The Father’s Home Birth Handbook
by Leah Hazard

[2008. Glasgow: Victoria Park Press; 208 pages, paperback.]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 93, Spring 2010, © 2010, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Kelly Moyer.]

Direct, succinct and easy-to-follow, Leah Hazard’s book for homebirth fathers is a perfect addition to any midwife or doula’s library.

Broken up into seven brief chapters, this book manages to hit the highlights—the who, what, when, where and why of homebirth—while unfolding the frustrations, fears, acceptance, joys and exhilaration felt by fathers who are helping their partners birth at home.

Never pushy, Hazard tries to answer popular questions about homebirth with straightforward answers.

“The aim of this book is not to harangue you into supporting homebirth,” Hazard tells readers in her prologue. “[However] if you and your partner do choose to meet your baby in your own home, then this book will, I hope, provide you with some of the tools that you’ll need to make that happen, wherever in the world you may be.”

Written from her home base in Scotland, Hazard does tend to focus on the UK’s health care model, which may be confusing for fathers in other cultures, but aside from a few pages describing the role of a midwife in the UK, most of the book’s information is universal.

Hazard tells readers she originally wrote the book after meeting a large number of men who greeted their partner’s desire for a homebirth with “a mixture of shock, cynicism and fear.”

“Far from being domineering ogres who just want to see wifey tucked ‘safely’ away in a hospital, these loving fathers have simply had very little access to accurate, impartial information about the safety and logistics of home births versus hospital births,” Hazard states.

The Father’s Home Birth Handbook strives to correct this problem.

Hazard addresses the common questions any homebirth parent has heard a million times, including, “Isn’t the hospital really the safest place to give birth?” with common-sense answers and some eye-opening statistics such as this one: “A woman in America has a 40 percent greater chance of dying in childbirth than a woman in the Netherlands, where approximately 30 percent of births occur at home.”

In Chapter 2, Hazard helps fathers tackle the ins and outs of remaining positive in the face of negative reactions to a planned homebirth. Although it’s one of the shortest chapters in the book, this section has some good advice for parents dealing with criticism over their choice to birth at home, such as this tip told by a father from Scotland: “We pretended that we were going to the hospital, and then called everyone with the good news afterwards—gleefully, and somewhat smugly.”

Chapter 3 deals with choosing who to have (and who not to have) present at your homebirth and contains the story of a US Marine who helps his wife give birth to their daughter, unassisted, at home.

Brian, a US Marine from North Carolina, describes the moment he first saw his daughter’s head:

“…I felt the biggest blow of emotion. It was love, fear, happiness, sadness, complete joy and just an overwhelming feeling of adrenaline rush.”

Fathers’ stories often get lost in the torrent of birth literature, so Hazard’s book is a lovely change of pace. The book not only spotlights men’s stories, but also points out the special role that men have traditionally played in births throughout the world.

“Women may always have supported other women in labour, but the role of men as creators of the birth space appears to be just as deeply embedded in human history,” Hazard states in her fourth chapter on pleasure and pain. “Whether it’s Native Americans crafting birth supports from timber on the Great Plains or indigenous tribesmen building birth huts for their wives in Southeast Asia, fathers around the world have long embraced this practical role.”

Chapters 5 and 6 get back to basics with descriptions of labor, the birth process and possible complications, and Chapter 7 addresses what happens after baby arrives. At the end of her book, Hazard opens the gates to more father-focused birth literature with a quote from Geoff, a dad from Pennsylvania:

“Be sure to share your story,” Geoff urges other fathers. “There is no shortage of fear-mongering and simply unhelpful advice when it comes to birth. As fathers, we need to make birth a part of the masculine dialogue.”

Help the movement get started; read this book—and share it with a father-to-be.

Reviewer Kelly Moyer gave birth to her daughter, Eva Dolores, with the help of Eva’s calm and helpful father, Chris, at home on the Oregon Coast in 2002. She has been a journalist since 1996, a doula since 2009 and is the managing editor of Midwifery Today magazine.