It seems the hottest things in startups right now are babies. More than I can count on my fingers & toes, my founder friends are now fathers (and mothers) too. When Kaili and I got pregnant last year, it created a new interesting chapter in my life as a husband, founder, father and “dudela”.
A doula is simply any person who is there to be of assistance to the mother during her labor. Often this is a midwife in training, another mother, a family member, etc. In our birth, I got to be a doula for Kaili… Or in her words, the ultimate Dudela.
Because of all the movies I’ve seen where a water break turns into a rushed & panicked race to the hospital, followed by a screaming woman… I wouldn’t say I was immediately comfortable with the idea of a homebirth. But after reading a couple books, watching some short films about birthing and having spent a few months with our midwives preparing for our birth… I wasn’t just comfortable with our homebirth, I was excited for it and incredibly proud of Kaili for what she was to accomplish.
It was the most beautiful and powerful experience of my life and it made my relationship with my wife even stronger, and our love even deeper.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been impressed by Kaili, but during our birth and after I’m miles beyond what can be described as impressed. Seeing her transform into a mother during her birth is something I can’t convey in words. Women are super-human. Not only can they actually create a real living, hairy-headed, fingered & toed, beautiful baby inside their bodies… they are built to deliver it naturally & healthy. Kaili was made to be a mother and being able to be there for her as she realized her destiny was such an honor.
We’d heard that you want to deliver a baby in the kind of place you’d make a baby. For some that would mean a public place that is brightly lit with people standing around, but for us it’s in a comfortable place, warm, safe and dimly lit. The only people we had with us were our midwife, her assistant and my mother-in-law. It all happened in an environment that was peaceful, nurturing and loving.
My wife thinks I was the ultimate dudela. But really all I did was try and be as present and connected to the birth as possible. That meant for the 6.5hrs we were in labor I was squeezing her back or leg muscles. When we were in the tub for the final pushes I was behind her holding her under her hips. For each contraction I squeezed with her. I could feel her body working and opening. I don’t think I could have been closer to the birth experience as a father.
I hope more fathers and mothers-to-be consider having a homebirth. Learning more about it helps wash away the pop-culture fears. A great book to start with is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.
And following is my wife’s words on how the birth went…
At 3 am my water broke. Before heading to bed a few hours before, my doula recommended that I walk up and down the stairs sideways to encourage Lele to drop. The technique was a success! Sitting in a puddle of fluid, I smiled with excitement and anticipation for the lil Waialea we would soon meet. I decided not to wake Bubba immediately and try to get some rest in preparation for more consistent contractions. To my surprise, the contractions were already 30-40 seconds long and 4-5 minutes apart. At this rate, there was absolutely no chance of heading back to sleep. I woke my husband and had him remove the crib to make room for the birthing tub. Being in the middle of my 38th week, we hadn’t completely organized ourselves for an early arrival.
Having learned many laboring positions in my birth class, I decided to test a few out. Kneeling on a yoga ball, standing on my hands and knees, sitting, laying on my side, and on my back were all very uncomfortable. Finally, I found that standing upright provided the most comfort and freedom to move and rock through each contraction. My husband was the best Dudela ever! He provided much needed relief by massaging and squeezing my hips. After a few hours and more intense, consistent contractions, we made the call to our midwife Nina and doula/assistant midwife Sasha with an update. They decided to head over since things appeared to be moving along at a nice pace.
When they arrived at 7 am, I had already watched the moon set and the sun rise from my bedroom window. It was so peaceful being home and I felt little discomfort. Nina and Sasha began setting up things for the birth while I clung strongly to the dresser with each surge. They recommended that I go outside and walk around while they inflated the birthing tub. At first, I was reluctant to leave the comfort of the dresser, which seemed to provide perfect support at the time. Sasha encouraged me that a change of scenery would be good. The next thing I knew, I was outside laboring on the bbq grill and various porch furniture. Bubba stayed close behind me to provide counter pressure while I waddled in his XL bed slippers to pad my feet. My mom gently sent me Reiki from the doorway. I felt so completely supported and confident.
After 1 hour, I suddenly felt the urge to push! I called Nina and she directed me to use a panting style of breath to slow things down a bit. I then went upstairs to the bedroom to check my dilation for the first and only time. As I lay on my back, she discovered that my cervix had dilated to 9 1/2 centimeters! I had no idea I was going through transition. Waialea was headed down to meet us.
The tub was not yet full, but I jumped in anyway. My mom boiled pots of water over the stove to help fill the tub as quickly as possible. Bubba snuggled in behind me. The contractions were extremely intense at this point but manageable. I lay reclined against Bubba’s chest with my head over his shoulder during rest periods. During each rest period, I found myself in an unexpected state of relaxation and painlessness. After 45 minutes of pushing, I was able to reach down and feel my lil girl’s head crowning. She had tons of dark, curly hair! She was moving down perfectly. Nina took her pulse after each contraction to confirm that her heart rate hadn’t decreased and all was good. With each surge, she pushed out a bit further then slipped back in a bit during rest periods. Nina and Sasha constantly fed us liquids and placed refreshing cold towels on our faces. Luckily my energy levels were up, thanks to the large breakfast at 4 am prepared by my lovely husband.
I was so ready to meet my lil girl. Nina had been applying coconut oil to lubricate the area while supporting and stretching my tissues. She continued to remind me how to use deeper breaths more focused on my bottom rather than the higher pitched groan I had been demonstrating. After a few more intense contractions, I knew I had to sit more upright. Sure enough, the contraction came, I pushed with everything I had and whoosh she came out entirely as if my body had puked her out of me! I caught her and quickly brought her to my chest. She had quite a story to tell as she took her first breath. Large, loud screams came from a healthy, beautiful girl.
At that point, we all cried with feelings of deep, deep love unlike anything we’d ever felt before. All three of us sat in the tub together admiring our beautiful creation for 20 minutes until her cord stopped pumping all of its blood and nutrients into our lil girl. While Nina clamped the cord, I cut it carefully. Lele remained in the tub with Dad for some skin to skin while I delivered the placenta from the birthing stool. It dropped out immediately having naturally separated from the uterus after the cord stopped pumping. Nina and Sasha helped me to the bed for a quick check up. I had a bit of bleeding, so they applied an anti-hemorrhaging medication directly to the area. Nina discovered two minor mucosal tears which she stitched up on site. What a peaceful process. I received all my care from women I had grown to know and trust in the comforts of my own bedroom without any interruptions or distractions.
Soon after, Bubba and Lele joined me in bed. We all enjoyed a platter of fruit and cheese while I breastfed my daughter for the first time. She was already so strong, so much a person with a voice and mind of her very own.
After hanging out for a while, Nina conducted the newborn screening right there at the foot of the bed. Lele scored a perfect 10 on the Apgar test which looks at appearance, pulse, strength, respiration, reflexes, etc. Welcome to the world Waialea girl. We love you.
What I didn’t expect was falling in love again, a deeper sense of love with my husband. He was so nurturing, so present, and so supportive during the whole process. Together we lead and participated in a blissful birth at home.
*Thank you to Nina & Sasha for your guidance and support for natural, gentle child-birthing practices.*