Husbands and Home Birth: A Call for Women to Educate Men

by Kathleen Quiring on February 29, 2012

Image from Bring Birth Home

I recently read a thoughtful, thorough article comparing the different options of birth settings available to mothers: home, birthing center, and hospital.

The author concludes the article by explaining that she personally chose to give birth in a hospital because her husband felt uncomfortable with a home birth, and she wanted to be submissive to him in the matter. In fact, she admits that she didn’t even bother to give much thought to the question of a home birth after her husband’s initial response.

The comments to that article were filled with similar stories: women who may have wanted to give birth at home opted to birth in a hospital because their husbands were uncomfortable with the thought of a home birth.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she said, “Oh definitely. My husband doesn’t want me to have a home birth, either.”

Let me begin by saying that I understand that these husbands are objecting to home births primarily out of love and concern for their wives. They want their wives — and their babies — to be safe. They believe hospital births are the safer option. It’s wonderful that these men care so deeply about their wives’ well-being.

But these men’s objections to home birth are also rooted in ignorance, fear, and androcentrism (more on these in a moment), and that’s a problem. I don’t think, then, that the matter of childbirth is one in which female submission is entirely appropriate.*

Before I go any further, I also want to say that I’m deeply impressed by these women’s lack of resentment or bitterness towards their husbands. That takes a level of maturity that I don’t entirely share.

The thing is, if there is only one realm in which women ought to have authority, it’s in the realm of childbirth.

This is, in my opinion, one area where women need to educate men, regardless of their particular take on female submission. Most men simply don’t have the information or inherent feminine wisdom regarding birth to unilaterally make a responsible decision in the matter.

Like I said, objections to home births are often rooted in ignorance: Westerners — and Western men in particular — generally aren’t aware of the fact that there is no difference in the safety of births that take place in the home versus those planned to take place in the hospital (see here and here).  Men have a hard time grasping what women’s bodies are capable of without the help of medical intervention. This is a problem that needs to be corrected with proper education.

Objections to home births are also rooted in fear and discomfort surrounding the unknown — and for men especially, the unknowable mysteries of pregnancy and birth can be disconcerting. Our culture is so far removed from the realities of birth that most people are quite uncomfortable with it. This needs to be dealt with through increased familiarity with childbirth. (And what better way to expose families to the nature of childbirth than through a home birth?)

Objections are also rooted in androcentrism — in other words, the masculine assumption that doctors, machines and medications can accomplish the work of giving birth better than women who are attended by midwives but otherwise left alone.

The matter of childbirth is not an area where it makes sense for women to submit to their husbands. It is an area where husbands and wives need to engage in open dialogue. A woman should feel free to express her desires and know that her husband will keep an open mind about it.

A husband and wife can decide together to give birth in a hospital: I have no issue with that. But I think it’s important that the woman’s preference take priority over the man’s. She is, after all, the one who is going to be doing all the work.

Birth happens best when the woman feels safe, secure, and confident. Her muscles work better and more efficiently when she’s relaxed,resulting in less pain and a speedier labour.  So one of the most important factors in choosing a birth setting is determining where the woman will feel the most secure. And if that’s at home — well, then, that might be the best, safest option.

Of course, a woman’s sense of security is highly influenced by the people around her, so her husband’s feelings need to be taken into account, too. She’s not going to fare well if her partner is overwhelmed with anxiety. If there is just no getting around his angst, it might be best to go with a setting where he will feel at ease.

But may I suggest that this is perhaps an ideal time and place for a man to exercise his masculine virtues of courage and strength?

If bravery and fortitude are such important masculine attributes, this might be the perfect time to draw upon these qualities. If there was ever a time a woman could really use her husband’s courage, it’s during childbirth.

* * *

I want to see a cultural shift in the way we view childbirth, not as a medical event, but as a natural, normal, healthy process. I would love to see a shift, therefore, away from doctor-attended hospital births (which suggest that there is something inherently dangerous about the birthing process) to more midwife-attended births in homes and in birthing centers. This is all part of my desire to see a change in our perceptions of women’s bodies as whole, strong, and capable rather than deficient and diseased.

This can’t happen as long as men are fearful of birth and women are complacent.

I know that nobody likes getting advice, but if I had to offer any, it would be this:

Women: if you believe in natural birth and want it for yourself, you need to educate your husbands. Don’t be hostile or demeaning, of course; be gentle. Listen to his objections and carefully consider them. But make sure he understands the situation. Don’t stop trying just because his initial reaction is discomfort. Every man’s initial reaction is discomfort. Persist. He might change his mind once he understands how important it is to you.

Offer him information. I would suggest starting with The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, which is laid out in a fairly straightforward manner, perfect for the more systematic thinker.

Men: if your wife wants a more natural birth, the manliest thing you can do is try to understand her and support her. This is one area where you have to trust that your wife has more wisdom than you have. She was built for childbirth, after all; you’re fortunate just to be able to witness it.

This is not a time to give in to squeamishness or fear of the unknown. Be strong for your wife.

Fight ignorance with information. Learn about the benefits of birthing at home. You might want to start with this article. Listen to your wife and try to understand why it’s important to her. Become familiar with how birth happens. Read some books on the topic, perhaps even consider watching some videos with your wife to familiarize yourself with the process.

Deciding where to give birth ought to be a joint decision, giving precedence to the woman’s desires. It’s a wonderful opportunity for couples to draw closer together and discover how miraculous the female body is. It’s a perfect chance to connect on an intense level and come to a mutual understanding. I’d hate to see the conversation end at a man’s instinctive discomfort. Let’s keep the conversation going!

*Of course, I am coming at this from an egalitarian perspective, and I have a husband who shares my perspective, so that colours my thoughts on female submission generally.

What do you think?

You might also like . . .

My Home Birth Story

Why I’m Choose a Home Birth

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michele February 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm

AMEN! LOVE this post. I’m going to share this on facebook. I have a couple guy friends that are so insecure about homebirth that they refuse to even discuss or consider it for their wives. Then they are amazed at my homebirth being so safe and fast. No meds and no drawn-out labor. They say I am “lucky.” Ha! Luck had nothing to do with it.

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2 Mandee Jo February 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm

While I agree that no woman should “submit” to their husbands desire to have a hospital birth, I disagree in that no husband should be asked to submit either. Perhaps I am not getting the vibe you intended from this post but I feel that you have put too much emphasis on the woman’s desires, essentially calling for the man to submit to his wife because it is her body. In response I would argue that it might be her body, but it is their child.

Note: From this point on I am using you in the general sense, not speaking to any person specifically.

There should be open and honest discussion about each person’s fears and wants for the birth. Outline where each of you are firm and where you would be open to considering other options, and let the conversation flourish from there. Educate yourself and your partner using outside resources, especially if you feel that their fears are not based on an accurate portrayal of childbirth. Marriage is a partnership that relies on love and open communication.

Bringing a child into this world is a momentous event that will forever change a marriage. You are in control of whether this change is good or bad. I feel that shutting off the ideas and fears of your partner because you believe your way is the best or only way has tremendous potential to damage such a loving relationship. And I worry insisting that, as a woman, you are the only one who can decide what is right for your birth would translate too easily into “Only I know what is right for me and my child,” thereby pushing the father out of the relationship, damaging his connection with the child and making him feel as if he is incapable of taking care of his own baby.

In the same light, insisting that your wife give birth in a hospital without taking into consideration her fears and desires has the potential to take away her sense of self, and the sense of awesome power that comes from giving birth. Doing so may cause her to doubt her ability to give birth and distance her from the process, causing complications in the end.

There is no one size fits all solution to childbirth. The decision of where and how to have a baby, just like so many other decisions about parenting, should be made together, as a couple, and come from a place of love and understanding within yourselves.

For the record, I wanted a home birth and my husband wanted a hospital birth. We talked and talked and talked some more and came up with a solution that made both of us feel comfortable and in the end the birth of our daughter was exactly what the both of us wanted, because we had come to that decision together.

Also I think you have an inaccurate view of hospital births in the same way that you are saying men have an inaccurate view of home births, many hospital births are not all the evilness you envision. But that is way too long of a discussion for this already too long comment.

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3 Kathleen Quiring February 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm

I actually agree with you 100%, Mandee Jo: the decision should be made together by the couple. I say as much in the post. I only suggest that the woman’s desires should take priority, and that it doesn’t make sense for the husband to have the final say in this situation.

And I don’t think hospital births are evil. I just don’t think it makes sense that the hospital is the default location for birth, or that 99% of births in North America take place there. I think it’s a shame that we don’t trust women’s bodies to do what they were built to do, and that there is so much fear surrounding such a beautiful, natural process.

Thanks for your thoughts, I always appreciate them!

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4 Jean September 28, 2012 at 10:50 am

@Mandee Joe, I don’t mean to be rude, but are you kidding? A woman has absolutely the total decision to choose the type of birth for the ir vagina and womb..
Let me put it into perspective. Supposed science had advanced to the point where vasectomies and circumcisions are done at home and in the hospital. A husband wants to have his done at home, and his wife wants it done at the hospital. The husband writes on a blog saying that because it is his penis being cut, that he has the decision and should not give into his wife. What is your opinion, Mandee Jo.

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5 sue February 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm

I just wanna say too that midwives attended my birth in the hospital. No doctors were anywhere in sight. If I didn’t want pain meds, nobody was pushing them, I didn’t have to have them. And they also encourage you to keep moving and changing positions to keep things going. So basically it’s just the drive you avoid if you do a home birth. I do think you have to have at least one hospital birth to be able to judge them correctly. They really aren’t that bad and I definitely felt safe there. =)

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6 Courtney March 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

I had the same hospital experience – my midwive & wonderful, natural-minded nurses, no doctors, everyone followed our birth plan to a T & it was a great experience. It was also good to be there since my baby had fetal arrhythmia so they were able to monitor it & check his heart after he was born.

It is very much a personal decision – my husband would actually love a home birth, but I personally need a change of scenery – I can’t imagine birthing a child in my own home!! I also like being taken care of by nurses for a couple of days. :) (& my husband was a rock star in how he took care of me too!)

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7 Kathleen Quiring March 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Sue and Courtney: I’m so glad to hear that your hospital births went so well! I’m so happy that hospitals are improving so dramatically in the way that they care for mothers,and that midwives are generally welcome there. Only a generation ago, mothers were being strapped down to beds, hooked up to monitors and routinely cut into. Thank goodness we’re seeing improvements!

It’s not that I think all hospital births are horrible. But I object to the assumption that hospitals are necessarily SAFER places than birthing centers or homes. For the most part, they’re not. I wish more people realized this!

8 Rebecca February 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I love this post!! I think too many people, men and women both, don’t understand how a hospital birth puts road blocks up for natural birth. Both parents should have input into where and how a child is born but I agree with Kathleen that this is one area where a woman should take the driver’s seat. Women need to understand and trust their own wisdom when it comes to child birth and their husbands need to do the same and be guided by them. I will say though that both parents being on the same page is VERY important. Thanks for putting this perspective out there, Kathleen!

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9 Kristine March 4, 2012 at 12:29 am

I wish that I had been more open to hearing my husband’s concerns about having a home birth. I think that is the beauty of a partnership-the potential to see two sides of everything.

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10 Chantelle March 4, 2012 at 6:02 am

I don’t quite agree. I think it’s great to for both husband and wife to be educated about what occurs in childbirth and to make the decision together as to where to have the baby. But if, at the end of the day my husband and I disagreed on the location I know that the sensible thing to would be to submit to his authority on the matter. Why? Because he does have a position of headship over our family (however unpolitically correct and uncomfortable that may be) and if I push my own way I think that I’m putting myself in a position that is spiritually unwise. Also I think the matter, while important, isn’t the sort of thing that would cause me to be doing anything contrary to scripture, and, that there are so many ways that you can have a great and natural birth at a hospital or a birth centre, at least here in Australia, that simply choosing to have a baby at a hospital doesn’t mean that it can’t still be a normal experience.
In saying all this I’m coming from a position where I know my husband listens to me, trusts me and my body and its ability to do what it was made to do, and most importantly trusts God and listens to him. So, if it had been a matter that we had disagreed about he most likely would have prayed about it and I trust that he would hear God on the matter, even if God told him something he didn’t want to hear. Though even it he got it wrong, I still think my best position would be to trust him.

All things going to plan, I’ll have my first baby in about 4 months at the Catholic Mothers hospital (which also happens to be main maternity hospital in my city.) I’m very comfortable with this choice. It is the same hospital where my husband and I learnt Natural Family Planning a few years back and I tend to trust them, the midwives, and the doctor who will attend the birth. So obviously this issue isn’t one my husband and I have disagreed about it, and maybe I’ll feel entirely different after having this baby, I’ll have to wait and see.

– I was just re-reading your post and I agree with what you were saying about information and education. on any issue. I don’t think submissiveness extends to an unquestioning, undiscussed agreeing.

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11 dena March 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm

amen.

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12 Jean September 28, 2012 at 11:06 am

Chantelle,
Many times, husbands are not spiritually led. If a husband is truly following what God wants him to be, then he will lovely give into your needs when you are in a delicate and painful time. H What kind of man would demand his way, even if he is head of the wife. Barrying a baby, being in labor, and giving birth, is not about the husband.
He should, giving love, honor, and treat you with the upmost respect as his queen, as his help meet, united as a real man and real wife. if he is spiritually led, he would recognize the serious situation you are in as a pregnant woman who is carrying, not his child, but you all’s child together. God gives women common sense, modesty, awareness of safety for herself, and the baby she carries.
I’m just curious, what would you say and do if your husband said that he wanted his mom and dad to be in the delivery room and watch as the baby comes out of your vagina and watch as you have your breasts out to breastfeed your baby. Do you believe that the the wife submits to this too?

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13 Charles March 4, 2012 at 4:33 pm

What an unfortunate article that underestimates the potential that men have to be supportive, informed, and pro-mom. I am a man who is supporting my wife in having a home birth later this year. I also have a lot of male friends who supported their wives in having home births. I followed this article because I thought it was aimed towards men, and focused on informing men what they should know to prepare for a home birth. This was obviously not the aim of the article. Rather, the author thought men (and women) would be better served by pointing out how wrong many men are in not deferring the choice to the woman. Separating the birth dilemma out into “women who want a home birth and know what is right” vs. “men who are androcentric and only support allopathic medicine” is a misguided debate. If you are a straight woman who wants a home birth and your husband does not want a home birth, know that you are part of a small sub-section of women, and that this is not how it has to be, or how it is for everyone. If a couple is in conflict over where to have their child, it is unfortunate if the only option is one person submitting to the other. Imagine how much more effective this article would be if it instead validated some of the fears men might have, and then answered them with statistics that support home birth as a safe and medically sound option with many benefits. Focusing the debate on men vs. women creates discord rather than harmony and does not bring us any closer to realizing the benefits of a baby had at home where a mother can be empowered, comfortable, and supported by her partner.

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14 Kathleen Quiring March 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Hi Charles, thanks for your comment. You make some good points and I appreciate them. And thanks for being supportive of your wife’s home birth. In my (admittedly limited) experience, I believe YOU are part of a small-subsection of men! (Along with my wonderful husband, of course). I don’t have any stats to back me up, though, so I don’t know what is truly the case. In any case, I’m grateful that there are men like you out there who are helping the cause for home births!

I didn’t mean to underestimate men’s potential to be supportive. I apologize for my negativity. I was just reacting to what I noticed to be a trend: that men were being unsupportive of women who wanted home births, and women were failing to even attempt to educate their husbands on the matter out of a desire to be biblically submissive. I felt that unquestioned submission cut off the conversation prematurely.

You’re right — an article that attempted to educate men may have been more productive than what I actually wrote. Instead, I advised women to educate their husbands and provided links to other articles that explain the benefits of home birth. But I think you’re right in pointing out that it was wrong for me to emphasize where men go wrong.

You said, “I followed this article because I thought it was aimed towards men, and focused on informing men what they should know to prepare for a home birth.” I’m sorry that it disappointed you by being something other than what you expected, but I do want to point out that the article’s title is, “A Call for WOMEN to educate men.”

You also said that “If a couple is in conflict over where to have their child, it is unfortunate if the only option is one person submitting to the other.” I agree. That’s why I advocate talking it over and coming to a mutual agreement. Perhaps I put too much emphasis on allowing the woman to express her desires over and above her husband’s, though. Again, I apologize.

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15 Charles March 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Kathleen,

Thanks for considering my comment. I didn’t think you would reply, or else I would have been more personable. On second reading of your article, I think I better understand your intention. I support your call for women to educate men. I am glad that bloggers like you are supporting women in educating their partners in the wide variety of benefits of a home-birth. My stance is to represent the men that support home-birth, or will learn to support home-birth. What is good for the mother, is good for the baby, is good for the husband. Home-birth is a great option for Dad’s. As a Dad, I feel much more empowered knowing that my wife will be supported in our home by educated and experienced midwives, and will therefore be a much better birth partner to my wife. I would have a hard time supporting her if I were freaked out, and American Hospitals freak me out. Don’t get me wrong, if we need a c-section for safety reasons, bring it on; but, if we have a low-risk birth, there’s no place I’d rather be than at home with a group of experienced and supportive midwives. Midwives talk about how birth (for the woman) is about feeling safe and supported, and relaxing into the experience. I think the same is true for the father. I will be much more available to my wife knowing that we are at home, on our turf, with our own bacteria, smells, and sounds.

I’m bummed that you have so much experience with men NOT wanting home-births. I know it is not a representation of all men out there. I hope the trend continues for men and women to become more educated about the benefits of home-birth.

Lastly, you claimed that you may have overemphasized the woman expressing her desires in the face of her husbands. I disagree: I don’t believe you overemphasized this. This is very important. Ultimately, my wife is giving birth, not me. I want a home-birth, but if she blatantly refused, too bad for me. I’m not the one giving birth, she is, so she decides, and I will do my best to be there to support her.

Overall, I’m with you: women should feel empowered to educate men on the benefits of home-birth, I just think that the men on the other side of the tracks might sometimes be more supportive than you fear.

Thanks for opening up this forum, and being willing to consider another opinion.

Warmly,
Charles

16 Jean June 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Because you men think that you should not defer that decision to the woman. It is ludicrous for you a man, to even question us on our opinion. That is why women are enraged, yet again men are trying to take away women’s rights in deciding on a birth location. This is unbelievable!! That is why we had to turn the direction of this discussion. Listen, Mister Male Person, so tell me who you think the decision should be deferrred to when the man is choosing his vasectomy location?. Should the man have the decision or should he allow his wife to tell him where she feels he should have it??

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17 dac March 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

My husband is the actually the one who was more comfortable about the idea of a home birth than me. Our first child was premature so care was transferred from our midwife to an ob in the hospital. My husband would have liked a home birth for our second but I was uncomfortable with it. Partly I think because of the memories I had of the problems our son had after he was born early and the care he required and partly because I just felt it would be better for me to be out of the house. I tend to be able to stay calm better in a strange environment. Also, I wouldn’t have to worry about if the house was clean, cooking, entertaining visitors, etc. for the couple days afterwards as I would feel compelled to at home. Things went smoothly though with our second attended by a midwife at the hospital and I was more aware of the cons of being there. So for the third I have said I would be willing to have a home birth. My husband is all for it!

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18 Russ March 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I’d like to echo Charles’ comment that, while I think this post is well-intentioned, I also think it’s somewhat ignorant in the assumptions you make regarding husbands. Specifically, I think you’re falling victim to the fallacy of self-selection. Look at it this way… Let’s say 95% of people, male and female, believe homebirth is dangerous and/or abnormal. 95% of couples are going to agree on a hospital birth; there will be no disagreement and you’ll never hear from them. 5% of the women will look into homebirths. Of those 5%, 95% of their husbands will think it’s dangerous and/or abnormal. If you’re anything like my wife, your social circle will disproportionately include those 5% of women, and you will therefore encounter a majority of situations where the husband is objecting to the situation out of concern for their wife. It will appear to you like it’s a male problem, but ultimately it’s a problem of societal ignorance, not male ignorance. So while I fully support educating all people (whether they have a penis or a vagina) of the possible benefits of homebirth, I think it’s unfair to men to paint it as women needing to educate men.

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19 Kathleen Quiring March 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Excellent point, Russ. Thanks for laying it out like that for me. Perhaps you’re right, and I apologize for making assumptions. But I do think women tend to be the ones doing most of the research into childbirth — at least initially, since they’re the ones going through it — so they tend to be more informed than their husbands. I could be wrong, though, and there certainly must be exceptions.

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20 Jean September 28, 2012 at 11:43 am

Kathleen, stop apologizing to these men. You haven’t done anything wrong. When I go on a site that discusses men’s body issues, the men quickly tell me how I am going over boundaries, into a territory that is male and not for women to butt in. They write that women don’t know how the male feels. Well, guess what people, a man has no idea what a childbirth feels like. You all need to be for real!!

Stop making women think they have sinned because they want to dcide where and how they hold up their legs while their vaginas turn inside out and they are going through one of the most painful experiences a woman can go through!!

Why are we as women so accomodationg to men who come on a birth site? Even though the baby belongs to the woman and man, the birth is a hard experience for the woman and ultimately is about the mother’s wishes. I can’t believe that women have progressed so far, and yet we are going backwards. Women are to apologize for what?? For wanting comfort during childbirth?? Women, don’t kiss up and apologize for wanting to decide on a comfortable birth?? Since we are the ones in such an awkward and painful situation, you darned tootin’ it is about our choices.
I would never expect my husband to give in to me how he will have his prostate exam or vasectomy. How selfish that would be for me as a woman. God does not mind if a woman wants comfort during childbirth. How evil can we as humans be to women?? Don’t put all this on a woman having to submit all over again. Everything in the world is not about a man/husband, and this is one of those things!!!!!!! Men stop being selfish!!

21 Allie November 16, 2012 at 3:58 am

I’m trying to respond to Jean’s response to this post, but there is no link to do so.

I appreciate Kathleen apologizing for making assumptions, or whatever to the men who comment.

In my experience, the men are not being selfish. When you marry someone, You give your whole self to that person. Everything about you belongs to them, and everything about them belongs to you. (I can’t remember the exact verse that says that right now though).

Why this has become a debate on why men are so (whatever bad phrase you want to put here) – I don’t understand.

We say we’ve progressed as women, we have more rights, etc. etc. But in my opinion, most women who get offended at things like their husbands wanting to have a say in where and how their child is born – are only turning into the very thing they say they hate.

Out of fear of losing whatever authority we may have gained through the feminist movement – we have become anti-men. We abuse them with our words and attitudes because we assume their being selfish and couldn’t possibly be focused on benefiting us (again, I’m trying to respond to Jean specifically, not Kathleen – I read Kathleen’s disclaimer).

I’m so tired of women disrespecting men because they feel it’s their right because men are disrespecting them – when so often what women call disrespect is not meant to be disrespect at all – but an expression of love and concern.

Women have become selfish and arrogant – and most men wont bother to argue with a quarrelsome women. So the woman gets her way by throwing a fit because the man is being “patriarchal” or whatever. But I don’t consider this a victory when you look at the destruction it does to the relationship.

Honestly, most men I know aren’t against their wives (or girlfriends or fiancées) having comfort during childbirth – but still will be against a home birth even if their wife is, at least at first. It’s not because they are trying to be evil toward women or that they think women deserve to be punished by God – it’s because they are genuinely concerned for their wife and child’s well-being – because they love them.

We should respect men for their concern and care, not accuse them of hating women! We should honor their concern and frustration when we accuse them – instead of assuming that they are calling us evil for our opinions! Men aren’t evil. Most men I know don’t wish anything bad for the women in their lives – even women who use them and abuse them (with their words) to the point of utter frustration. Stop attacking men.

I respect Kathleen for being open to any kind of correction, open to learn and change her view when she hears other people’s opinions. Why are you getting angry at her for apologizing (for making assumptions)? Just because she’s speaking to a man?

In an effort to end sexism against women – we have become sexist against men. I know so many women who don’t trust men, are bitter against them, hate them, and say things like “men have to be trained, like dogs”. – These people are the one’s who seem the most miserable in their lives.

When the truth is, there are people who are selfish and egotistical – both men and women, but there are so many more people who genuinely care about those close them and are wanting the best for them, even though they may not agree on what that “best” is exactly – both men and women.

And most men I know would and do give all of themselves to meet the demands of their wives – even with receiving very little respect and self-less giving from that very same person who they pour into. Instead, if they try to stand up for their opinion or desire for anything in the relationship, if it contradicts the women – they are accused of being selfish and sexist. And it simply isn’t true. It’s wrong that we think it’s our right as women to treat men this way, just because we are convinced that if we don’t, they’ll treat us this way. It’s just not true.

A happy relationship is found when both people are willing to give of themselves freely, and respect the other person above their own self. And sometimes, you just have to be the bigger person and start that chain. It takes trust. But as long as we’re fighting about who’s right – it’s always gonna be a power struggle, and their is no security in the relationship.

22 Jean January 8, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Kathleen, Don’t allow him to call you ignorant. Let him go to a male site and see if he calls any of the men there, ignorant.

23 Robert March 6, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Hi Kathleen – Thanks for your article and the discussion that it has raised about the need for husbands to be involved at more than a superficial level, however it appears to me that the article is more directed towards addressing male chauvinism than educating men about the needs of their wives. I appreciate that each wife may have individual specific needs but there must be many needs that are general and could be mentioned? Keep up the good work.

Chauvinistic – somebody with an excessive or prejudiced loyalty to a particular gender, group, or cause

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24 Terry March 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I am one of those husbands who objected to a home-birth until my wife revealed my ignorance and educated me about the situation. Your article is spot on. Please please please stop apologizing to people who don’t agree with you!!!!!!!!!!!

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25 Benjamin March 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Actually – everything that Terry just said is what I wanted to post.
Spot on indeed!

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26 Heather G March 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm

I’d like to make two points. First, as a trained doula, both my experiences and those of the doula profession back Kathleen’s observation of husbands being very reluctant (and often outright refusing) to consider a home birth. Charles’ comment above, [if you're a straight woman who wants a home birth with a husband who doesn't, you're part of a minority] is not backed by any of my experience. I’m just one person, of course, but I’m tapped into a wide community of practicioners and families going through birth and weighing their options, and from that background I can say that women often, although wonderfully not always, face objections from their husbands.
Second, it bears pointing out that many, many women don’t consider home birth for themselves because they, too, are ignorant and afraid. They have no interest in researching a topic that they mistakenly believe is more dangerous and will put themselves and their babies at risk. I’m always taken aback when I bring up the topic of home birth with other women who react strongly against it, saying “oh, but that’s more dangerous than a hospital birth”, and I’m left quoting statistics and opening up the whole topic, which the majority aren’t interested in discussing. Most women have had their opinions shaped by the same factors and influences as men, and haven’t bothered to investigate further.

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27 Sherri March 7, 2012 at 10:00 am

I would like to pipe in here and say that I have experienced the same thing with my own husband, as well as with friends’ husbands. Men are not evil because they fear this, neither are women. Being uneducated about anything causes fear.

I think it is harder for a man to believe that homebirth is safe, simply because he is not carrying the child and does not experience what it is like to have a human growing inside you and changing your body. Some men are great at that kind of empathy, but others are not. I have several friends who might consider homebirth if only their husband was open to discussing it. I’ve also had many friends who have gone to hospitals, only to end up with c-sections because they were induced, had an epidural, or simply “failed to progress.” It’s extremely frustrating that people don’t see the trend in hospitals and choose to go there because they feel it is the best (or sometimes only) option. I LOVE birthing at home. I love walking around in my pj’s, calling out if I am in pain, getting in my pool, and best of all, not being tied to my bed by an IV or being forced to give birth on my back.

I love my husband so much for supporting my decision to give birth at home. I think you are right- women should have the final say about where to deliver. Who says that I have to be afraid at a hospital so my husband isn’t afraid? Isn’t it more important that I feel confident while I am giving birth? Men who are afraid of homebirth will only be afraid the first time, I tell you what! It’s an incredible, peaceful experience. (Well, as peaceful as labor will ever be!)

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28 Julie Bell March 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I find it disturbing to see words like “submission” and “authority” used around a topic that should be about equality and mutual love and respect. What an indictment of our culture, that we are so obsessed with power, hierarchy, control, getting your own way, who’s the boss, who has right of veto etc etc, that the conversation has to be around words like “submission” and “authority” instead of consideration, compromise, listening, understanding, yielding, supporting, growing, assertiveness, and other things that are all about growing to maturity and growing in trust and intimacy. And this after Jesus said, “not so among you!” I’m sure the women who “submit” to their husbands over issues concerning their most intimate and most sacred bodily autonomy are having countless opportunities to learn surrender and maturity … the thing is, are their husbands likewise?? Or, propped up on a pedestal of privilege, do they remain spiritual infants, and then have a need to infantilise their ever-stronger-growing wives to compensate? Equality and mutuality allow for bilateral personal maturity and growth. Equality says, “This decision impacts directly on you more so than me, it is your body we are talking about here, not mine – so you have more say. However, being honest I confess that I do have feelings of apprehension. Would you please share your research with me because I can see I need to access more information before I can feel comfortable with your decision.” The male-headship/hierarchy doctrine is sexist and it is an embarassment to Christianity. (It’s also unbiblical but that’s another issue.)

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29 Kathleen Quiring March 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Beautifully said, Julie. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

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30 Jean September 28, 2012 at 11:57 am

Wow Julie!!
You said it right on the head. Unlike many women on this site and women around the country, you seem to be a wise woman, who recognizes a real problem with women having autonomy over their own bodies. I hope women will for once, feel empowered and strong and not believe that the man’s opinion about the birth, is more important, just because he is a man. I just love, how eloquently your point was made. WOW!! Please, continue to give input. Women and men, need to read what you wrote.

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31 Yolande Clark March 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Wow. Interesting article, and a very interesting range of responses. I am 31 years old, and pregnant with my 5th child. My first two children were born at home with a traditional birth attendant present (and my ex-husband). My two youngest children were born at home, unassisted (and with the presence of my now-husband). The child I am now pregnant with will be born at home–and I am considering a solo birth–just me, no husband. I trained as a doula, and I have been very involved with natural childbirth advocacy, etc., for the past 12 years. Over that time, i have been continually *amazed* and *shocked* by the number of friends and acquaintances–strong, liberated women–who have told me that they wanted to give birth at home, but did not, on account of their husband’s fear/objection/disgust/discomfort etc. The very prospect of even engaging in a discussion in which I would have to *defend* my position on birth to my own husband, or *convince* the father of my child that birth is entirely normal, perfect, and something that (of course) I would do at home, is totally anathema to me. I simply would never accept any man, husband or not, even considering to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do when it comes to THE most transformative experience that totally defines me as a woman. But I realize upon reading all of the comments above, that in all probability, it is this very attitude on my part, as well as my own complete confidence and passion and determination to birth at home that allowed my partners to…realize their place, and to be ok with that. I suppose, also, I simply would never even consider procreating with someone who didn’t recognize that as a woman, I am THE authority when it comes to the birth of my children. Yeah, sure, the father is involved. Kind of. But no man has ever given birth–ever! And sorry, but men don’t have a clue as to what birth is about–no matter how “hands-on” or new-age a guy happens to be. And I DO absolutely believe that the objections that men have to homebirth fundamentally have to do with couched androcentrism and even misogyny. Furthermore, it is only extremely recently that men have ever had anything to do with birth–and yet, for some reason, in the developed world, it has become totally normalized and even, to a certain degree, fetishized, for men to get right in there, catch their babies, etc. I certainly used to believe that it was incredibly important for men to be “involved” in the birth of their children. But I am really reconsidering this position, especially when it comes to hospital birth (where the presence of the father is, I believe, a really hideous and humiliating form of tokenism and voyeurism) but in the realm of homebirth as well. Lots of reasons. Here is a very interesting article by Michel Odent, who seems to be thinking along the same lines as I am.

http://www.havingababytoday.com/articles/fatherpart.asp

So fascinating to me that in the past when women had so few rights in the political and social realm, they nonetheless owned birth–it was the territory and purview of women, and it wouldn’t even occur to men to question or even inquire into what went on behind that door. Now, we are feminists, and liberated…and somehow this means that men have an equal ownership over the decisions we make surrounding the birth process. Huh? Not for me, thanks. Anyway. Thank you for the thought-provoking article!

Yolande
http://www.bauhauswife.blogspot.com

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32 Kathleen Quiring March 12, 2012 at 9:00 am

Thanks so much for your input, Yolande! Thanks for “getting” what I was trying to say! (Sorry, though: it took me a couple of days to notice your comment went into my spam folder and I had to un-spam it).

This especially resonated with me: “In the past when women had so few rights in the political and social realm, they nonetheless owned birth — it was the territory and purview of women, and it wouldn’t even occur to men to question or even inquire into what went on behind that door. Now, we are feminists, and liberated — and somehow this means that men have an equal ownership over the decisions we make surrounding the birth process.” Exactly what I was thinking/feeling.

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33 Jean September 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Thanks Yolande. This was a great comment!

And you know what women, men will not allow us to make decisions about their bodies, and you can believe it!!
Why are women so weak and easily brainwashed into believing that the man should have control of birth?? What is the female gender coming to??

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34 Julie Bell March 9, 2012 at 2:39 am

My husband was brought up with Amercian patriarchal legalism and was taught that husbands decide and dictate everything, and that wives have to “submit” no matter what. While he was engaged to me, I mentioned birth and he said why couldn’t I give birth in a field and carry on working like the Chinese peasant women so that his important ministry would not be interrupted? So thoroughly had he been brainwashed to dismiss the voice, perspective and needs of women that he was taken aback at my not-impressed response to this. 7 years later when we had our first baby, he had journeyed a long way out of legalism and to grace, equality and mutuality. He read everything I did on homebirth and normal birth. He was the perfect support during our first 24 hour labour and caught our little girl with his own two hands, a profound and empowering experience for him as a man and as a father. He became very supportive of homebirth and later caught our 2nd and 3rd daughters. He was there when I caught our 4th child, a baby boy, myself. I am very glad I did not “submit” to his initial views on birth and give up on carrying the conversation forward for fear I would be labelled ‘unsubmissive’. And he is very grateful that as a result of growing in grace and leaving male-dominated/centric legalism behind, and as a result of learning how communication and sharing responsibility works in a loving partnership of equals, he was able to be receptive to everything I shared with him about birth, and this set him up for one of the most empowering and rewarding experiences of his life.

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35 Allace March 23, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I LOVE your view & I whole-heartedly agree. I wanted to give birth in a birthing center & my fiance was dead-set against it. I was so frustrated but I told him ok, & looked up birthing centers in the area. I researched articles about homebirth, I showed him pictures of the birthing room & pool, & I gave him our Mayo Clinic pregnancy book so that he could familiarize him self with my anatomy. I didn’t want to be pushy (he wad afraid of me dying) but I made sure he knew I was serious. Turns out, our twins had to be delivered by emergency c-section or all 3 of us wouldn’t be here but by that time, their dad was comfortable with a birthing center. For our next child, whenever that may be, he even suggested a home-birth. Ladies, you just gotta try. *wink*

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36 Peter May 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

“But these men’s objections to home birth are also rooted in ignorance, fear, and androcentrism (more on these in a moment), and that’s a problem.”

I wasn’t comfortable with my wife’s desire to have a home birth with our first child. Although she was disappointed, she had the child at the hospital. The blood work immediately following the birth showed that our daughter had congenital hypothyroidism. Had there been a home birth we would not have had this blood work done and our daughter would likely be mentally disabled today.

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37 Kathleen Quiring February 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Peter: as far as I’m aware, midwives do all the same bloodwork in the family’s home that a doctor does in the hospital.

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38 Jean February 27, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I have a question Kathleen. Please send me an answer.
The woman in this story is not me. What is your take on this situation?
A husband told his wife that he is going to invite, his mother, his father, and his brother into the delivery room, because he wants them to see the baby come out and watch the baby latch on to her breast for the first time. She told her husband that this is not right, because it is not right for his mom, dad, and brother be in their and watch her give birth and breastfeed. Please talk to me about this, Katheleen and anyone. Please do not turn this around to say that with anything a husband asks of his wife, that she is sinning against God, if she says no.

39 Allie November 16, 2012 at 3:15 am

I do and don’t agree with you at the same time.

I’m pregnant with my first child (30 weeks), and at the beginning of the pregnancy I really wanted to have a Certified Nurse-Midwife and even a water-birth (if insurance would allow). I was afraid of giving birth in a hospital because I didn’t want pain medication, and I didn’t want a C-section (almost everyone I know has only given birth by C-section), and I was afraid doctors wouldn’t respect that.

My husband was not up for the idea of a Midwife, and definitely not up for a home birth or water birth. His reasons had to do with the fact that these things were completely unfamiliar to him (I mean, I don’t know anyone personally who has not delivered in a hospital), and he wanted to make sure that if anything went wrong, me and the baby would be safe.

I was frustrated, but knew there was no arguing with him. When his mind is made up a certain way, his mind is made up. I submitted to him, but it had a lot to do with my respect for him.

Because I gave him this respect, (which I whole-heartedly believe he deserves as my husband) – I believe it made him more willing to hear my point of view.

When he learned more about Certified Nurse – Midwives, and had more info. on home births and water births and why they’re good (and that the insurance would cover a midwife) – he agreed that next time we can go that route.

In the meantime, he’s wanting me to blow off the doctors that keep creating all this anxiety for me (I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but I think it was a mis-diagnosis, and am thinking of asking to re-do the test). BUT I am not willing to blow off the doctors, we chose this route, we’ll follow through (and it sounds too complicated to switch to a Midwife this late in the game). Through education, I am also becoming less anxious about delivering in a hospital (and at the same time, don’t feel too freaked out if for whatever reason I don’t make it to the hospital).

Essentially, he only knew the experiences of his mother and sister, both delivered in a hospital with all their children, without pain meds or C-section, and didn’t understand my concerns about the doctors insisting things should be a certain way until we started actually dealing with the doctors.

I think the only real plus side to the route we took is that we have a TON of ultrasound pictures. :)

So, I agree that home births are a great option, and that the wife should have a huge say in where she gives birth (and is often right), but I find it deeply important to value my husband’s position and respect it.

Scripturally, he is the head of our family. I don’t always agree with him, but I do submit to him – and in return, he will often ask me for advice and go with my judgement when making decisions. When he doesn’t, I respect that as well. I find it very helpful in our relationship, and I seem to be much happier with my marriage than the woman who demand things to be a certain way or try to manipulate their husbands into doing things their way.

I think that respect for your spouse is crucial to a happy marriage, and often – when woman are squeamish about submitting to their husbnad – it’s out of fear of their husband not respecting them.

But when I respect my husband, I find I reap what I sow. If I respect him (as head of the family), he respects me in turn. If I demand things to be my own way, or demand for him to show me respect before I will do him the same courtesy (for whatever “right” I may have to it) – it becomes a power struggle and neither of us are happy or trust the other.

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40 Kathleen Quiring November 16, 2012 at 11:20 am

Thanks for your thoughts, Allie. I agree that it’s essential to respect your husband at all times. It might be hard to do that when you know he lacks information (which I think men often do); but I agree with you — most of the time, husbands aren’t being selfish; they’re just fearful or ignorant. (Not willfully; they just haven’t been educated). Most of the husbands who aren’t comfortable with these other birthing options are objecting out of genuine love and concern, and that needs to be respected.

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41 Jean November 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm

For those of you who believe in following Scripture for your marriage, you need to be reminded that,there was a time when, God told Abraham to listen to his wife, Sarah.
There are times when a husband should listen to his wife…..and pregnancy and childbirth would be times that the husband would lovingly not try to have his way, just because he is a man. Now, her being a woman and going through pregnancy and childbirth, which are difficult times for the woman’s mind and body as it is, would be a time for the husband to not exalt himself. This is also a time when he as a loving husband should admit his frailness a human being, and lack of knowledge and lack of experience.

Why would you people expect for the woman to abandon her choice to give birth for the man’s way of thinking. Kinda’ makes me visialize a man telling his wife that during her period he wants her to stuff a bath cloth in her underwear instead of a tampon, and then she submits to him just because he is the husband. My God is a loving God, and gave us common sense, and He is not so rigid that he expects for a wife to put her self in discomfort and harm just to give in to her husband. A real Christian husband would not be such a narcisstic, arrogant, controlling, husband. A loving husband would listen to his wife at this time and say, “Honey, I am so in awe of you as a marvelous creature about to give birth to our child, together, not just mine as a man. I am your supporter, I respect your need to find comfort and safety for your mind and body. You are a grown woman and you know what your body feels. You are the one who has say so in your birth and I respect you. This is a woman’s time. I will not be arrogant and try to control this, that I know not a thing about!!!”

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42 Kathleen Quiring November 24, 2012 at 11:50 am

Love this, Jean!

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