Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lessons Learned in Childbirth ~Husband Led Childbirth~

(as found on ~Doulas~  one of my other blogs)
As you may have noted if you saw the list of blogs I work on, I have some varied interestes. For many many years, about 25, I've been involved the birthing community, first through La Leche League as a group leader and a breastfeeding support person, then through ASPO/Lamaze as a childbirth educator and an "unofficical birth coach" and  now, most recently through Childbirth International as a certified labor doula. All in all, you could say that I'm hooked. I love to be involved with families as they are preparing to give birth, giving birth, or need some support post-partum.

A few weeks ago we hosted the first ever "Indiana Christian Childbirth Expo" and while it was not a huge affair, as numbers go, it allowed us to share some important thoughts with the people who did attend. Below is a copy of the talk I was supposed to give... long story... which I did end up sharing with about 7 women there as a personal testimony. All this to say.. it might be worth a read... it continues to encourage me very much in what I do. But, even more, it is a great reminder that I NEED my husband... he is my spiritual head in this family, the family leader and "the final word" when need be. Such a blessing!


Hi, my name’s Kim and I’m a labor doula. The road I took to get to this point started even before my own first child was born. As I’m a storyteller you’ll probably hear more story than lecture, but the idea of husband led childbirth has been a constant theme as I walked this path.

Twenty five years ago I attended my very first birth ever. My husband and I had a young unmarried woman living with us while she was experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Hers was rather a typical story, college romance, a baby conceived and the birth father becoming absent. As she needed someone to help her I soon became her birthing partner. Imagine a young married woman, having never had children, all my friends were childless or single and here I was trying to tell this young woman what to do. However, by the time she gave birth I knew my life would never be the same.

But, it was not merely the realization that God might have been placing a call upon my life to serve the birthing community it was the beginning of a journey that led me to understand that the birth room, whether it be in a hospital, birthing center, a home, or even the back of a car is not removed from God’s created order of things.

22Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30because we are members of His body.

Yes, the woman’s body is doing the work. Yes, the woman is experiencing the pain. Yes, the woman is rather central to this issue. Nevertheless God still expects the husband to be the head of the house. Not merely a coach barking orders, but rather a godly man who is willing to lay down his life for his bride. He will not shirk the hard things, but that doesn’t mean he has to do everything.

I’d like to share some stories and help you see what I learned over 25 years.

That very first birth I attended to I’ve already mentioned. There was a mother, her baby and me. The father was notably absent. In fact, within the next two years he would have removed himself altogether from his child’s life, and from the life of the woman he had sworn to love. I learned that although women are very good at giving birth, and I can be an adequate to excellent birth partner, I can never replace the husband/father in the birthing room.

Several years later we gave birth to our first two children. Both preemies. Both a bit scary due to circumstances. But I recall that although I had no idea what I was doing the first time… we gave birth on the second day of childbirth classes… I was totally dependent on my husband’s voice and his touch. When all else was new, scary and out of my control I could look to him to keep me focused, to love me and to help me. The second time around was a wild ride as we gave birth 13 minutes after arriving at the hospital. We went to sign in, it’s one in the morning, my water has broken, my contractions are about 90 seconds apart and I’m seriously in labor. I finally told the person in the office that I HAD to get off my feet or I was going to have the baby. I’m not sure if she believed me or just wanted my panting body out of her office, but she called for a nurse and sent me upstairs. I was no sooner in my room than I wanted to push, BUT I held on till Dear made it to the birthing room. I needed him there. I knew what I wanted in the birth, but what I needed was my husband. I needed his strength, his sense of order, and his very presence. Not only that but as soon as our son was born and the room became still and my husband spoke the entire roomful of medical staff watched as our son turned directly towards him, recognizing the voice he had heard for months already. That moment once again established that idea of husband-led birthing. After that birth I trained to become a childbirth educator, and from there began accompanying clients into the birthing room.

Of course over the years not all my clients were Christians, and to be honest, not all my clients were married, but for married Christians I truly believe that the husband still needs to be the head… even in the birthing room.

One of the things I have learned through scripture, the preaching of the word, and good teaching is that the Bible never contradicts itself. So, as we heard earlier, the husband is the head of the wife, and that does not change merely because she’s demanding, hurting, or busy. It’s at those very moments where God’s love manifests itself so strongly.

Another year, another birth. This was my second time working with this couple. Their plans, as plans are wont to do went a bit astray. Childcare, in the form of a family member, just wasn’t happening. Despite frantic phone calls no one showed up to watch baby number one. Well, it seemed obvious to me that I would just step into the childcare roll and allow mom and dad to work together in the birth of their next child. But, I was suddenly confronted with a brand new issue. My client asked her husband to watch the child, and for me to be her sole birthing partner. While I understood that she wanted someone with experience, my presence upstairs while her husband was downstairs seemed to mock the very marriage God had created. And yet, was it? Who made the decision for me to remain in the birthing room?

Again, another few years, another birth. An odd call from a mom close to her due date and every 2-10 minutes the phone went dead as she dropped it and breathed heavily. Finally her husband came on the line and I asked what was happening when the phone went dead each time… “Well,” he says, “she sort of doubles over, holds her stomach and starts breathing.” I tried to keep a calm voice as I asked how long this had been going on, meanwhile trying to figure out the timing of running back to our picnic site, establishing a ride home for my family and zooming to the hospital. I learned this had been going on for about 6 hours and her husband finally convinced her to call me. Although no pattern had been established, she was close to delivery. She would not believe she was in labor because the contractions were not setting up a pattern. But, she would listen to her husband who suggested she call me and that’s when she learned she had to get to the hospital, fast. By the way… she arrived fully dilated to 10 cm. and had a baby within 2 hours.

As you can see time after time women doubted, needed help, needed guidance and their husbands stepped in. Some by direction, some by stepping back and having someone else do what they felt needed to be done.

When I spoke to several couples about the expo and this talk, one of the husbands wanted to know how I defined “husband-led.” He was afraid, or perhaps concerned, that what I expected was for the husband to always be present at the birth, for him to have done a huge amount of reading, and for him to make all decisions on his own.

Let’s step back and see what I really mean. One of my favorite quotes regarding childbirth is taken from a sermon preached my Martin Luther in 1522. The sermon is entitled “The Estate of Marriage” and in section three he has the following to say:

A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works. This is also how to comfort and encourage a woman in the pangs of childbirth, not by repeating St Margaret legends and other silly old wives' tales but by speaking thus, "Dear [so and so], remember that you are a woman, and that this work of God in you is pleasing to him. Trust joyfully in his will, and let him have his way with you. Work with all your might to bring forth the child. …If you were not a woman you should now wish to be one for the sake of this very work alone, that you might thus gloriously suffer and even die in the performance of God's work and will.

This then is the first work, and main work of husband led childbirth. Husbands are to lovingly remind their wives that their very bodies were created for this purpose. They are honoring God as they strive to deliver their child. There need be no fancy rhetoric, barked commands, or fearful suggestions. The wives are to take strength from their husband’s words.

I know, I’ve already heard it, some woman may say, “But my husband is not that interested.” Or perhaps, “He wants to be there, but doesn’t want to upset the doctor.” Or again, “I’m not sure I trust him.” Wives, your husband is not called to suddenly have both a medical and counseling degree in order to be the perfect caregiver and advocate. What he is called to do is to love you and care for you. This can look different in different births. It may be the husband knows his wife needs a certain person in the room with her, or that she needs to call for help, or simply that she must do what he says at that moment until something else comes for her to do.

About three years ago I was asked to be a doula for a young couple having their first child. The husband is a godly man, and has a strong personality. The wife is also strong with a strong sense of order and how things must be done. The pregnancy and then the birth was a time of testing for her to learn to step back and listen to her husband rather than her own desires. It became easier for her over time and it was beautiful to watch. But, I still hear that question from the other night. WHAT is the husband to do? Well, this husband basically told me what he would do and what he wanted me to do. I could deal with the birthing matters, and he would love his wife. He did not abdicate, he made an informed decision. I was the one who had studied this and experienced this. But, as regards to loving his wife and encouraging or even exhorting her, that was his place.

More recently still I began to actively teach the idea of husband led childbirth. The birth I attended was very sweet and touching, again a young couple, first child. I had told them during classes that there may come a point when the wife lies to the husband. I know this shocked them, it shocks most couples. But, I added, she is not meaning to lie, it’s just that there’s a point at which her body wants, NEEDS, HAS TO start pushing. The problem is that sometimes it’s not quite ready, or you’re without someone to actually catch the baby. Imagine her surprise when this happened to her. I was behind her, watching, her husband was holding her hands, and I happened to notice that she had stopped her breathing pattern, tucked her head down and was holding her breath. I bent forward and whispered in her ear, “Look at your husband and submit to him. “ I figured this was the moment when I’d either get a tongue lashing or I’d see the power of God at work. She looked up, her husband looked her in the eyes and said, “Jess, put your head up, blow and stop pushing.”

Funny thing is at the time I didn’t realize what had happened. But as Jess and I spoke later she said that was a memory that was stamped on heart for ever. She had to stop doing what she wanted, trust her husband and follow him. She told me, “It was the biggest relief I had felt in a long time to know I could depend on you to guide us, Paul to lead me and know that if I followed I was not stepping outside of God’s will and could trust that I was doing the right thing even though it was still very hard physically!”

That’s the moment when I knew I wanted to share this with all of you. As I said earlier I’ve attended births for 25 years now. I’ve been to births where the husband was a college frat guy watching a game with his buddies as his wife labored, I’ve been with a single mom who had no one else and I’ve been with husbands and wives where the husband continued to be the head of the household. It won’t always make for a “perfect birth”, as a matter of fact, things may appear to go terribly wrong, but in the end you will know that your marriage will grow stronger, you’ll love your husband more than ever, and he will love you even more for walking this path… the woman’s path of birthing… and for listening to him, trusting him and honoring him with your respect.

God cares for us in many ways. During birth he gives us doulas, midwives, nurses, doctors, family and friends, but the biggest support he offers to you is a husband who is not afraid to lead… in whatever way that works out in your birth story. May God bless you all as you walk this path.

Shalom, Kim

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1 comment:

So glad you stopped by for a visit. I look forward to reading your ruminations. (I like playing with words!)
Blessings, Kim