A study which looked at the experiences of eight fathers whose partners had a planned home birth in Ireland has found that, although several of the men initially had reservations about this, the experience was a very positive one which gave them a new perspective on life.
Noting that only a couple of previous studies had looked at the experience of fathers, Sweeney and O’Connell (2015), whose research will be published in Women and Birth, took a qualitative approach and interviewed fathers to explore their experiences in depth. For the fathers in this study, ‘the decision to have a home birth was prompted by a search for an alternative birth experience following a previous hospital birth’ but they ‘required convincing that home birth was safe and as Henry went on to say: ‘it’s only when you do research and look into it you see what the truth is.’ (Sweeney and O’Connell 2015).
As with many qualitative research studies, the data are rich and I think that dads-to-be would gain just as much as professionals from reading this paper. This is because the researchers have described the ambiguities and the ways in which the men’s existing beliefs were variously challenged or reinforced during their journey, and also because the paper makes it very clear just what can be gained by dads when they are able to engage in the journey of birth-giving with their partner, as is more often the case when birth takes place at home or sometimes in a homelike setting.
‘The language the men used to describe the birth indicated how much the birth meant to them. Mark described it as: ‘Magical, magical to see life happening, to see a baby growing in your partner, coming to life, been born. . . is just, it’s mind blowing, it just puts back the magic into life.’ (174–175) Henry saw the beauty of the event: ‘There’s a beauty in life, the force of life, is amazing’. (283–284) For Barry it was: ‘that sense of awe and wonderment. ‘We’ve helped bring this child into the world together and it was just a very moving moment. . ..’ (217–218) Mike was so elated that he felt that ‘I could have jumped over the house. I was delighted at everything, feeling the cord pulsating and letting it stop before it was cut and stuff like that . . ..’ (124–127)
This joy at sharing in the birth of their child was a unique and meaningful experience for the fathers; they shared the experience of their partner and were conscious that they had contributed to the wonderment of their baby’s arrival into this world.’
Sweeney S, O’Connell R. Puts the magic back into life: Fathers’ experience of planned home birth.
Women Birth (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2014.12.001
Background: In Ireland, planned home birth is seen as an alternative but safe choice of maternity care. Women’s experience of home birth is reported as positive but little is known about fathers’ thoughts and feelings about planned home birth.
Aim: The aim of the study was to explore fathers’ experience of planned home birth.
Method: Hermeneutic phenomenology was selected to explore the experiences of eight fathers whose partners had a recent planned home birth. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).
Results: Themes identified were ‘negotiating the decision’, ‘ownership of the birth’ and ‘changed way of being’. Fathers overcame their initial reservations about home birth before the decision to plan a home birth was agreed. They were actively involved with their partner in labour which gave themselves a sense of ownership of the experience and a valued post-birth intimacy. Their belief in natural birth was reaffirmed and the experience gave them a new perspective on life.
Conclusion: When men have a positive experience of childbirth they benefit personally and emotionally. This experience can strengthen their relationship with their partner and the family. Midwives are ideally placed to involve fathers actively in birth either in a home or hospital setting.