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: