From a Father's Point of View
You may not know me. I go by many names, and have many responsibilities, but for today, know that I am a husband and a father, and there are few, actually, only one, other responsibility in the world that I take more seriously than those, and that is being a child of God.
I’m sure you have seen, as I have, many of the amazing stories posted to the internet from incredible mothers about their birth experiences, and that is simply awesome. I am always struck by the genuine emotion and feeling these women put forth in the expression of how one of the most intimate and special moments of their lives happened for them, and sharing that with the world. The vulnerability involved in today’s world by simply sharing something that private means that it does indeed take courage to put a voice to the experience, knowing that everyone in the world could at some point read your words, see your video, hear your opinions, and then judge you, vocally. I applaud you, brave souls, for being willing to subject yourselves to the court of public opinion, regardless of what you and yours chose to do or what your opinions are, I applaud you.
Something that I have seen to be lacking, however, is the birth stories of children from the perspective of their father. Now, far be it from me to detract one whit from the mothers, as this is unequivocally their day, and it is undeniably through their blood, sweat, and tears that life is brought into this world, but, with that being said, I think that whether it be social stigmatism, fear, or simply the dictation of the system most of the country follows, most fathers do not have a voice after the birth of their children, or even during the birth of them, and that, my friends, is a shame. Some, if not most, men, do not desire to talk about these things, and this I understand, as we are wired differently than most women, and this is a good thing, since we play a different role in the lives of our children. I am a firm believer, however, that the role of the father has been far too suppressed in today’s world, and most men aren’t equipped, aware, or desire to play the role in the birth of their children that they could, and some would argue, should. It is for these reasons that I feel the need to take the time to put into words the experiences of the births of my children, in my own words, infused with my own opinions, and with my emotion, to show the world that some men do still care, desire to be involved, and are active in the births of their children and supporting their wives in what is arguably one of the most intimate moments of their lives.
My name is Jeremie Cail, and as of the time of this writing, I have four children. Three are here and healthy with us, and one is in heaven, whom we cannot wait to meet one glorious day, after we lost him or her in a miscarriage after our first child. Since I have not sat down and articulated each and every experience separately, please bear with me for a more lengthy diatribe as I walk through all of the births of my children here in one summary.
My wife and I were married in January of 2014, and we wasted no time, getting pregnant not long after the wedding, due with our first in November of the same year. Being as young as we were, and not knowing then what we know now, we just followed the status quo, and did as we were told by our medical professionals. We found an OB/GYN and began going to her as frequently as we were told to, not knowing to question anything we were told by her or anyone else with an alphabet after their name. Please understand, I do not question in the least the heart of our providers, or any doctors who worked with us, I honestly believe that they had our best interests at heart, I simply do not adhere anymore to the concept that there is only one way to do things, or that there is no choice in the matter of birth, and how it happens. Fast forward through the year and the pregnancy, and our due date rolled around. If you desire all of the dates and times of certain events, please ask my wife, and I’m sure she remembers and could tell you all of that, but this is the account of the birth experiences from my perspective, and I certainly do not remember things the same way, or the same details that she does, and this difference in how we as women and men experience things and remember them is to be celebrated, not ridiculed, I believe.
We were out with our family doing some event, I believe it may have been the Compassion Experience, when contractions started to get more serious. I can’t remember the exact sequencing, but I know that we went to the hospital, they checked Crista, and then sent us home, saying that she was not dilated enough to be admitted at that time. So we did, and we hung out for a while, and in our naivete, I think that both of us were kind of looking for a reason to go back to the hospital, thinking that if we went, the baby would come, and that was the best place for us to be. Maybe I’m simply speaking for myself, I think I can honestly say now that was definitely an underlying emotion in my mind.
We finally felt like things picked up enough for us to go back, and so we did. Crista was admitted, and I went with her, and I distinctly remember several nurses and doctors asking her if she was sure that she wanted to try for a medication free labor and delivery, as if she didn’t know what she wanted. I remember being irritated by that, because I knew that my wife was sure that she wanted a medication free delivery, but I didn’t seem to exist in that room to those doctors and nurses. Besides a cursory nod, maybe a “hello”, or asking if I was the father, the distinct impression I got from almost all of them was that I was being tolerated, not welcomed, not in an openly hostile manner, but certainly there was an undertone of not knowing why I wanted to be there or at least giving me the impression that there was nothing that I could do to help in the birth process. This gave me a very unsettled feeling from the get go, since I did want to be there to support and help my wife, to be all I could be, and do all I could do to ease her pain, increase her comfort, speak strength and life into her as she went through what would surely be one of the most intense times of her life.
I pushed it to the side, though, and just carried on as I could, doing not much more than holding her hand and watching as nurses, doctors and who knows who else came in and out like busy bees, hooking things up, notating that, watching this, and not really telling me what was going on, but focusing solely on her. I have to take this sidebar to tell you, reader, that I do not abhor medical professionals. I have a sister who was a nurse, a brother who is a paramedic, and a sister in law studying to be a paramedic. I am so thankful that we live in such a land where we have such incredible access to great trauma medicine as we do. I am astounded by the commitment of the majority of the medical establishment to the well being of their patients, I am simply retelling my experience of a birth of my child in the hospital. So please, before you indict me, please hear me clearly that I am in no way, shape, or form expressing dislike, hate, or anything less than admiration for any doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals. I simply believe that the father’s role in the birth of their children has been suppressed almost to the point of being viewed as not necessary and even frowned upon, and this needs to change.
I won’t get into all of the details of what transpired during that eventful night, as that is not primarily what I remember, (again, I remember things differently than my wife does), but suffice it to say that it was traumatic. Crista labored for a long time, I think it was upwards of 30 hours total, and much of it was hard labor. I remember feeling so helpless, like there was nothing I could do to make anything easier, and as a man and a husband, there aren’t many worse feelings in the world. I continued to do what I could, speaking to her, holding her hand, encouraging, and praying for the safe and swift delivery of our child. Finally, after being able to sleep for a few brief minutes, David was born. I remember the doctor had come in to check her, something we now know to be practically useless in my opinion, and the water broke. “I didn’t want that to happen”, I distinctly recall the doctor saying in an almost irritated voice. My wife barely moved, being exhausted as she was, I remember only really seeing her eyes during a contraction when she would lock eyes with me and expose all of the intense pain she was going through, and tear my heart to pieces with feelings of helplessness. I also remember this being a doctor that we had never met before, another thing to add to the list of things that I did not like about this birth experience. Anyway, at the risk of delving too far into the weeds of details that I may or may not be remembering correctly, David was born.
The doctor cut the cord immediately, and then the clamp came off, so all I remember is blood going everywhere and people freaking out. I was just trying to keep in contact with Crista, because nobody else seemed to be focusing on her. They instantly whisked him over to a table where there must have been three nurses working on him, making me think something terrible had happened. However, he was healthy, with no problems, thank God, they were just freaking out to make sure his nasal passageways were clear and stuff. There was a funny instance where one of the nurses told us we had a baby girl. It wasn’t until about a minute later, which seemed like an eternity, that another one said, “um, no, it’s a boy.” How you miss this, I still do not know to this day, but it really did happen.
The next hours were a blur as they would come in and force Crista to wake up and wake David up to feed him, and I honestly don’t even remember where I slept, or what I ate, but it was all bad, and not comfortable. The only saving grace was that David and Crista were both healthy and healing well, that was all that mattered.
We finally got out of the hospital and went home, honestly, somewhat traumatized. Looking back now, we realize that the experience we had was actually not that bad compared to some of the things that happen in hospitals during births to other families, and for that, we thank God.
Fast forward a few months, and we found out we were pregnant again!! What a blessing from the Lord! We were more than thrilled, and things seemed to progress normally. I think it was at our 16 week ultrasound that we found out the baby had no heartbeat. I have no words to describe the sorrow and pain that engulfed us in those moments, and the days and weeks following. We were rushed to the hospital for a D&E, where I was forced out of the room for periods of time during which they asked my wife questions that frankly, even though I understand the need for them, are insulting. I was also not allowed to be present during the operation, and I remember almost nothing but rage. My best friend offered to end a vacation early and be on the first flight home to be with us, and I’m positive he would have if I had said to. My pastor dropped everything and showed up in the waiting room, with my parents I believe, and I remember crying into his work uniform asking Him why God allows these things to happen. I don’t recall what he said to me, but honestly, just the support and him allowing me to be raw and real with him was what I needed. We realize now that God’s ways are beyond our ways, and even though we had known this before, the experience of losing a child made it more real to us than ever before. We finally were able to trust Him again, knowing that we will meet our child in heaven some glorious day, and that God does indeed allow things that we cannot fathom or handle in order to further His glory, and even when we do not know why or how, are for our ultimate good.
I also need to take this opportunity to say something about miscarriages, especially to Christians and people who believe as we do that life begins at conception. Every miscarriage is the loss of a child. Every. Single. One.
In the days and weeks following, we had so many cliche things said to us, and honestly, a lot of things that were downright insensitive. Things were said like, “oh, it’s ok, everyone has miscarriages, we all go through it,” and the like. No, not everyone goes through it, and it is certainly not to be brushed off as less than the loss of a child, even though we never got to meet that child on this earth. We need to treat these instances of losing children with much more respect, empathy, sorrow, and genuine care, just like you would if someone lost a child outside the womb.
Up to this point, my dissertation of my experience with childbirth and loss has been almost overwhelmingly negative. For that, I am sorry, but it is all the truth. Raw and unadulterated in the retelling. However, thank God that following the loss of our second child, He led us to an incredible woman by the name of Lori Gibson, owner of Moonlight Birth, and simply an incredible midwife, and better friend. After going back to the doctor so many times for blood samples over inconsequential things after the miscarriage, we got fed up and finally reached out to Lori, who we had heard of from our sister-in-law, and the first thing that she told us was that there was no need for the doctors to be drawing as much blood as frequently as they were for the reasons they were telling us. We ditched the "normal" way of having babies almost immediately after meeting her, and haven’t looked back since.
Lori assured us after having met us and discussing the situation and Crista's blood work, that we were fine to go ahead and try again to get pregnant as soon as we were emotionally ready, and so we did. Once we were pregnant again, we hired Lori, and began working with her to plan a home birth. The experience was night and day different from our former experiences from day one. Lori became so much more than just our midwife. She spent time with us in amounts that you would have to pay a mint for in the mainstream healthcare system. Crista's appointments would be scheduled for an hour, and would frequently last much longer than that. Lori never treated us like we were dumb or an inconvenience, showing genuine care for us and answering every one of our frantic questions with calm reassurance and confidence. I remember the change in my wife’s voice as we spoke on the phone about the pregnancy and the care she was receiving from Lori, and this settled my heart as her husband, knowing that she trusted Lori in a way we had never trusted any other provider before.
The home birth experience was truly an eye opener for me as a husband and father. We had to deal with pushback from people who love us, but didn’t understand our decisions. We worked our way through it, and thankfully we have good relationships with these people to this day, even if they don’t understand fully why we do what we do, they respect our right to decide for ourselves, for which we are grateful.
As the day grew closer, I was able to be much more involved in the process of preparing and helping for the arrival of our second child, (third pregnancy). We were living with my mother-in-law at the time, and planned to have the child there at her house. When labor finally started, 11 days after the due date, (at which point a hospital would have pushed very hard to schedule a c-section, though totally unnecessary for any medical reason), I was there, and able to be my wife's primary source of contact and support through the entire labor process. I felt so much more empowered, needed, and helpful by everyone involved. I was able to give her back massages when needed, help her in and out of the tub, get in the tub with her to hold her up, hold her, help her breathe through the contractions, and talk her through it all.
Lori and her team were in the house, but they stayed in the background much more so than anyone ever did at the hospital. They checked on Crista’s vitals, and kept a close and very proficient eye on how she was doing, but with absolute minimal invasiveness. I never once felt like I was not wanted or needed, in fact, they let me do as much as I could and was comfortable with, and encouraged me to be as involved as possible. It was a truly revelatory experience. Our second son, Simon, was finally born into this world, and fell into my hands like a cannonball, with Lori’s capable hands under mine, there if needed, but out of the way if not. What an incredible feeling that was! Absolutely astounding. The aftermath of Simon’s birth was also a continuing testimony to the difference in what I now consider to be actual healthcare done correctly, and the way that the mainstream does medicine. Simon was immediately given to Crista with no delay, the cord wasn’t cut until all of the blood had drained, the newborn exam was done later once Crista and I were ready to do it, Crista had to be moved all of 20 feet from the bathtub to the bed where there was no need to vacate it for anyone else until she was completely ready, and was surrounded by all of the comforts of home, with no stress from the hospital environment. Everything was cleaned up in the background as we bonded as a family, laundry was done, even the dishes were washed, we didn’t have to worry about anything. Truly incredible.
As a man, I felt needed, relevant, involved, and important. A far cry from the emotions of feeling like I was in the way, not needed, irrelevant, and unimportant during David’s birth and during our miscarriage. What a great feeling. Also, getting to catch my son, and be the first person to touch him outside of the womb is something that I will never, ever forget, and that I want to repeat with all of my children.
Fast forward a few months after Simon’s birth, and we found out once again that we were expecting a child. During the interim, we had been doing much research and knowledge finding into a lot of areas of health, including general health and wellbeing, the different types of medicine, vaccines, food and diet, and what decisions we should be making as a family in regards to all of it. I am a huge advocate of the concept “know better, do better,” and I honestly feel like I can truthfully say that we are healthier now as a family than we have ever been, and this has come from surrounding ourselves with healthcare professionals with whom we have established meaningful relationships, and trust, who practice true care of the entire being, and do not just prescribe medications to treat symptoms in a ten minute visit.
So once we found out we were pregnant again, we were already eating in a much healthier manner, living our lives in a cleaner way, making choices to avoid things that contain large amounts of poisons and toxins, and generally living better. We also had much more knowledge about pregnancy and birth, and how things are designed to work, and what interventions could be used and when they are actually necessary. Talk about empowered, as we progressed through this pregnancy, I felt so empowered because I had developed a desire to know and had acquired the knowledge about the workings of not only pregnancy and birth, but also the healthcare system as it currently operates and how situations should be handled as opposed to how they commonly are handled inside hospitals and birthing centers. All I can say is, you don’t know what you don’t know, and men, we need to be involved in the whole process!! More often than not, our wives want us to be!
So, there we were, pregnant again. Of course, Lori was ecstatic when we told her, and the pregnancy process was much the same as it had been with Simon. Generally incredible. The combination of assured professionalism born from experience and genuine friendship and caring is exemplified in Lori’s demeanor in a way I have never experienced before. She truly is doing what she loves and is passionate about and she honestly loves her clients and their families. We have pictures upon pictures of our kids “helping” Lori listen to the baby, get her tools out, and just generally having a great time during our visits.
Knowing more about the entire topic than ever before, we decided to not give anyone our actual due date, since they are more of a suggestion of about when the baby should come rather and a hard and fast fact. This got some interesting conversations going.
“Oh, when are you due?”
“End of August, early September.”
“...yeah, but when are you due?”
“End of August, early September.”
“What DAY are you due?”
“The day the baby is born.”
Yes, we are that family. We have found that things like due dates and whatnot really just create expectations that if not met, create extra stress for mom and baby and family, none of which is needed, so yes, we did not give anyone our actual day.
So the actual due date had come and gone, and Crista had been having contractions for what seemed like weeks, and finally, around 1:30 AM in the morning on September 5th, real labor started. I was asleep, and though I would have gotten up, Crista was able to handle labor herself until about 4:30 AM. At this point she woke me up, and for a while I talked her through her contractions and massaged her back as they hit. Finally, around 6 AM or so, I finally texted Lori to ask her to come over, as it seemed to me like things were progressing extremely quickly. Lori came over, and walked through our door around 7:04 AM. I had gotten Crista into a warm bath by this point, and within minutes, she was saying she needed to push. Lori didn’t even have a chance to unpack her things, but thanks to her wealth of experience and assured confidence, she never batted an eyelid. We kept Crista in the tub she was in, and at 7:32 AM, my daughter, Lauralynn was born into the hands of our incredible midwife, (I was holding Crista up, otherwise I would have caught her), after only 12 minutes of pushing and with no other assistants, since it all happened too fast.
I cannot say enough good things about Lori and Moonlight Birth, or the homebirth experiences we have had. As a man, I finally feel like I am wanted, empowered, equipped, and able to be involved in the actual labor and birth of my kids, which is what I always wanted. I have said before and will say it again, I was there when they were conceived, and I want to be just as involved when they are born. Now obviously not all men are like me, and that’s ok! However, I sure am glad that God has led us to Lori and our healthcare team that allows, encourages, and provides knowledge to men like me who want to be more involved. I would encourage you all as husbands and fathers, if you are comfortable and willing to and your wife wants you to, to take a much more active and proactive roll in the pregnancy, labor and delivery of your children, not just for your sake, but your wife’s sake, and for your children as well.
If you have read this entire dissertation, your attention span is truly better than that of the average American, and you must have a passion for this subject. I hope and pray that my description of events and insertion of my opinion has been clear and fair, and possibly encouraging and inspiring as well. Men, you can and should do more. Women, some of us men want to do more and be more involved. Often times we simply do not know how to articulate that desire and let these chances of a lifetime slip by until it is too late.
Lori, you are incredible, and thank you for your service to us and your friendship. Also, for your willingness to take a frantic husband's calls and texts at all hours of the day and night asking the same questions that I asked with our last child. Your care is second to none, and your friendship is held in the highest regard by this family, and many others I am sure. Thank you also for encouraging my journey as a man into the realm of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and for being my biggest advocate to become the best labor coach and helper that my wife can have during the entire process of childbirth.