It all started when I told my husband I wanted a doula. I was a newly pregnant graduate student, and after all of the research I had done on birth in the past months, I was feeling passionate about having that type of support. And, if I am honest, I didn’t know how my husband would handle birth. As a woman, I have spent a lot of my life thinking about childbearing, even subconsciously. My husband, on the other hand, vividly retells his elementary school health class when he learned just how babies make their way out of the female body. He said he got down on his knees and emphatically thanked God that he was a man. So there was that.
As I googled around in search of a doula to hire, I came across information about a husband-coached childbirth course. Hey, I thought. This could be awesome. My husband is a good man and an athlete who has pitied women since the day he found out babies exit the lady parts. So when I mentioned the idea of a him being my birth coach, I think he was intrigued…or maybe he just said that to keep me happy. I mean, the sports lingo was there. So, being entirely new to this world of birth and parenting, I signed us up for the course.
We started our course last February. I’m a life-long learner after all, so I was thrilled that we could do a full 12 weeks of class, complete with a live birth video at the end of each two-hour session (let’s be real though, I closed my eyes throughout ALL of those videos.)
My husband, on the other hand, was slightly less enthused. Two hours — every week — for three months? During NBA season at that. But nonetheless, he came along, probably to appease his anxious and — at times frightening — pregnant wife.
The course material was thorough. I would sometimes quiz him on the way home to make sure he was listening and absorbing all this important stuff. Looking back now, I know he was preparing in the way that he needed, in the way that he knew was best for me, for us. The facts, the science, the birth videos…that was all for me and my head. That is what I needed to be okay to go through the whole birth experience. My husband, on the other hand, honed his coaching techniques by making me giggle during the relaxation exercise practices, accidentally making himself a cup of milkmaid tea, and talking to his buddies about placentas.
As the birth of our son was approaching, I asked him one night on the drive home if he thought I was crazy for wanting to go natural for the birth. Did he even think this was a good idea? To my amazement, he replied, “If I didn’t think you could do it, do you really think I would let you go through with all this?” I knew then that he was listening, but perhaps more to me than to the course. I cried, like I did every night, and he comforted me.
This — all of this — is what I needed in a coach.
I needed the person who knows me the best. The person who can tell when I’m exaggerating my emotions and when I’m not. The person who can laugh with me when my water breaks all over our bedroom floor and snap some hilariously memorable candid photos. The person who can remind me I am strong when I whisper scream (yes, that’s a thing) to him that I feel like I can’t get through this birth. The person that lets me (nearly) strangle him with each contraction and stays calm when I make primal noises into the wee hours of the morning. The person whose voiced cracked with emotion when he said, “Lauren, you are so close. Lauren, he is almost here.”
You see, when we talk about the birth of our son, it is not completely about what I did, but also how he supported me in that process. The experience of having a “husband-coached childbirth” however, allowed my husband to be a part of the journey that is birth and respect anew the female body. He doesn’t fear birth for women anymore and I don’t think that men are incapable of really being present at a birth (though for the record, we did also have a doula who supported both of us SO well.)