After the birth of my first child, I knew that should I be fortunate enough to have more children, I would want to give birth at home. As time went on, I read books, listened to podcasts, chatted to other homebirthers and by the time those two pink lines appeared, there was no doubt in my mind that homebirth was the right choice for us. Fortunately for me, my husband was onboard with the idea – no doubt due to they years he spent (begrudgingly) listening to me rattle off facts and statistics about homebirth. If he had any concerns, our first meeting with our private midwife cleared them up. We went on to have an incredible homebirth which you can read about on our blog. I shared the ups and downs of this experience over on our Instagram page @matrescence.podcast which gave me the opportunity to connect with other women who had given birth at home in the past, or were looking to in the future.
Last year, I received a message from a woman who was considering homebirth. Her experience with her local hospital had not lived up to her expectations and and she was considering hiring a private midwife and birthing at home. She was excited about the possibility and looking for information and recommendations before making the leap. There was only one problem, her husband was not onboard. Infact, he was very much opposed.
I can’t remember what I told this woman, but I remember typing out an incredibly long response filled with links to articles that I hoped would help to both educate and reassure her husband. Having just experienced homebirth for myself, I was on a high. I (admittedly) wanted to share this euphoria with as many people I could convince. But beyond this, I sensed that she had a gut instinct that this was the right decision for her family and I wanted to encourage her to listen to that.
They had a promising meeting with a private midwife, but ultimately she was unable to get her husband on board. Whether for this reason or others, they decided to stick with their original care model. My disappointment was my own and I was very mindful of this when she shared this information with me. I wished her the best of luck and urged her to report back after the birth.
This situation prompted me to consider what I would have done if my husband, like hers, had been skeptical about homebirth. Or worse vehemently opposed.
When it comes to women’s bodies I strongly believe in bodily autonomy – that women have the right to do with their bodies as they please. In my mind, pregnancy and birth are no exception to this. However, I wholeheartedly appreciate that bringing a tiny-human into the equation can certainly add an extra-layer to these decisions.
The truth is, that the vast majority of people will not give much thought to where they give birth. Our healthcare system very effectively funnels women into the hospital maternity system without them ever even realizing that they had a choice to begin with. But for those us who wish to give birth at home, having our partners support can feel essential. For others, optional. And for others again, totally irrelevant.
Which begs the question:
Do you need your partner’s permission to give birth where you want to?
It’s a polarizing question and people generally feel strongly one way or another. As with most things, I tend to sit somewhere in the middle.
For me, a huge part of having my husband on board for a homebirth was about knowing that we had made the choice together, and therefore shared equal risk and responsibility for the outcomes.
While I try hard not to operate from a position of “what if,” I knew going into this that if I put my foot down and made decisions about the birth that my husband did not agree with, in the unfortunate circumstances that something went wrong, I would shoulder this responsibility alone. I feared the impact this would have on myself and our relationship.
Another consideration for us as a family, was the fact that my husband is the primary bread winner and earns close to 90% of our family income. While we both wholeheartedly believe that this money is shared, and my contribution is equally valuable, homebirth in Australia is not cheap. Like all financial decisions that we make, it was important to me that we were in agreement about this huge financial investment.
Lastly, going into this birth I knew that my husband was going to be my birth partner. In moments of fear and apprehension I knew I needed to be able to look to him for confidence and strength. If he had been convinced to have a homebirth despite his doubts about it’s safety, at the first sign that something was “wrong” I know he would have crumbled. This would undoubtedly have affected my mindset, my confidence, and inevitably, my ability to give birth at home.
All of this is to say that (rightly or wrongly) it was important to me that my husband and I felt aligned on this decision. While I am “lucky” enough that he was supportive, I do believe that had it been necessary, I would have been prepared to pull the “my body my choice” card.
Here is why.
In Australia, 1 in 3 mothers experience birth trauma. While undoubtedly a traumatic birth effects the whole family (statistics suggest as many as 1 in 10 men will experience psychological trauma following child birth), women are the ones living with the physical trauma that can result from a birth injury. Knowing that birthing in hospital greatly increased my risk of things such as episiotomy, significant tearing, c-section and more, this was an important consideration for me.
So while I may not have needed my husband’s “permission” to give birth at home, I definitely sought his support. If like me, you want your partner onboard with your homebirth plans, here are 10 ways to open up the discussion and ensure you are on the same page about where to give birth.
Choose a time when you are both feeling relaxed and will be able to have an uninterrupted conversation (easier if this is your first baby!). Take some time to discuss each of your fears, concerns, hopes and dreams for this birth. Are they similar or vastly different? Discuss what matters to you – Is a healthy baby all that matters? Or does a healthy mum matter too? And what does healthy mean to you? Does healthy mean alive? Or also physically, mentally and emotionally well? How do you want to feel during and after the birth of your child.
This is just a starting place. Other questions may pop up a long the way. Try hard to listen without judgement, ask follow up questions and remain open minded. Your job at this point is not to convince them of anything. Simply to gather the information necessary to understand their views and enable future conversations.
2: Discuss what the benefits of homebirth are for the whole family
When it comes to homebirth the benefits for mother and baby are well documented: Lower risk of interventions, lower rates of birth trauma and better infant and maternal outcomes, just to name a few. While you may be the one pushing for this decision, you are by no means the only one who will benefit from it.
If your partner is feeling a little unsure, it may be helpful to highlight how they can stand to benefit from the decision to birth at home. Not only will it increase the chances of their family emerging from birth physically and emotionally well (this really should be enough to convince him), they will also likely benefit from; being a more active participant in the birth, uninterrupted bonding time, no stressful drive to and from the hospital, no sleeping in an arm chair and no crappy cafeteria food – need I say more ?
In my experience, most women who choose to give birth at home, do so after conducting extensive research. Some women feel that it should not be their job to educate their partner about birth- we carry enough of the mental load right? But if you have already gone through this process yourself, you are in a unique position to help your partner find information that is high quality and non-biased.
As humans we have a tendency to seek out information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs (it’s called confirmation bias). Basically, whatever you believe to be true, you will find information to support it up. If you believe that homebirth is unsafe, you will find information that supports that. If you believe that homebirth is as safe, if not safer than hospital birth, you too will find information to support that.
It may be helpful in this situation to direct them to resources that you know to be reliable.
As a starting point I always recommend:
4: Share resources
When it comes to birth, not all resources are created equally (so throw out “What to Expect When You’re Expecting). Whether your partner is into reading, podcasts, ebooks or documentaries, there are some fantastic resources that can help to educate them and normalise homebirth. If like my husband, they are less than enthusiastic about sitting down and reading about birth, try starting with a podcast while driving, or a documentary with snacks. These require very little investment and can be less intense than other resources.
Some of my favorites include:
-Beyond the Birth Plan by Rhea Demsey (book)
– Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth (book)
– Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr. Sarah Buckley (book)
– Birth Time (Documentary)
– The Midwives’ Cauldron (Podcast)
– The Business of Being Born (Documentary)
– The Australian Birth Stories Podcast
– Birth Kweens (Podcast)
– Evidence Based Birth Podcast (And associated website)
– Happy Homebirth Podcast
– The Renegade Mama (Podcast)
– Midwife Thinking (Blog)
– Freebirth Society (Podcast)
5: Watch birth videos together
Depending on your partner this one might be a total write off – I get it. I think it took 5 years for me to convince my husband to watch birth videos (and he still maintains that it is largely non-consensual). But for many women, and even more men, we have never seen birth. Especially not physiological birth. As a result, our perceptions of birth come almost entirely from over-dramatized Hollywood portrayals of birth and horror stories from our best mate. Not only can birth videos help to normalize homebirth and dismantle the fear surrounding it, it can also help to stimulate conversations that may give you some insight into where their concerns stem from.
6: Meet with a private midwife
Private midwives in Australia are required to do extensive and ongoing education to obtain and maintain their ability to attend homebirths. I am yet to meet a private midwife who was not incredibly educated, passionate and confident in their role. Having the opportunity to speak to a private midwife could be just what your partner needs to put their mind at ease. Fortunately, most private midwives offer a no-cost, no-obligation meet up at the beginning of your pregnancy where you and your partner can discuss your fears and concerns, as well as ask any questions that may arise.
Prior to this meeting it may be helpful to sit down together and come up with a list of questions for your potential midwife. If you need help with this, see my blog post “How to find and hire a private midwife.”
At the end of the day everyone’s goals are the same. We all want the best outcomes for our family. Sitting down to discuss what this would look like with a private midwife can be incredibly helpful in providing this kind of reassurance. Many women report that meeting with a private midwife was the key to getting their partner on board with a homebirth, and that was certainly true for me.
7: See a counselor
If you are already seeing a counselor, or have engaged with mental health services in the past, meeting with a counselor may feel like a natural and easy step for you to take. If not, it may feel a little daunting.
However, acknowledging that you need support to communicate, compromise and see eye-to-eye is certainly no weakness. These are skill that you will need to utilize throughout the rest of our parenting journey. So why not start figuring them out now? Sitting down with a counselor can help to ensure that both of your views, fears and concerns are heard and validated, and can give you the tools for future conversations where you may not see eye to eye.
This process can be especially beneficial if one or both of you has experienced birth trauma in the past and that is contributing to your apprehension about homebirth.
8: Connect with others who have experienced homebirth
Sometimes what is daunting about homebirth is the fact that it is so uncommon. Currently, only about .3% of Australian women give birth to their babies at home. As a result, it is highly unlikely that you know someone who has had a planned homebirth.
Taking the time to connect with others and hear about their experiences can normalize this choice and help you to feel more knowledgeable and confident about homebirth. If you do not know anyone personally, social media can provide a fantastic opportunity to connect with other homebirthers. I personally have found the Facebook group “Homebirth Group Australia” to be filled with people who are more than happy to share their knowledge and experiences. If your partner feels a little intimidated by this, simply listening to birth stories (such as through podcasts) can help to normalise homebirth,
9: Take an independent childbirth education course together
Not all antenatal education is created equally. If you are planning a homebirth, taking the standard hospital birth classes are unlikely to meet your needs. This is why I recommend seeking out independent childbirth education. There are an abundance of incredible independent childbirth courses available today. Before committing to one, take the time to research whether the course you are looking into specifically discusses homebirth and physiological birth. If possible, get in touch with the practitioner to let them know that you are planning a homebirth and ask whether this course will be suitable. I personally have taken the Hypobirthing Australia Course and found it to be exceptional, though in my experience it is more geared more towards hospital birth. I recently asked our followers on Instagram for some homebirth/freebirth specific recommendations. While I can’t personally vouch for these, I will share some popular recommendations below.
– Clancy Allen: @Womancraftway
– Mama Natural
– Freebirth Society Complete Guide to Freebirth
– Rhea Dempsey: Embracing the Intensity Workshop
Taking an independent childbirth course will not only help to increase your partners knowledge and confidence, it will help to ensure they feel like an integral part of the process which is essential to them feeling like a critical part of this experience.
10: Consider hiring a doula
A doula’s work does not begin when labour kicks off. It is the culmination of months spent educating, reassuring, informing and educating their clients. If your partner is apprehensive about homebirth, hiring a (homebirth friendly) doula early in your pregnancy could be a game changer.
If after you have completed all of these steps, your partner is still not onboard with your plans to homebirth, you have a decision to make. There is no right or wrong decision here and no one can make it for you.
In the case of a stale mate, some couples seek a middle ground and opt for a birth center. This may be a good option for you, but it is really important to be aware of the differences between giving birth at home, versus giving birth in a birth center. They might have all the comfy furnishings that make it feel homely, but it is certainly not the same as giving birth at home. That does not mean that it is not the right choice for you, simply that it is important to know the difference.
Regardless of where you decide to give birth, I hope this blog can help you to approach birth as a more united team.