Peter Jennings is a realtor, a husband, a father, and a fierce friend. For this Father’s Day, Peter shares his experience of becoming a father and using doula support during his transformation into parenthood.
Peter and I have been married for five years and partnered for ten. Together, we have two daughters and had two very different birth experiences. Our first daughter, Hazel was born in hospital under obstetric care with birth doula support and postpartum doula support. I had an epidural and an augmented labour with pitocin. For the birth of our daughter Zoe, we had a home birth with midwives and doula support.
Read on to hear about Peter’s firsthand experience of becoming a father, how each birth transformed him, and how doula support impacted each experience.
What were you most excited and worried about?
Our plans were finally coming to fruition and we were starting a family. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, and the unknown was exciting. I knew we would be happy either way, so long as you were both healthy. I was worried about your well being - you hear horror stories of other people’s experiences. My worst fear was that I would lose you and be left with a baby, or lose both of you.
Tell me about the prenatal meetings we had with Rachel.
You knew Rachel better than I did, and your trust in her made me trust in her - I knew she had our best interests at heart. Because you’re already a doula, it felt like those meetings were actually more for me. They helped because I could ask all my stupid questions, I could spitball a scenario and play it out with someone who had experience. Even when I didn’t want to do the meetings because I wasn’t in the mood, I’m so glad we did. I can’t express how much better, stronger and confident I felt about the birth after each one of those meetings.
Tell me about Hazel’s birth and the postpartum as you remember it.
It was magical. Fucking beautiful. It was at Foothills Hospital, and it was the quickest longest night of my life! We were thrown a couple loops and had to make some decisions. Having a birth doula was fantastic, when it was tough to leave and do some thinking or breathe or get some rest. But knowing someone you trusted and I trusted was with you was super important through the long stretches. Being on your right hand side, you just can feel when it’s time. There’s a weird release in the air, there’s a push and then there’s this little baby. You can’t love any deeper than that, it’s insane how instant it is. She was on your chest, we all cried. I was beyond proud of you and in shock. And then Hazel took a big shit all over you. We had a laugh.
For postpartum, I remember AJ sitting in the waiting room outside of the hallway we were in, just waiting being on point. That was really special, she really cared. I came out to make the calls to tell everyone, and she’s patiently waiting and excited. I remember it being everything for you. As your partner, I have no idea what I’m doing, or your body functions (breastfeeding). She helped take the fear out of situations when it’s not working, bringing solutions. It was super important and worth everything - having a strong member, advocate, support person come in and be there.
What was different with us being pregnant with Zoe, now we were already parents? What worried you?
It felt like a lot less pressure, there were more moments where I felt joy. Your pregnancy also felt faster, like two to four times faster. I felt like I had more experience, I knew which appointments I could skip. I had the same worries I did with Hazel, being a father to two children alone. I worried about bills, but you find your way.
Tell me about Zoe’s birth.
Beyond magical. Things were aligned to have a homebirth. It was super fast by the time you got into labour and things got moving. But those 11 days before Zoe was due, mentally physically was the longest stretch of my life – everything exhausting. Waiting. We were ready. We had your Aunt Linda for support, an awesome team of midwives and doulas, our dogs were there, Hazel was sleeping.
Of course I was a part of the birth, I was right there by your side, but there was this whole element of watching these women sit in silence but support you. There was like this fucking crazy energy in there that was pure women, like pure motherly instinct, experience, support. I just remember like, stepping back and being a part of something fucking magical, beyond incredible. These women come together and being in sync without needing to talk to each other. They all worked without having to talk to each other, they just knew what to do. It was intense, spiritual, and cool. Unexplainable. Witness to something bigger than birth.
Zoe shot out like a water cannon. Oh there’s a baby out. It was pure joy of having a girl again. Saying Zoe and crying, we didn’t know what we were having. The beauty of having a home birth, you went right to bed after. Everyone was out by midnight. Hazel woke up to have a sister. It felt like witchy, magical, as hippy as it could get.
BECOMING A DAD + USING DOULAS
What has surprised you? What has been hard?
It’s surprising how much you can actually do as a person, as a partner. How much I’ve expanded, how much we’ve expanded. The amount of love for your own children. Adding children that are solely dependent, it expands you. You figure it out, it’s not perfect, you learn and grow. It’s been hard carving out the time: for yourself, just your spouse, AND your children. Also trying to be successful to create the best possibilities for them as you can. Accepting that it’s different – life is different with a child. You have to adapt, it changes everything. When you plan stuff, expect it to change.
The sweet things are the mannerisms you can see from yourself that you see in your kids. They’re so goofy, they root for you for the simple things. As cheesy as it sounds - you’ll have the worst day possible, you come home and kids giggle and bop your nose and it’s all okay again. They remind you how simple it can be and how joyous the simple things can be in life.
What did it mean to you have doula support for our births?
Comfort and support. It provided more options, like to lean on other people to be with you if I needed a break. Doula support was important for my spouse to have, but I didn’t realize how much support I needed until after it was there.
As a male and a partner someone who will never give birth myself, I am a huge supporter of having a doula and benefits of having birth support. Make sure you like your doula. It does matters that you can have an open conversation with your doula, because birth is uncomfortable. But having someone on your side…to have someone on your side to help you through it is super huge. It’s worth everything.
Even the after support (postpartum), because there’s so many unknowns and it’s scary. To have someone else in your corner that’s unbiased is worth it’s weight in gold. I loved that we had a doula and I wouldn’t do anything different.
Christine is a DONA International Certified Birth Doula who brings a sense of joy, excitement, and wonder to her work. She loves to support her clients as they journey towards their own best birth and shares their pride in their accomplishments. Offering deeply intuitive care, she is able to encourage them as they uncover their own inner hopes and desires for their birth, while supporting them with the tools to achieve them.