For my earlier births, it was always a given that my husband should and would be there. After all, it’s the norm these days compared back to even 100 years ago when birth was often a female-only event.
For several of our babies’ births, that’s exactly what we did. We attended the typical birthing classes together as we prepared for our first natural birth at a birth center, and later our first home birth. He learned about how he could support me and how I might be feeling. In labor, he would be nearby to make me laugh or hold my hand as I pushed our babies earthside.
But then came our fourth baby. We’d planned for him to be there, but sometimes life happens. During my last days of pregnancy, my entire family had the flu! Because we were planning a home birth, I decided to switch to the local birth center with my midwife to avoid the germs. Since no one wants to watch horribly ill children– even the Grandparents–we decided my husband should stay home with the kids.
While I felt nervous to labor without him and sad that he was missing his daughter’s birth, this birth actually ended up being my favorite birth! So much so that for our fifth baby’s birth, we purposely planned for him to join us downstairs– after the baby came out.
Why would I decide to have my husband absent for a birth?
He kinda hates birth. The birth process really stresses my husband out. The groaning noises, knowing he can’t really help me when things are intense, the fear of something going wrong. And, especially, the bleeding. My midwives are fully capable and always keep everything under control, but I can imagine it would be hard to watch a loved one uncomfortable and bleeding while having no control over the situation. For our fourth birth, he was content sitting at home with sleeping children while playing video games and letting us women do our thing at the birth center and receiving a call when she was born! He was less stressed and enjoyed the process more from a distance.
Since he was less stressed, so was I. My husband and I feed off of each other’s emotions. If he’s irritated about something, I pick that up easily just from being near him. Labor is no different; if he is feeling stressed and worried about me, I feel that worry too, which then can interfere with laboring and pain perception. Feeling safe and trusting our bodies is a huge psychological part of birthing! Not having him around meant that I could stress less about what he was thinking and feeling, and just focus on the task ahead with confidence.
I love having an all-women birth. Because I’d surrounded myself with supportive friends and caring midwives, I felt completely enveloped by women who trusted my body and birth process. The positive energy was tangible. I knew that each person present knew what I was experiencing and feeling, and they knew exactly what to say to encourage me when I needed it. They were in tune with me and knew how to help me cope in ways my husband couldn’t. As much as I love my husband, there was something magical about the way my best friend stroked my hair, much like my mother did as a child. I felt nurtured and instantly calmed to be able to surrender to the process. We called it our Red Tent Birth, based off the book by Anita Diamant, in which the women of the time join together in the red tent for their menstrual cycles and to give birth.
It was incredible and we chose to follow the same plan with our fifth baby– this time on purpose.
Sure, there are men who enjoy the process and want to be a part of the support team. Some partners are amazing at helping us mommas cope and use all the laboring skills taught in classes. But, I’ve learned that there is also value in asking our partners what they want in the birthing process. Some men genuinely don’t want to be there, but will if you want them to be, and that’s okay! It’s a good conversation to have to make sure everyone who’s invited into your birthing space is supportive and comfortable, because those unspoken fears can affect your laboring.
If for some reason your partner can’t be at your birth due to deployment or you’re embarking on a single mom gig– know that birth can still be amazing without having a partner present. It’s all about the support team and the environment you create! After all, it wasn’t that long ago that it was routine for men not to be in the room at all.
For much of history, birth was seen as a woman-only event. Things changed as OBGYN’s came into the birthing scene here in the United States and later in the 1960’s when fathers began being invited into the birthing room routinely. The beauty of this modern birthing world is the sheer number of choices we can make as we prepare for our best birth.