The first time I gave birth it felt, well, sterile. Not that that’s a bad thing per se, but there wasn’t a lot of choice involved. I lay on a bed, and the nurses and OB did their job. That was about it. I didn’t see my daughter’s birth. I had my eyes shut tight. I felt her birth, and I opened my eyes just in time to see a tiny little bottom being carried away for assessment.
The second time around the block, something different happened. I was pushing, and the room errupted in that usual chorus of “he’s right there, I can see his head!”. As usual, for me, my eyes were shut tight and my hands were squeezing the nearest available object (or person). Then the chorus of “he’s right there!” took a different direction. “Open your eyes. Reach down.”. I shook my head no, I was too focused, I didn’t have it in me at that moment. “Okay. Well, in that case, do you want to catch your son?”. My midwife was talking to my partner. I heard him stutter out a ‘Yes’. “Okay, there’s the head. Let him turn a bit. There we go. Now, grab him.”. This time when I opened my eyes, I got a very different view. My partner was lifting this chubby baby boy up through my legs, cord still attached, and placing him directly into my arms. The first people to touch my son were his mother and father. I was instantly hooked on the idea.
It’s something a lot of us have never really thought about. I know I hadn’t. The medical care provider catches the baby, that’s just the way it is. But why? What makes it mandatory? The truth is, it’s not. If you’re interested in catching your own baby, or having your birth partner do the catching, all you have to do is ask. There’s no being “allowed” in the delivery room. Hospitals and birth centers have policies, but they certainly don’t override your ownership over your body, and your guardianship of your baby.
That’s not to say catching your own baby is mandatory either. The majority of my clients choose not to, and even I chose to pass the torch to my baby’s father rather than do it myself. The moment of birth is an intense one. For the birthing person, you may find yourself too “in the zone” to make the catch. It may be too difficult for your partner to deal with seeing birth from such a close vantage point. Some parents are frightened they might drop their baby in the chaos of the moment (they are, admittedly, pretty slippery). All options here are valid.
If catching your baby interests you, talk it out prenatally. Talk to your partner and decide who will do the honours. Talk to your doula and ask her to remind you when to reach down. Talk to your midwife or OB and express that you’d like to catch. Often, it won’t be an issue, but if it is you’ll have plenty of time to prepare and weigh your options.