A Packed Month of Workshops
Choices in Childbirth hosted two concurrent All About Birth workshops last Thursday night. At the 14th St. Y, a crowd of expecting moms and dads gathered for our once-a-year workshop, Men & Birth, facilitated by Mary Esther Malloy of Mindful Birth NY. And across town, at the LGBT Community Center, CiC presented for the first time, “How to Have a Great Birth Experience for LGBT Families” which was facilitated by Tanya Wills, CNM of Manhattan Birth.
To celebrate Father’s Day, this is a popular workshop CiC offers each June. As always, it was an emotional night, and a rare opportunity to hear new fathers’ perspectives of the birth experience. A panel of 5 dads spoke, including Georges Sylvestre, OBGYN from the organization Men Having Babies.
John became a dad 2 months ago. He spoke to the importance of having people in the room with you who you trust, and who are going to have your best interests at heart. While it is normally difficult to watch other people experience pain, John was in total awe of Celia. They had a doula, which he highly recommended to other expecting fathers. John’s biggest tips: If you’re using a contraction timer app, make sure it works for you. And take every moment one at a time and just deal with that moment.
Chris had a lot of reservations about becoming a father, initially. He advised new parents to do a lot of research and take a “really long” birthing class. Though Chris has prepared for a lot of different things, he had no idea what would actually work for his wife. “It’s amazing how simple it got”, he says of the music, electric candles and calm atmosphere he helped to create at the hospital. Chris’s best tip: Try everything, you never know what the most effective comfort tools will be.
Nadir and his wife chose to have a home birth. Though the baby was malpositioned, which often makes labor more uncomfortable and last longer, Nadir’s wife described the whole birth as “painless”! He credits a quick recovery to his wife not having had an epidural. Nadir’s tips for new dads: Take moments for yourself, and take moments for to share intimacy with your partner.
Brendan, a second-time dad, shared some of the differences from his two experiences with birth. The first time he and his partner had hired a provider they were never very happy with and did eventually switch. The second time, all the wiser, they selected a more affordable midwife. For both births, they worked with a doula who “anchored” them as a couple. His wife preferred the doula for any physical comfort, and so Brendan found other ways to become the provider of joy, love and support for her. Brendan’s tip: Get your family to help as much as possible.
Georges Sylvestre, MD, stressed the importance of being on the same page as a couple about what they’re comfortable with during birth and to be prepared for the physical process of giving birth. He is very supportive of midwives and doulas, and mentioned specific interventions that he avoids, such as episiotomies. Dr. Sylvestre also spoke about poor parental leave policies in the country. “We’re the laughing stock of the rest of the world… parental leave should be accepted as part of the norm.” The fourth trimester is all about bonding with your child, whether you gave birth to the child or not. Relieving your partner for a few hours is important.
How to Have a Great Birth Experience for LGBT Families
The LGBT Community Center invited CiC to present its work in order to expand the terrific family programming that’s happening there. So for the first time, we curated a panel of three same-sex couples and a doula working in the LGBTQ community to speak about their experiences. Tanya Wills of Manhattan Birth facilitated the event.
Daisy and Stephanie chose a midwife that was part of an OB practice, but were shocked when she went on maternity leave. They debated switching, but decided to stay with the practice and line up a doula to help support them. Daisy felt a deep trust in her body as she labored and had the natural birth experience she wanted.
Rena and Mariam knew they wanted a natural birth experience with the “benefits of modern medicine” and opted for an in-hospital birth center with midwives. They also hired a doula, even though many people they knew questioned the importance of a doula for a same-sex couple, feeling like they had the “womanly aspect of birth covered”. The decision proved to be the right one.
Esther and Minji wanted to have a home birth, but an abnormality during Esther’s 12-week anatomy scan caused them to decide on a hospital with a NICU, just in case. Their midwife recommended a high risk OB practice that they liked, and Esther and Minji signed up for a comprehensive childbirth education class to do things as naturally as possible while navigating the hospital. Esther’s nurse and doula were big advocates and encouraged her to push with her natural urges.
Tanya Wills, CNM, explained how breastfeeding can be induced for non-carrier parents. Our doula speaker Laura Vladimirova, who has worked with many LGBT families during birth and postpartum, defined a doula’s role and talked about some of the special considerations when advocating not only as a doula, but also as an advocate for LGBT patients. She uses a lot of metaphors for her work as a doula, including a comparison to a tour guide. Laura shows her clients the “secret passageways, and knows what’s really worth stopping for and seeing” for a first time parent.
- Check out the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
- Interview several doulas to find a good fit if you’re interested in working with one
- Surround yourself with inspiring birth stories
- If you feel uncomfortable with your provider and do not feel respected, it’s never really too late to switch providers
- Take a picture of the birth certificate information card once you fill it out but before you submit it; busy administrators are quick to check “male” for the partner without even thinking about it
Thanks to Bumpboosters for donating Pregnancy Cookies at both workshops, and to Josh Levs who donated two copies of his book All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses – And How We Can Fix It Together for Men & Birth. (Check out CiC’s interview with Levs.)
Take a look at the rest of the 2016 workshop calendar so you don’t miss any of these amazing nights!