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Feb 09

labor support…

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing about how a co-parent has or has not supported us in our dedication to natural parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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My husband and I have a unique relationship, or so it often seems when discussing relationships with others. We met each other the first day of college at an ice cream social. He was 18 1/2 and I had just turned 17. The next day I showed up for band practice to find that he and I would be playing percussion together. And that is how it started. It wasn’t a romantic relationship at first, but one of complete friendship. We quickly became best friends and have stayed that way ever since. While our communication has improved over the years, as I hope it continues to do as we grow in our personhoods, we’ve always been able to go to one another and bounce ideas.

So, when I approached my dear husband one day, long before we were ready to have children, and confidently exclaimed that I wanted to have our children via unassisted childbirth, he looked at me. He didn’t rant, scream, or try to put an antiquated foot down. Instead, he quietly said, “Tell me more.” At that point I began to show him research and talk to him about childbirth in general. The fact that both of us are researchers by heart helped in this matter. When I pulled out notebooks filled with articles from medical journals, showed him websites, and ordered books on the subject for us to read, he listened.

At that point, I can’t say that he was completely comfortable with the idea. However, it wasn’t that he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of unassisted childbirth or my ability to listen to my body and our future children. Childbirth and child rearing were merely out of his realm of experience. They are out of the realm of experience for many young men. He supported me in a way that I will never forget, and one in which every woman deserves.

We’ve spoken with many couples over the years about unassisted childbirth and our experiences with it. In every case, the desire for such a birth has been the woman’s, pulling along a reluctant husband. At these times, or any time that birth comes up with a man who isn’t quite behind his wife, my husband says one phrase, “Be a man.”

By “be a man,” my husband isn’t implying that a man should go off and hunt down a bear with his own two hands. My husband strongly believes, as do I, that a woman needs to be comfortable and supported in order to listen to her body and baby for an optimal birthing outcome. My husband then goes on to say that the husband’s (or partner’s) role in the birth is to do whatever he needs to in order to make certain that the birthing woman has whatever she needs/wants so that she can listen to her body and do what she needs to. Birth is not a spectator sport or a team sport. It is a very primal experience for a woman. Her partner’s role is one of support, whatever it may look like. For me, that means I need time by myself in order to listen. I labor alone, with my husband coming in to see if I need anything.

When we found out we were expecting our first child, my husband was overly excited about both our future child and our birth plans. He happened to mention the word “homebirth” to his parents, although not once did he say anything about our plans for an unassisted birth. We didn’t think much about his casual reference at the time, but it wasn’t long before we thought about it quite a bit, as extended relatives, some of whom we didn’t even know, called us up to confront us, demanded that we change our decision, and attacked us in general. Through all of that, my husband stood firm. He offered to show research and talk through their fears but always ended with the fact that it was our decision to make and really none of their business. He even told his parents that while the baby would be his first priority after it was born, until that time, his wife was the first priority; nothing they could say (or scream) would change the fact that it was his job to support and protect me.

He supported me throughout that first birth and the births of our next two children, just as he will with the upcoming birth of our fourth child. He has listened throughout the years, both before and after we began having children, about many topics: birth, breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, natural products, unschooling, consensual living, vaccinations, and supported the choices we have made, though I may have been the one to do the initial research.

Parenting itself is a labor of love, and I am thrilled to have my best friend as my “labor support” in this most important endeavor.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    I am very drawn to the idea of unassisted childbirth. I secretly hoped my birth might go so quickly it would end up unassisted by accident, but no.

    I’m really glad your husband stood up to the disapproving family members for you. I’m often too make-nice to take that role, and I love it when Sam stands firm. He’s not mean about it — just honest.

    1. Mandy

      My husband is pretty easy going and totally non-confrontational. I think he really went into protective husband mode during that time. The damage done to his already tense relationship with his parents will never be healed. I think it was very eye-opening for him.

  2. the Grumbles

    It’s awfully hard when family members and friends not only don’t support the choices you’re making but openly criticize them- at least you have a supportive and active husband to share it with. Plus I love it when my husband is willing to stand up for something just because I believe it, it’s like he’s telling the whole world he has faith in me.

    1. Mandy

      Exactly!

  3. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

    I admire the fact that you believe in yourself enough to have a UAC – I am admittedly too unsure of myself to have an unassisted homebirth. I am thrilled that we’ll be having an assisted homebirth though (if we ever get pg again). You can be sure I’ll be coming to you for preparation advice :)

    1. Mandy

      I did a lot of research first, digging through medical journals and scrutinizing data. In the end, I knew it was the safest optoin for our family. I would never be able to relax and listen to what my body and baby needed with someone else there. I would love to chat with you about birth. I pretty much keep my thoughts to myself (and with my husband) due to the unsupportive environment for those who choose alternative births.

  4. TopHat

    I had an unassisted too! I agree- my husband’s support was priceless. And he loved being a part of it and catching our daughter. He might get the chance again this summer (if I don’t have a fast labor and he gets home in time). :)

    1. Mandy

      My husband caught our first child, and I have caught our last two. He much prefers having me catch the babies. After our first, people kept exclaiming over how he delivered the baby. He kept explaining that all he did was offer support and catch the baby at the end because I wasn’t in a position to do so. With the last two, he has been able to say, “No, my wife did everything. I was just there to fetch whatever she wanted.”

  5. Jessica - This is Worthwhile

    I think your experiences with unassisted homebirths are wonderful. How beautiful and bonding they must have been, just you and your husband and the babies. Just lovely.

    1. Mandy

      Thank you! They have been very special times for us.

  6. Amber

    I met my husband on the first day of Jr. High, when I was 13 and he was still a few weeks away from 13. We became friends first, and started dating about a year and a half later when I turned 15. There really is nothing better than having that shared history and that deep and abiding friendship, I think.

    1. Mandy

      I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being married to my best friend is such a treasure.

  7. Philippa Channer

    It always amazes me just how ‘judgemental’ our friends and family can be. I am so glad that you have been blessed with a husband who supports you and sides besides you on your decisions.

    1. Mandy

      I think it just shows how insecure they are in their own choices.

  8. Kate @ Momopoly

    Sounds like you’ve got a keeper! :) My husband is my best friend, too, and boy, was he invaluable during my three labors. I’ve been blessed to have three natural childbirth experiences in hospital settings, but I’m almost certain the first would not have been natural had it not been for my husband being my advocate (my midwife and a doctor looking over her shoulder wanted to start me on Pitocin, and he convinced them to wait).

    Great post.

  9. michelle

    I also met my husband in college. He was and is my best friend and a loving and dedicated partner. I wish that he was as willing to try an unassisted home birth. He was willing to do whatever I wanted as long as it is in the hospital. He’s a doctor and has a hard time separating himself from the idea that this setting just feels safer to him. Your husband sounds like your champion. It’s inspiring to read about such attuned families.

  10. Melodie

    What a wonderful story. I love that the two of you met as teenagers and have been together ever since. I didn’t marry my high school sweetheart but I am still the best of friends with the first guy I kissed when I was 12.

  11. BluebirdMama aka @childbearing

    I totally identify with how you explain coming to your decisions together…that you tend to do research on topics that might be new to your husband and then discuss them. I really think that’s different than “convincing” someone. We do this a lot too.
    I am sorry you had to deal with such flak from family members. That’s too bad. How wonderful that you have your husband in your corner!

  12. baj4life

    How wonderful that your husband stood by your side and defended your choices as parents. It’s funny how sometimes friends and family can become quite demanding when it comes to certain big events of your life. They fail to realize that it’s not about them.

  13. Sarah

    What great support you have, that’s just amazing! I’m very interested to hear more about the unassisted births, as it’s something I “may” be interested in. My first, and only child was born in May, in a tub, with midwives assisting. My husband wants us to do it on our own, but it makes me nervous. However, it would be a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Sarah

    UGH! I keep trying to post but it’s messing up… I love your post, and am interested in hearing more about the unassisted birth… that’s the route my hubby wanted us to take in May, but we ended up using midwives. (STILL AWESOME, though)

  15. Darcel

    That is wonderful that he has been so supportive of you. We were planning an unassisted birth with this baby, but I changed my mind, so now we’re back to midwife assisted homebirth :)

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