Dads & Doulas
The primary role of a doula is often to support a birth partner – which in turn frees them up to support the laboring mum. How does that work?
Well firstly, partners often REALLY worried about seeing someone they love in pain, and being unable to do anything about it. Of course women experience labour in different ways, and those that are able to trust their bodies and practice relaxation techniques often find they can cope well with the sensations of labour. However some women find that labour tests them to the extreme and need a huge amount of affirmation and support from their doula to find faith when at their most vulnerable.
Guys are programmed to “mend” problems and protect, but this is one scenario in which they have no control. They instinctively know (thankfully) that it would be a very bad idea to tell their partner that they know what she is going through – because they don’t. A guys reaction might be to encourage you to accept pain relief that you don’t want – which might cause future resentment between the couple. So how does a doula help alleviate this problem? When he looks across the room and watches a doula quietly comforting the mum and telling her that she is coping well and is strong, the partner is reassured. When the doula is confident and calm, the father is confident and calm too.
A good doula is not there to replace the partner, but the reality is that she has far more experience of a birth room than most guys will ever achieve, and usually personal experience of how the labour may be feeling for the mum. Therefore you can expect a doula to “show you the way” on how to physically support a labour. It might be suggesting to the partner that he/she should dim the lights, fill a pool, call for childcare for older siblings, help support you in a birthing position, or show them exactly where to press your back at different stages. By giving the partner practical jobs and skills they feel involved and “part of the birth” – rather than a bystander.
Don’t forget that labour can be a really scary place for a father to witness. Guys often hold a fear (even if they haven’t told you openly) that you might die in childbirth. Whilst this is a normal protective reaction for them, death is in fact incredibly rare in a society that offers medical backup when appropriate – but all the same – they worry. Doulas aim to build a strong relationship with your partner and fathers regularly report that they are reassured by knowing the doula will have seen many births – and that this is a normal and healthy part of a woman’s lifestory.
Finally, fathers worry about supporting the mum to achieve the birth that she wants – usually hoping for a natural birth, unmedicated, with as little unnecessary intervention as possible. But sometimes the guys might prefer her to induce her labour so that there is a least one “known” factor to this labour, be monitored continuously to keep the baby safe, have an epidural so that they don’t have to observe her in discomfort, and possibly go to section immediately so that the birth is controlled.
Doulas don’t “take sides” with either of you but can ensure that both you and your partner understand all of your options and the possible repercussions of your choices. They also guarantee to be your walking talking birth plan, and can help you to vocalize your preferences to your medical team, with the flexibility of acknowledging when medical support is required. By offering an advocate role, doulas free up partners to stop worrying about “everything else” and allow them to concentrate purely on the mum.