by Thomas P.
When I found out that Prudence was pregnant I was happy and overwhelmed at the same time. Sophie is our first child. After enjoying life as a married couple for 5 years, the thought that everything is about to change was daunting at first.
As a man, I did not give the actual birth process any thought. Initially, my wife’s thoughts on birth were: “I’m going to have a c-section; I don’t want to deal with this.”
Leading up to the due date we participated in the prenatal courses offered by the hospital. The nurse talked about what they do and what one can expect. We learned useful things, like where to go when the baby comes, what the procedures are etc. They showed videos and animations, explained the terms and language that they use and so on. They also passed some of the equipment around. I remember looking at the plastic hook that they use to break the water thinking: “o.k. I guess that’s what they use…” Even though questions were encouraged, nobody in the audience ever said a thing. I subconsciously felt that there is another side to the whole story, but I did not know the right questions to ask. So what do you do? As the man, you just shut up and hope they know what they are doing.
When Prudence started prenatal yoga the idea of natural childbirth sparked. The more Prudence read about childbirth the more she leaned towards a natural birth. At that point, I still did not know anything more about the details. I just went along with her decisions. The idea of having a doula at our side sounded logical to me. A trained person, familiar with childbirth to support the mother… I thought, “Great, she can do all the things I should do, but don’t know how to do… ”
Heidi came to our house a few months before the due date. We got to know each other and we talked about the actual day, our expectations, what she does, etc. I felt a lot more at ease. I also felt that Prudence was in good hands with Heidi on our side.
Heidi also recommended a short weekend course, taught by a doula* on natural childbirth. It was a valuable experience. We learned a lot, from pain management techniques to the stages of labor. The teacher was very open, natural and down to earth. We also discussed when medical intervention is necessary and when not. I started to feel a lot better prepared for what was coming ahead than in the beginning.
Prudence went into labor early in the morning. As the contractions came stronger, regular and more frequent we called Heidi. She arrived shortly after that at our house. Heidi was very calm and worked with Prudence to deal with the contractions. After 2 hours Prudence felt we should go to the hospital. She was in good spirit but felt it was time. At the hospital, Prudence was put into triage. With only one person allowed to give the mother company in the tiny triage room, Heidi stayed with Prudence and I waited outside. After a while we swapped. For some reason, it took the hospital a while to admit us, even though there was no doubt that Sophie was going to be born that day.
My wife’s OBGYN could not be reached and so it came that the resident doctor took her place. She was told of Prudence’s choice to deliver naturally. Yet the first thing she said was: “Hi, my name is Dr. S________. I am going to rupture your membrane and then we will give you a room.” At this point, Prudence had already changed her disposition and wasn’t in a state to discuss with the doctor. I dared and asked politely why it was necessary to break the water at this point. The doctor told me in a very condescending manner that the reason for breaking her water was: “because she’s in labor.” I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but who am I to argue – I’m a man. In a diplomatic way, I made her hold off until we got admitted to a room. When we moved to the room, Heidi could be with us again. She was of great help when it came to communicating with the hospital staff. The resident doctor was not used to natural birth. Being a man in the labor and delivery ward is like being part of the furniture. Having a competent doula makes sure one does not get pushed over by some doctor that wants to push his or her routines.
Sophie was born without complication. She was even born in her amniotic fluid sack – a rarity in these days. It was the first time that this resident doctor had seen a child being born without any medical intervention. Without Heidi on our side, the birth experience could have gone in a complete opposite direction.
I will always remember this day as the most beautiful moment in my life.
*The class is taught by a certified childbirth educator who is also a birth doula.