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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 18 January 2022

Home births: 'It was really special to be able to hold him for the very first time in our own living room'

David Caren gives practical advice for Irish expectant dads.

David Caren

IN IRELAND, ANY woman who is considered to have a low-risk pregnancy can apply to have a home birth through the director of public health nursing in each HSE area.

It is then up to her to source a midwife locally, and that’s where the problem lies – there is not a sufficient number of professional midwives who are self-employed to cover the island of Ireland.

According to the latest figures available from the ESRI there is a home birth rate of less than one percent of all births. However, this small number does not reflect the number of couples who would avail of a home birth if the service was readily available to them.

Coincidentally figures from the Home Birth Association of Ireland show that for every woman who gets a planned home birth, there are approximately another ten who would like to have one but who cannot due to lack of service provision.

In certain locations grants are available from the health authorities, but this can vary. If you have private health insurance, a portion of the cost of hiring an independent midwife may be covered.

For many expectant dads, giving birth at home can be a frightening prospect, as if our poor dad-to-be doesn’t have enough to worry about. Yet, if you are to look at the big picture, you may find yourself warming up to the idea more than mum herself.

  • You can eliminate the stress of breaking down or sitting in rush-hour traffic with a loved one who is well on her journey to giving birth
  • You are more relaxed and in control in your own surroundings
  • You can draw on family or close friends for their support
  • There is no going home alone after your baby is born
  • There are no unfamiliar faces, medical equipment or other expectant mums giving birth in your living room
  • You can set your own visiting times
  • If there are other siblings in the home, a home birth provides an opportunity for all the family to get involved so no one is left out. It can also create an immediate bond between siblings
  • But most importantly, you can have as much tea and toast as you like

Sound’s great – so where do we sign up? As with all things in life, especially new life, there are factors to consider:

Risk: Your partner must be seen to be in a low-risk category first by her GP and an independent midwife.

Location: In the event that there are complications with the birth and your partner must be moved to hospital, you must consider your proximity to the hospital or the speed in which emergency services can reach your location.

Space: Can your home accommodate a birthing pool and all of its contents?
Drugs (for her, you dummy!): Unless you plan on hiring your very own anaesthetist then an epidural is out of the question.

Stories from home birth dads 

TheIrishdadsSurvivalGuide new

David is a dad of two from Cork

The birth was going to happen within an hour or two, so we moved into the living room – the cosiest room in our house – with the lights off, and I sat in a chair, supporting my wife’s crouched body as she rocked back and forth. Keeping her hair back, offering her water, whispering words of encouragement, all helped her through the final stages of this labour. When the baby arrived the midwife handed him to me immediately. It was amazing to hold him in my arms as the midwife looked after my wife.

At home with my family, my friends and my new son, I relaxed in our living room, eating toast, drinking tea and sipping champagne.

After a while, we headed up to bed with our baby and cuddled in beside our sleeping daughter. The following morning she woke to discover her new brother and leaned over to kiss him.

Tomas is a dad of one from Sligo

When my wife broached the notion of a home birth I was a little reluctant especially as this was our first baby. I always felt that hospitals were the safest place to have a baby, in case something was to go wrong. My wife was adamant though and made a drive at getting as much information for us on the subject as possible. You can sit back a little when it’s a hospital birth, but when it’s taking place in your own home, you seem to take on a greater responsibility in getting involved with the whole thing.

Our midwife was excellent; she became more of a family friend really. My wife’s sister and our two mums were also there for the delivery. My wife used a birthing pool and I helped support her with her breathing, changing the music and making the odd cup of tea. It was all very relaxed, and when our son was born it was really special to be able to hold him for the very first time in our own living room.

Geoff is a dad of two from Galway

I don’t know how many times I said ‘are you sure?’, ‘you won’t be able to call out for an epidural if you cannot stand the pain’, but at the end of the day it’s what my wife wanted.

Now having gone through it twice I can understand why my wife felt so strongly about it; it’s not as if we are any sort of new-age family, far from it, in fact, but it was right for us and while I accept that there is uncertainty with everything in life, thankfully there were no complications with both births and we were able to enjoy the experience to the fullest.

John is a dad of one from Dublin

It’s not for everyone, I admit, and being the most nervous man on the planet, I was not happy with the idea at all and did try my utmost to change my partner’s mind on numerous occasions. I did play the ‘but it’s my baby too and what if something happens’ card.

I decided to school myself and watch a few DVDs on home-birthing (and I’m squeamish) and even though I expected to be horrified, I wasn’t – not really. By talking to other parents I changed my opinion and was actually more in favour of it than my wife was.

Birthing at home has been around for thousands of years; it is not a new phenomenon. As an expectant dad you will feel very anxious, but if you surround yourself with professionals and you get informed, then you will feel a whole lot better about the situation.

David Caren is the author of The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy and Beyond.

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David Caren

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