Grandparents at the (home)birth
On a parenting listserv I’m a part of, a woman recently asked a question about having one’s parents at a homebirth. She wondered if other people’s parents had “come through” for them and were able to be supportive enough during the labor and birth, or, more generally, what people’s experiences had been on this front.
I have to say that my parents were initially slightly skeptical about the idea of a homebirth, but never negative on it; they started off being politely neutral while I explained my ideas, and then got more and more positive on the idea, as I told them more and more about my reasons; as they watched the Ricki Lake movie; as they had more time to let the idea sink in; and as they realized that my mother herself, in arguing for a natural birth in a hospital at a time when it was relatively uncommon, was actually on the same wavelength (i.e., anti-intervention) all along. Seriously, by the time I was six months pregnant, they were telling every pregnant woman they came in contact with how wonderful homebirth is. They became huge, huge advocates of the idea, partly just because they trusted me and my judgment, and partly because they’d been educated on the facts.
They came up and met my midwife when I was around 30-ish weeks along, and that was really helpful. My mother (Type A) had prepared a list of questions for my midwife, and she ran through them during the meeting (“What can I do to make your job easier? What kind of snacks should I have on hand for you during the birth?”). After that meeting my mother confessed that she had been, under the surface, a little concerned, but once she met my midwife and knew what great hands I was in, she felt completely at ease.
Since I’m an only child, and both my parents are retired, still in good health, and about three hours away, it was possible for them to plan on being present for the birth. They came up again ten days before my due date, planning to stay until the baby was a month old. It was great to have them here–it made my last week of pregnancy a totally pampered one. My mother cleaned the house like a madwoman, and they did all the shopping, cooking, laundry, etc. My father practiced mastering our TV remote controls (more complicated than their system at home) and my mother made sure she knew where all the towels, waterproof bed covers, and other birth supplies were so no one would have to bother me about anything.
While I labored through the night, my mother fetched and carried (more Recharge drink for me, another towel, cold cloths, a bowl) and sat with the midwives (usually in another room because I was happy being alone, but in the same room while I was pushing–it helped that our bedroom is good-sized, 17×12′). My father was in another room, either dozing or reading, I think. For at least the last half hour of pushing/crowning, they were both in the room–there’s an amazing moment in the video my husband took when he swung the camera around and captured my parents standing at the foot of the bed wiping tears from their eyes.
I had a very long, intense pushing phase, and I know that part of it was hard on my mother. In part of the video you can see her bent forward, head between her knees, obviously praying. She said later that she wished she could do something to make it easier for me, but she always trusted the midwife, though.
If I have another child, I think we’ll go with the same plan, with the exception that my father (who is very very close to and good with my son) will be the point person for my son.
What about you? Good experiences with your baby’s grandparents at the birth?
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