It’s been a week since my son, Aidan, was born. And it has been great. Paternity leave rocks! I get to watch my son all the time in his first days of life outside the womb. Friends and family have been happy for us. Officemates are gladly covering for me while I’m away. Even some of my students are being gracious, telling me to take my time addressing queries about their grades, even though they’re anxious to hear from me.

My boy, mere hours after birth

However, there is also an underlying thread of discussion that has been going since last Friday. Everyone keeps saying we made a gutsy call, opting for a water-birth. They also admitted being a bit surprised that I allowed it. I didn’t tell my dad about it, so when I texted him that my wife gave birth, his first question was where were we at, which likely translated to which hospital were we admitted to. My wife didn’t tell her parents either, knowing full well that it was not likely for them to approve. Even our midwife kept asking me if I was ok with all of this.

By no means am I already an expert on the matter. But I do know for sure that water birthing is not for everyone. I started that way. But what I did learn these past few months are points that may help those who might find themselves in the same spot as I was.

 

From what I saw, you need to have a number of things in place.

The first thing a couple would need is to educate themselves. Well, actually, I did a terrible job of this. Last year, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as water birthing. Of course, I was hesitant. But as the months passed by, as I remained ignorant, Vanni tirelessly did her research as she weighed all her options. Water birthing still ended up her first choice. So, there was a point where all I had was the fear of what I did not understand against her due diligence. So, it boiled down to me conceding and having faith that my wife knew what she was doing.

 

Second is the willpower to go through such a thing. Vanni didn’t want anaesthesia to be administered to her. She didn’t want to go through labor without me around. And most of all, she did not want to be cut open under any circumstance outside a life and death situation. She opted for this, despite knowing full well that things can get painful in the event of something going awry, no matter how likely or unlikely.

Third, the mother obviously has to be in good health. My wife took good care of herself throughout her pregnancy, watching what she ate and always staying active. Even at six months, she almost outlasted me during our walks around Singapore. One time, it was the baby himself who saved me from embarassment. My lower back was already acting up and I was ready to call time out when he did a little bit of kicking inside the womb, forcing my wife to sit down and take a long break just before I asked to for myself. That’s my boy — helping keep the old man’s dignity intact!

Most important, at least by my estimate, is the trust among everyone involved. Unlike in a hospital, this is going to be a personal and intimate matter. You can’t just have anybody there. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that family members are the best people to be around. The midwife herself wasn’t about to blindly take the job. She was going to think about it only after she got to know my wife better and intently studied her medical records. After all, providing home service to a family she didn’t know in a place she’s never been to? That’s a recipe for disaster for both parties, if you ask me. Lastly, as there was no way I’d be able to pull off being the sole assistant, we needed someone we were both close to and was willing and and able to stay calm during the birthing. We were lucky someone presented herself early on.

Everything went really smoothly. We only endured less than an hour’s worth of actual labor. In the aftermath, it was more about relief rather than euphoria for me. I can sit down, relax and smile as Vanni held Aidan in her arms immediately after birth. I didn’t have to worry about rushing to the hospital during Holy Week with my family in serious condition. I didn’t have to face my in-laws as I try to explain what happened to their daughter and why I allowed all of it. Everything went really smoothly and I will no longer have even a modicum of doubt if and when it happens again. Still, even with the complete success, the whole thing left all of us physically and mentally drained in the end.

This is how my wife wanted it and will probably want it in the future. My support for it will remain. It certainly makes for an interesting experience. But I’m not going to peg this as the best thing ever. As personal choices go, they will vary among different people. It’s totally understandable for couples to opt for a hospital suite with a full complement of doctors and nurses rather than an inflatable mini-pool at home with a midwife and volunteers who were clueless of what to do half the time. But keep the things I wrote here in mind if you want to consider going through the same thing. At the very least, I hope these give you an improved perspective on the whole matter.

 

My family owes so much to the midwife, Ate Evelyn (left) and Maya (second from left).

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