In recent years, home births have become more and more popular in this country. This is partly due to social media trends, but is also down to improvements in technology and access to specialist care for those who can afford it.
While hospital births are still generally considered the norm, some moms-to-be are choosing to deliver their children from the comfort of their own home whenever circumstances allow it.
There are many reasons why home births are desirable — you're in a familiar place, and that in itself can help moms relax during the often stressful and painful process of labor.
New mom Steph Hendel, above, and her husband, Josh Tarnofsky, knew that they wanted a home birth to welcome their first child, so they called in an expert midwife to guide them through it.
They hired Lindsey Meehleis, a midwife with Orange County Midwifery, to assist them with the labor and delivery. While Steph and Josh had an initial idea of who would be on their “birth team” (the select group of people who can are present during the birth), they eventually decided that the 'team' should include Steph’s dad, Joe.
Steph told Romper that she was initially hesitant about having her dad present during her labor, but in the end, it made sense for her.
“At first I didn’t know what to do about having my dad there, I was not far off from people making comments. But when I got into labor there was no doubt in my mind. This is the most natural beautiful process in the world, this is my father, he has been so supportive of me my whole life."
Steph also spoke about the home environment, and how the couple had made it as nice as possible.
"We had rose petals in the birth tub, candles, beautiful music… it was chanting, natural music… it was like what I imagine as the sounds of giving birth back in the day. We could eat and drink nourishing things. It felt exciting. Every birth is beautiful but this felt like such a good fit for us.”
With Steph's blessing, Lindsey’s team captured a few incredibly intimate images of Joe supporting Steph, and shared them in an Instagram post which has since gone viral.
Many people are praising the couple for their efforts in normalizing the sight of childbirth and labor, as well as congratulating them on their new bundle of joy.
A great deal of the comments were focused on Steph's dad, and how amazingly supportive he was throughout the process. But according to Steph's partner Josh, he initially wasn't planned to be there when it happened.
“We devised a plan to get my father-in-law whisky and let him relax. Whiskey and cigar, mellow out and not be bringing his energy in his room,” Josh told Romper.
“But the day before the birth, this voice told me Joe needs to be there, let it happen, let it flow. Everyone took their roles, like this higher power kicked in and everyone was in alignment. It was very organic, and guided the whole time.”
Steph explained to CafeMom that since she and her husband moved from Pennsylvania to California, she hadn’t seen her parents as much. But she is very close to her dad.
“I am an only child and my dad is someone I look up to immensely,” she said. “In my early years, we didn’t have the strongest relationship, but as I’ve grown we’ve discovered new ways of communicating and becoming best friends.”
During labor, Joe acted as a pillar of supportive strength for his daughter.
“ dad arose from the couch and became a pillar in a building of strength for her. He repeated mantras that they had made up together,” Lindsey recalled in her Instagram post. “There was a natural energetic flow in the room that I can’t describe.”
Joe gripped Steph’s shoulders as she pushed, while Josh crouched down to catch their baby as he was born.
The midwife team caught the emotional moments of the birth and what followed on camera.
Lindsey shared Steph’s birth story and the photos on Instagram, where they’ve since attracted thousands of likes and comments.
Lindsey was initially hesitant about how many people Steph and Josh planned to have present at the birth. But she soon realized that the supportive energy of her family members was just what Steph needed.
“What I learned with Steph is that she already had that innate trust in her body, and once I met her family members, I realized that there wouldn’t be any issue with so many people being there,” she told Romper.
The midwife wanted to share the photos in part to normalize the process of birth, acknowledging that the images of Joe supporting Steph might inspire discomfort and even fear in those who view it.
“Look at where the fear is coming from,” she said. “Breathe into why you are uncomfortable with this picture. I’m kind of normalizing birth, taking on how society sexualizes birth… we are empowering women with these images.”
As for Steph, her labor was exactly what she wanted it to be — largely thanks to her dad’s support.
The new mom said in an interview with CafeMom:
“I couldn’t have imagined it another way. He has always been a pillar of strength in my life and has supported me in whatever path I choose.… In the days leading up to the birth I prepped my mom and mother-in-love to be my doulas and equipped them with mantras to repeat to me as I went through contractions"
"Next thing I know my father was next to me repeating the mantras I had given to my mothers. I felt like a little girl again with my dad comforting me and reminding me everything was going to be OK and that I could do it. I knew everything was going to be alright with him there. It felt like such an obvious role for him to take in the moment.”