Dad Jumped in to Be His Daughter's Doula & the Photos Are Incredible

Steph Hendel Tarnofsky
Lindsey Meehleis/Instagram

Before welcoming your little one into the world, you're sure to give some thought not only to your birth plan but to who you want to be on your "birth team." It could be your doctor and your partner or your doula, your BFF, and your midwife. For Steph Hendel Tarnofsky and her husband Josh, having the grandparents actively participate in the labor and delivery of their grandson happened organically. A photo of Tarnofsky and her father, Joe, taken by midwife Lindsey Meehleis has since gone viral, and Tarnofsky recently shared the story behind the image.

  • The mom says that since moving from Pennsylvania to California, she hadn't been around her parents much. But she always looked up to her father.

    "I am an only child and my dad is someone I look up to immensely," Tarnofsky tells CafeMom. "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." 

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  • The couple wanted to unite their families and live "happily and healthy together," so involving extended family in a home birth made perfect sense.

    "Our parents have always gotten along well -- our moms are actually BFFs -- but this birth was the first time we really got to test out our families being around each other for more than a week," she explained. "There were a lot of different energies and opinions around our home birth ideas, but Josh and I knew this was the best way to bring [our son] Johnathon into the world."

    At least initially, Meehleis wasn't as convinced that having such a crowd for the experience was the most peaceful way to go. The midwife shared on her Instagram account alongside the photos of the birth that she tends "to urge parents to have the least amount of people around for birth so they can birth undisturbed... so with two grandmas, one grandpa and one aunt all sat wondering in anticipation about baby’s arrival, it made me nervous."

  • Ultimately though, it was the energy of the family as a whole that seemed to support Tarnofsky's final push.

    "Her dad arose from the couch and became a pillar in a building of strength for her," Meehleis wrote on Instagram. "He repeated mantras that they had made up together. There was a natural energetic flow in the room that I can’t describe. Everyone’s energy was feeding off each other, and each push got them closer to their baby."

  • The proud mom echoed Meehleis's sentiment that her dad's strength and support was organic and integral to the emotional moment. 

    "I couldn’t have imagined it another way," she shares. "He has always been a pillar of strength in my life and has supported me in whatever path I choose. In the beginning when we talked about the birth plans, he was a little nervous about being at the birth, because he said he couldn’t stand to see me in pain. 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." 

  • Tarnofsky shared that the experience earned her father the nickname "Doula Dad," courtesy of her husband Josh.

    She especially loves this photo of Josh and Joe doing a fist-bump with tears in their eyes. "It’s beautiful and brings me to tears every time I see it," she shared. "This birth united our families more than we could have ever dreamed and we're so excited to empower so many other people to bring their families into their birth."