Birth & Parenting Series (8): A First-Time Papa’s Perspective on Birth Center Birth
This is part 8 of our Birth & Parenting Series.
Part 1 (Thoughts From a Mother of Four) is here, part 2 (Mother of Seven Shares Her Empowering Birth Stories) is here, part 3 (First-Time Mother of Twins) is here, part 4 (How First-Time Parents Braved a Placental Abruption) is here, part 5 (Childbirth Collective Doula Film Premiere) is here, part 6 (First-Time Mama Bravely Faces Transverse Baby & C-Section) is here, and part 7 (Homeschooling Mama Shares Her Path to Schooling) is here.
For the first time, we have the privilege of hearing about birth from the father’s perspective. This dad helped his wife welcome their little girl into the world at a local birth center. His story shows how crucial partnership and support are through this beautiful and difficult process of birth. Amazing parents! Amazing support from the birth center. And a beautiful little girl at the end of it all. This article was first printed on the website, Family Dinner.
Our baby, Vera, was born on December 28th, 2010 at the Morning Star Birth Center in St Louis Park, Minnesota. It was by far the most profound and amazing experience of my life; I now understand purpose, responsibility, and meaning in ways I never knew possible!
Since becoming a father I’ve had a number of thoughts I’d like to express on the subject of birth centers, Morning Star Birth Center, the midwives who work there, and the whole concept of an out-of-hospital birth.
To be honest I didn’t know what to expect when my wife suggested we look into a birth center. I knew a little bit about midwives (my aunt was one for many years) but I didn’t know more than a handful of people who had out-of-hospital births. Until May of 2010 I had never heard of a birth center. I suppose I thought every one had two options: either you go to the hospital or you have your baby at home (or perhaps the occasional birth in the car on the way to the hospital).
After some preliminary research and a visit it didn’t take long to realize that the birth center was right for us, in fact, it was a perfect fit. My wife and I agreed then and agree now that the decision to go with Morning Star was among the best decisions of our lives. We both felt empowered throughout the experience, from pregnancy to birth and beyond. The midwives, Paula and Catherine, challenged us to learn more, to delve in, and to ask the difficult questions. They encouraged us to ask, “Why? Why go to a hospital if Liv is low-risk? What are the advantages or disadvantages of this or that test? What is the science/reasoning behind these injections?” The midwives also taught us to follow our instincts; we can trust that we intuitively know much about what our child needs. We are the decision makers after all, we are the parents.
In a culture where fear and anxiety surrounding birth are pervasive, the midwives were a non-anxious presence in our lives. They encouraged us, supported us, and aided us in our decision making throughout the pregnancy, during the birth, and even postpartum. What I learned is that much of the fear and anxiety that we experience around pregnancy and childbirth is unnecessary. There is far more to the psychology surrounding pregnancy and birth than I had thought previously. Our culture and society, especially pop-culture, play heavily into the way we approach these life moments, and can affect us negatively if we’re not careful.
Going into all this I was a little nervous, I must admit. I mean, who am I? I’m the dad. I’m not pregnant, I’m not going to give birth, and I’m not going to breastfeed. So, do I really have anything to contribute until the child gets a little older? The answer is YES, a whole lot!
I learned that my opinion as a male, as the father in these matters, does matter! The decisions we make concerning birth impact our baby’s entrance into the world and therefore impact her entire life. As partners in this endeavor we make each of these decisions together.
Let me give one shining example of how much all this matters.
Early in the morning of December 28th, at 3:15 a.m., my wife’s water broke. She woke me up, informed of the breaking news, and then said, “Let’s wait here (at home) for a bit.” We waited until 11:30 a.m., counting and timing contractions. We called Paula several times for support and as the contractions got closer together and she encouraged us to come in to the center.
When we arrived at the birth center Liv was fully dilated. In addition to being ready to go, Paula informed us that the baby was in a breech position. Planned natural breech births are only allowed at select hospitals, by doctors willing to take on the challenge. However, unplanned, or surprise!, breech births can be delivered at a birth center. Paula asked us if we wanted to take an ambulance to the hospital or have the baby at the center.
Liv was in the throws of labor so asked me to make the decision. I looked at her and knew that we would stay. We opted to stay at Morning Star!
My role was to make that decision out loud at the time (a decision that we had already made together even though we didn’t know about the breech position) and to be absolutely present with my wife throughout the afternoon. We knew the decisions we had made together ahead of time and we had been educated. And we knew that we would be in this together every step of the way.
Liv held on to my hands while she pushed and pulled. I whispered inspiring and motivating phrases such as: “We’ll get to meet our baby soon! You can do it honey! You’re amazing!” I also said little prayers under my breath. My job was to walk with her through the toughest pushes and the calmest times between contractions.
Pardon the sports reference, but when it came to “game time” the midwives played 110%! For the next four hours Liv pushed and everyone in the room supported, encouraged, and cheered for her. Music that she chose for the occasion played in the background. Her mother and best friend were present, fully engaged in each moment of the miracle.
At one point Liv yelled, “I can’t do this!” Paula, in all her wisdom looked Liv in the eyes and said in a calm, steady voice, “Liv, you must do this.” Paula is the type of person you listen to, and it was exactly what Liv needed to hear in order to push on.
At 3:43 p.m. our beautiful daughter Vera Lisa was born! She came out right foot first!
They laid her immediately in front of us. We were in awe! It was a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life, when my tiny daughter looked right into my eyes and my heart melted. The miracle was alive and well, gazing into the new world, crying out a beautiful song of life. A song that every child sings as they enter the light at the end of the tunnel.
After spending time with family members, taking vitals, eating pancakes, and resting for several hours we returned home with the newest member of our family. Remarkably it was 9:30 p.m., the same day that Vera was born.
The entire birth center experience was empowering for both of us. We started out parenthood asking questions and making our own decisions about what was best for our child. My whole perception of the birth experience was profoundly changed. This resulted in immense growth. I believe that the way we are parenting has been positively impacted for the long term.
I perceive a future filled with hope and wholeness for my daughter and for my family. I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the Morning Star Birth Center for their amazing professional love and care; especially to Paula and Catherine who with grace and compassion delivered our baby into the world. Care is what we experienced when we chose the birth center, lasting care.