Is the Fairy Tale Real? The Truth About Dads at Birth

by Liz Derry, CPM, LM

 (This post when first published online was originally titled "WHAT CAN A DAD DO? FATHERHOOD DURING LABOR, BIRTH, AND BEYOND". )

[an aside as I repost this, when this was originally written I had a few comments about these images and ideas presented being merely a fairy tale.  The truth is, that I see these type of images and behaviors between laboring couples more often than not.  When couples are well supported in their wishes and being watched over by a midwife they trust, it is amazing what happens.  I have also seen dads and moms connect and work together with love in well supported hospital births with a doula present.  Even the most reluctant dad when he feels safe and secure and when he sees that is wife needs him can be there for his wife.  Not all dads are the same.  They each have their own style of support.  This is perfect.  Each mom is different as well, and the father of her child is uniquely suited to help her. I will repost soon the post that talks about ways Dad can help support Mom.]

Today the majority of babies are born to moms and dads in hospitals. A large percentage of these moms will have epidurals. Many of these labors and births will involve mom laying in bed resting, watching tv, surfing the internet, giving the play by play on Facebook. All while Dad does the same. There is very often little interaction between mom and dad leading up to the birth of their baby, and the extent to which dad plays a part is often left to merely being the designated cord cutter.

It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, I truly believe it shouldn't be that way. Labor and birth should be a time of intimacy and love between mother and father that strengthens their bond and helps them enter parenthood closer than ever.  

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It should be a time that husband can marvel at the strength and beauty of his amazing wife, and wife can feel safe in the warmth of her husbands arms. A time that is filled with whispered words of I love you, tender kisses, and deep embraces.

Labor is an opportunity for dad to trust his wife completely. A time to show this trust by not trying to fix her problems or take her pain away, but to walk through it with her. It is a time for him to be completely there for her, without distraction. It is a time for him to support her in ways that only he can.

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Each mother and father are unique. Their relationship similar to that of others yet different in the details. Husband does not have to be someone different for his wife while she labors and births. In fact the very things she loves about him, the reasons that she has chosen him to walk beside her in life, are the things she most needs from him as she works hard to bring their child into their arms. What she needs more than anything else is to have him there for her 100%.

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As they take this journey together, and come to the other side, with the birth of their child, their love for each other will be overflowing.

In that moment that they have transformed from husband and wife to mother and father, they will look at their new baby with wonderment and awe at what they have accomplished together.

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When dad has been an integral part of the labor and birth of his baby, he can't help but want to play an active part in caring for his little one. With the renewed respect and admiration he has for his wife he can't help but look at her with a reverence that filters into their daily lives.

Labor and birth is not just about having a baby. Labor and birth is about making a family. It is about making a strong mother and father who trust each other completely, and will weather the storms of parenthood and life together no matter how strong the winds blow. 

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People often ask why couples choose to give birth naturally without epidurals or other chemical pain relievers. They ask why couples choose to birth with midwives outside of the hospital at home or at birth centers.

If they truly understood what birth could be, if they saw the bonds that form, the love that grows, and the strength and beauty that blossoms out of unhindered birth between a mother and father, they would ask instead why doesn't everyone want to birth this way?

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(all images in this blog post provided by Tiffani Cisneros with www.tiffcphotography.com) 

The Birth of Seraphina: A Soundbirth (Written by her Mom, Sandra)

     Two days before the birth of our daughter,(September 30th), Spirit was trying to send me messages, in the form of dragonflies. A lot of dragonflies flew through our yard and the meaning of dragonflies is that change and transformation is about to happen. I also had decided on a name for our baby that same day, which we had not known the gender. Seraphina, that is all I had decided on, no name if it was a boy. She knew and agreed and thus was ready to embark on her journey with us on earth.

Midwife Liz listening to baby's heartbeat with a handheld doppler.   Image provided by Shanna Wright Photography

Midwife Liz listening to baby's heartbeat with a handheld doppler.

Image provided by Shanna Wright Photography

        When my water broke on the 1st of October at 10 pm, I really felt the need of nesting and making sure my house was tip-top. But I did go to bed and slept very well until the early morning hour, arising with the sun, and feeling some mild contractions. Liz came by early to check on me and the little one that was about to enter this world. Around 4 pm I could feel that my contractions were different and I was called away, becoming less present during my contraction that were not mild anymore but a little stronger. Whapio states that the waves of contractions repeat with increasing intensity and frequency and the Mother is swept toward the Unknown. I was still very talkative in between my contractions but wanted peace during my contractions. I was ready to get into the birth pool and by this time, Shanna my doula had arrived and Shar, who played her crystal bowls next to me has had also arrived.

 

Shar plaing the crystal bowls

Shar plaing the crystal bowls

I entered the birth pool at 5:55 pm (the meaning of 555 is that a change in your life path has just occurred and it is time for you to change too) and heard the crystal bowls playing and immediately went into a meditative state. Sitting on the raised part in the pool, with my legs apart and a relaxed body. I wanted to travel this stage by myself and was breathing through each contraction while listening to the crystal bowls, helping me enter this other realm of the altered state. While traveling this journey by myself, and needing this peace, everyone in attendance was so calm as well; I did not even realize they were there. I felt as if I was the center of the day, until Seraphina arrived. It was so primal, like in a Native American tribe. I was surrounded by all the wise women and I was in the center, feeling safe. I felt a shift, I knew something changed. I opened my eyes and visualized the area in front of me.

Sandra relaxing through labor in the birth pool moments before Seraphina was born  image provided by Shanna Wright Photography

Sandra relaxing through labor in the birth pool moments before Seraphina was born

image provided by Shanna Wright Photography

I became aware of the shift, got on all four and then held on to the side of the birth pool. My doula at this point knew as well and put my hair up, stroked my shoulders. This was the most intense part of this whole journey, and at one point I wanted to yell out that I cannot do it anymore (I think I did yell out, unaware of what was said). But instead I remember all the toning I practiced during my pregnancy. I moaned and did not care! A woman should not care, as toning is so helpful during labor. The moaning really helped! I was so thankful for Shanna to have read my Mantra “I’m opening up in sweet surrender to this beautiful baby in my womb. I’m opening up in sweet surrender to this beautiful baby in my womb. I’m opening. I’m opening”.

I knew at this point, this is it, and knew baby is about to arrive. I was told to reach down and feel baby’s head; I did and felt her head. Had a contraction, I felt her head emerge and with another contraction I felt her body come out, at 6:20 pm. Instinctively, I turned to ‘Welcome’ our new baby. Pulled her up onto my chest and was relieved that this stage was over. Dad was right there and watched as his daughter entered this world.

moments after baby was born... "It's a girl!"  image provided by Shanna Wright Photography

moments after baby was born... "It's a girl!"

image provided by Shanna Wright Photography

I was speechless; when we found out she was a GIRL. The love hormone surrounded me and our new daughter and I was in so much LOVE with her. I sat there quietly for a few minutes, called my mother in Germany. Shar continued to play her crystal bowls and it was so beautiful. The boys came into the room to welcome there new sister. Tears of joy and awe filled the room, as they observed their sister and touched her.

big brothers meet baby sister for the first time  image provided by Shanna Wright Photography

big brothers meet baby sister for the first time

image provided by Shanna Wright Photography

The placenta was ready to be delivered. After the delivery of the placenta, I got out of the pool and our little family was sitting together in the corner of our tiny bed, in awe and in love. From here on Seraphina has been showered with pure LOVE only.

Some reflection on my birth. I truly believe that I was meant to search the web for Soundbirth and find Nicole Lloyd, who is the owner of Soundbirth, which is based in Australia. Even though she lives that far away, we still connected, talked on the phone and are friends on Facebook. As I had a traumatizing childhood, and I was afraid that I would not open up and relax enough to birth our baby, I really believe that Spirit has lead me to Nicole and through Nicole, who encouraged me to have someone there to play crystal bowls live. I know Shar and she was the first person to come to mind and I am so happy that she agreed, this was her first time playing her crystal bowls at a birth. She brought different kinds of bowls, and one of them was the sacral one. I know my sacral chakra had been blocked and I did not want this to be in the way of the birth. I was happy that she brought the sacral bowl. I believe wholeheartedly that it helped me open up and relax to the core.

 

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How to make the best out of your hospital birth

Before the Hospital

  1. Do your homework.
    1.  Research the hospitals in the area and their common birth practices.  Do they have portable monitors for the laboring mother?  Do they have squat bars available for pushing? Do they have birth balls available?  What is the c-section rate?  How often do they use Pitocin or other medications to induce or augment labor?  Do they allow family members in the room for the labor and birth? Is there a limit to the number of family members. What is the nurse to patient ratio for the labor nurses. What is the experience of other people you know who have attempted a natural/ un-medicated childbirth
    2. Research your care provider.   How many other doctors are in his/her practice? What is the likelihood that he/she will be at your birth if you go into labor on your own? Are the other doctor(s) in the practice also friendly to natural childbirth options.  How does your doctor feel about natural childbirth? Will he/she allow mom to go into labor on her own, and how far past the due date will he allow her to go before talking about induction? How does your doctor feel about doulas?
    3. If possible, Hire a doula.  Local Corpus Christi doulas include:  Liz Derry with Bay Area Birth (361) 904-6868
    4. Avoid Induction if at all possible.  Ask your care provider early on in your pregnancy how far past your due date he/she is comfortable with you going.  It is important that he/she is supportive of your choice to let baby come when he/she is ready.  Remember, that even if the doctor is pushing for an induction, provided your baby is doing well, you still have the choice to refuse induction.  ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) describes post date pregnancy as beyond 42 weeks gestation.
    5. Labor at home as long as possible.  At home, Mom is able to move about freely, eat and drink to comfort, has only loved ones around, and is not restrained by tubes, wires and monitors.  Mom will be most comfortable laboring at home.  Labor at home until contractions are consistently 3 minutes apart (lasting 60 seconds or more) and starting to get a little closer, or, if you live 30 minutes or more away from the hospital, are consistently 3-4 min apart.  If mom starts showing other signs of transition, such as self-doubt, nausea/vomiting, head in to the hospital immediately.

After You Arrive At the Hospital

  1. Get the nurse on your side. Be nice to the nurse.  Ask her for her help.  Thank her for everything she does.  Praise her when she has done things well or gone out of her way.  Instead of saying things like: We want the baby with us at all times.  We want delayed cord clamping, etc.  Try saying: we were really hoping if everything is ok to keep baby in mom’s arms for the first hour after birth.  Could you talk to the other staff and help us make that happen? We have talked to our doctor ahead of time about delayed cord clamping, but were hoping you might be able to help us by reminding him prior to delivery that that is our desire?  We really want to have an un-medicated birth.  Anything you can do to help us with that would be wonderful!
  2. Get out of bed.  Even with the monitors on, you can typically do things like sit on a birth ball, stand or walk at the side of the bed, sit in a chair beside the bed, kneel in bed and lean over the edge or over the ball.
  3. Go to the bathroom frequently.  This gives you an opportunity to get out of bed more, and move around as much as possible. Ask the nurse to show you how to connect and disconnect the monitor to go to the bathroom and ask if it is ok if you do it yourself.
  4. Get permission to eat and drink from your doctor ahead of time if possible, and if not at least ask the nurse to get the ok for clear liquids while you are laboring.  You need them for energy.
  5. Ask for a heplock (a small plastic tube left in your vein and secured in place) for your IV instead of continuous IV fluids if at all possible.  This will give you more freedom of movement.