I'm happy I'm parenting with my more onbeat partner

December 26 | Guest post by Lindsay Ethridge
Peter and baby! Photo by Lindsay Ethridge.
After learning I was pregnant in December of last year I immediately embraced the idea of being a radical young mom. I was thrilled about planning a water birth at home, about babywearing, sleep sharing, cloth diapering, maintaining a vegetarian diet, questioning vaccines, etc. Excited about the baby but suddenly thrust into a whole new world of pressure, my partner was much more skeptical than enthusiastic about many of my parenting ideals.

The pregnancy was a total surprise for both of us — we'd only been together a few months and didn't know each other all that well. Probably, if I'd had any idea about how different our personal beliefs and priorities really were, I never would have imagined raising a child with this man. But here we were, both committed to a baby and, almost by default, to each other.

The reality of having a baby brought our differences to light. I began to think of myself as a warrior, fighting hard for the pregnancy, birth, and parenting experience that I wanted passionately and saw as spiritually and psychologically necessary for the well-being of my baby and myself. I began to assume that Peter would disagree or make fun of my ideas even before he had a chance to do either. But I was complacent about our disagreements. I felt my convictions were justified, and, most of the time, I was confident that I could do it all by myself if I had to, because it was that important for everything to happen the "right" way.

As soon as we met our midwife, Marcia, Peter was on board with homebirth. She had the charm and authority I lacked to convince him of its spirituality and safety. Our visits went very well and Peter easily made friends with Marcia and her husband. Meanwhile, I collected cloth diapers, a Moby wrap, and the Dr. Sears library, and neglected to get a crib. Peter consented to natural birth classes and learned all about how to help me have a baby. Things were going according to plan.

Convinced I would go to 42 weeks with a nine pound baby like my mother and grandmother before me, I was shocked by a tiny gush of water early one morning, just shy of 39 weeks. I called Marcia and our roommates helped us get the house ready for the big event. We waited 36 immeasurably frustrating hours for contractions to begin, and begin they did! But most of the night passed in a haze, probably because I had a fever. I didn't really register Marcia's concern, I was only vaguely aware of Peter hovering, massaging me often and becoming increasingly distracting.

After two Tylenol, the fever broke, and I'd had enough of being touched. I slapped Peter's hands away, and the hurt I felt radiating from him then was even more powerful than the contractions. I sensed him slump down on the couch across the room, utterly dejected. I was reminded of the day I met him and how profoundly he struck me then. I finally realized, "Hey! I love this guy," and, "We are having a baby." I went back over to him and asked for his hands again.

We got into the tub together, and the overwhelming relief of the warm water was nothing so sweet as the joy on Peter's face when he first saw the baby's head.

At first it was an added discomfort, but I wanted badly to include him in labor. I felt, a bit grudgingly, that I had to accept his presence as an aspect of bringing Baby into the world, just as I'd had to accept contractions, and I began to redirect some of my effort into letting him help me. Very soon we were standing, me clinging to him as I started to push. We got into the tub together, and the overwhelming relief of the warm water was nothing so sweet as the joy on Peter's face when he first saw the baby's head. Then, transcending even the beauty of that expression, his hands were the first to touch our little girl, and he placed her on my chest.

Whatever our differences they are superficial in the wake of the feeling Peter and I shared in the moments of our daughter's birth. The reward of her in my arms that day, and every day since, erases the struggle over what she's wearing and where she sleeps. I'm learning to emphasize the motivations for my preferences as I try to compromise with a less-than-readily-off-beat co-parent. Actually, the dialogue has really helped me to fully consider and examine my parenting choices much more thoroughly than I probably would have ever done with a more like-minded partner. It's still challenging and will likely stay that way, but cutting him out was a destructive solution. The best thing has been to try to be understanding toward someone who is just as new to this as I am, and to accept his contribution and perspective with gratitude.

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  1. This is beautiful! It's been amazing watching your family grow this year. Love!

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  2. I love your story! I'm married to a very 'on-beat' man and experiencing the birth of our daughter together was also an amazing experience. I've always felt thankful that our little one will benefit from having two different kinds of people to learn from. It sounds like you understand that too!

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    • Ditto to be married to a very on beat guy. Happily he got on board with my crunchy stuff we are having a mid wife attended unmedicated birth, breast feeding, cloth diapering, baby led weaning etc… He keeps me from going off on hippie tangents and focused. I love my on beat soon to be daddy. I really enjoyed this article.

  3. Your midwife let you labor for 36 hours after your water broke!? I'm hoping for a midwife birth-center birth, but I know after my water breaks I won't be allowed to labor that long. They are required to take me to the hospital after 24 hours. Which blows because I don't want that. Is this just the new world of insurance enforcing unnecessary precautions to avoid lawsuit, I can only assume yes, because you and your baby are happy and healthy. Anyway many congrats on your family!

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  4. We were in our home without insurance, I just had to trust our midwife. She gave me some herbs to speed things up, blue or black cohosh, vitamin C and echinacea. She checked regularly for meconium which would have been dangerous, but since we never saw any she let nature take its course. We were lucky not to have any complications! Congrats to you! Enjoy it!!

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  5. Thanks for posting this! My man is very much like yours, onbeat…and while I am very much adamant that I want a birth "MY" way when the time comes (birthing center, midwife, etc) I know he will fight me every step of the way. I know it's because he's only ever known "Baby = hospitals = doctors" so it will take some good hard research. Does anyone have great articles/documents that support midwifery/birthing centers? Or where to find articles about hospitals pushing C-sections? I think this post is a great segue into finding research that will help educate our partners to make the best decisions for each and every one of us. ­čÖé

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    • Amanda, watch the business of being born with him. It's remarkably convincing. Also, if you are looking for facts, look up the CPM 2000 study, about the safety of homebirth with a certified professional midwife. Maybe ask some midwives for their statistics, and then try to ask the hospital (you almost certainly won't get them from the hospital though).

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      • I think it must depend on where you are, but I chose my hospital and midwives based on their respective cesarean rates. I don't remember it being very difficult to acquire.

      • If your partner is anything like mine (skeptical and discerning) then The Business of Being Born will not convince him. I had him watch it before I was pregnant and he found it utterly one-sided. What convinced him was meeting our eventual midwife and gradually relearning about the birth process. I'd suggest the book Birthing from Within as a less one-sided perspective on birth, midwifery and hospital births. I'm proud to say my once skeptical husband recently defended unmedicated childbirth to a friend of ours with more conviction than I ever would have expected!

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    • Keep in mind that you can have a midwife in a hospital, which is what we did and it worked out very well. She did all my prenatal care as well. Also, not all hospitals push C-sections…in fact, ours (Alta Bates in Berkeley CA) was quite proud of its low rate of C-sections.

      And while you're researching all of this for your partner, I would suggest also researching the things you don't wish to have in case you find yourself in a situation that is not part of your plan. The more informed you are about everything (which hospital you would be taken to, what their standard procedures are and what choices you have with them, the difference between the different meds, any and all info about C-sections, etc) the better you will feel in case an issue arises that forces your plan down a different path. From what I've read on this site, heard from mommy friends and in my own experience, you simply cannot know how labor and birth will go…and often when things change they change FAST and you'll be asked to make decisions quickly. The more you know, the better you both can make the most out of your birth experience.

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    • Amanda my guy was curious because of the cost effectiveness and was sold by the non granola common sense, this is why this is a good option, talk the owner of our birth center gave durring the orientation. Also research it's proximity to hospitals that tends to put non crunchys at ease.

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  6. Read anything that Ina May Gaskin has written. She is a very wise and well known US midwife who does mostly home births. Also Sarah Buckley's book Gentle birth gentle mother is a great resource. I am from The Netherlands where home births are considered normal and csection rates are lower, but unfortunately and unnecesarily rising.

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  7. It's kind of the opposite in our relationship, I'm the more "normal" one and my boyfriend is more "offbeat". I never dreamed, when I was pregnant with my first, that I wouldn't get them vaccines right on schedule, or that I would consider home-schooling, but here I am. The two different perspectives are good to have.

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