he meant - until it happened. Now I do, and I agree. After a few photos the three of us went to bed, had some food, and slept and slept and slept. Mary's sister, Therese, looked after us totally for a week afterwards, and then Rohan's godmother, Melissa, took over. Akhal came every morning for 10 days afterward to show Mary how to feed, change etc. And I just gazed at my son and felt love for hours, days, ever since really.
We've talked to a couple of doctors and Mary described her labour. They have all said in hospital she may have had a caesarean section. For me this would have meant days visiting hospital, going back to work or hanging around at home - in essence, separation. I don't doubt that it would have lessened my connection with Rohan. I would probably love him no less, but I would have been denied at least some of the experience, and wonder, of his being and love.
My advice for any man about homebirth is - DO IT. JUST DO IT.
Like any individual experience, you're called on to contribute more in planning, preparation etc., and the dividends are commensurate. There isn't that much to do during the birth except most importantly to BE THERE, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
IF you don't know what I'm talking about BELIEVE ME, YOU WILL (when you have your baby). It's an opportunity to establish a connection with your child and deepen the one you have with your wife, which is peerless.
JUST BE THERE.
The midwife mentioned in this story is available for homebirths, or to go with parents to hospital for their birth. It's not only obstetricians who have visiting rights at maternity hospitals. You can call Akhal on (02) 9660-2127.
I am also a member of AIMS - Association for Improvements in Maternity Services,. AIMS lobbies for the rights of parents to choose the place and manner of birth, to have accurate information, and to be treated with respect during pregancy and childbirth. They also support parents with complaints about poor maternity care. The address for AIMS is PO Box 977 Lismore 2480.
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