There is a wealth of information out there about why doulas are a great choice for moms and about the many benefits of having a doula at your birth, such as higher satisfaction with the birth experience, lower incidence of c-sections, lower incidence of interventions, and a general feeling of being better informed and capable of making informed birth choices. I agree, all of these are great reasons to hire a doula for your birth! But what about dads? When a mom starts looking into hiring a doula, there is often some fear there that the doula might take over the partner’s role in the birth, or sometimes the feeling is, “I’ve got a terrific partner who wants to be very involved at the birth, so I don’t really need a doula, right?” Take a look at the logo on the website and on this article–doula and dad, surrounding mom and baby with love, care, and support. I believe that this is exactly the way doulas and partners are meant to work together in the birth. We see mom leaning into dad as he surrounds her with love, protection, and support, while the doula is just to the side, supporting not only the mother and baby but also the father, in fact, the entire family unit. So, how does this actually play out? Let;s go down the list.
- Partners know Mom, doulas know birth. A doula cannot know and understand a woman the way her partner can. He knows her better than anyone else, knows what makes her feel comforted, and knows what may cause anxiety. He knows her desires, her hopes, and her wishes for both the birth and for the baby. His touch can sooth her like no one else can. A doula could never take that place with the mother and would not want to! But, while the partner knows mom, how much does he know about the physiological process of birth? The possible interventions and their risks/benefits? A doula has undergone extensive training on the physiology of birth and has a deep understanding of how the body works to bring the baby into the world. She is familiar with the terminology the medical staff may use in the delivery room and with common interventions and the risks and benefits of each. A doula also has varied birth experiences on which to draw as she informs and supports the couple during pregnancy and birth. She will provide reassurance to both partners.
- Doulas support dad by giving suggestions and assistance as he supports mom. You’ve taken a 12 week childbirth education course and maybe even read a book or two. You’ve done your best to prepare yourselves for labor and delivery. And then, the contractions hit. The intensity of the moment can feel overwhelming. What do you do now? Did you just forget all the comfort measures you two rehearsed in the previous weeks? Are you unsure what to do if mom is having back labor or if baby is in a wonky position? This is where your doula comes in. She is there to remind you of comfort measures you wanted to try and to suggest others. She is there to show your partner how he can support you during back labor or to make position suggestions to help your baby position better. She is there to remind you to breathe, to give a comforting smile, and to provide a calm presence in those intense moments. She is there to bring mom water while dad is supporting or comforting her or to be more hands on with counter pressure while dad holds mom close. She is there to make dad look like the white knight of the delivery room, to help him be his partner’s greatest support.
- Doulas provide continuous support and take care of dad, too. It has often been said that birth is not a sprint, but a marathon. It’s true! It’s exhausting and emotionally intense for both the mother and her partner. If mom has been 16 hours in labor, her partner has been right there by her side. A doula allows dad the ability to take care of himself too by providing continuous support to the mother while he runs to the restroom, grabs some food, or catches a quick nap. Your doula will make suggestions for your partner’s well being and care too, remind him to stay hydrated and be there if he needs to step out of the room for a moment so that the mother is never left alone. In the event of a c-section or if the baby needs to go to the nursery for some reason, the doula allows the dad to go and watch over the baby while making sure the mother is not left alone.
- Doulas allow the partner to be involved in the birth at his comfort level. Perhaps your partner is uncertain about being your sole labor support; he may struggle seeing you go through the pain and the work of labor. Perhaps he is a bit squeamish. Whatever the case, your doula will help him be involved to the degree he is comfortable. If he prefers to be a little less hands on during your birth, your doula is there to do that for him while he offers comfort and emotional support. During your prenatal visits, your doula will discuss with both of you at length what role you wish him to play and what he is comfortable with, and she will honor and assist that.
Okay, so doulas are actually a great asset to dad as well. But what if your partner is still feeling a little unsure? The best thing is to bring him with you on the initial consultation when you are interviewing doulas. Let him get all his questions answered, and let him be a part of the choosing process. It is so important that both the mother and the partner feel comfortable with everyone who will be in the labor room. Doulas are available to dads during the pregnancy too, so if he has additional questions and concerns he can always text/e-mail/call the doula as well. And don’t worry if at some point during the labor you and your partner want a little privacy–privacy can help labour progress! Let your doula know that you would like some privacy for a bit. A good doula honors your needs and will not feel put out at all. She’ll happily give you that space and rejoin you when you are ready for her to come back.
The bottom line is that doulas are there to support you and your partner as you usher your little one into the world in whatever way works for the two of you. She works hard to promote the special bond between the two of you and to facilitate those special birth moments that you will both look back on over the years.