When it comes to dads and doulas couples can have a myriad of concerns, but the truth is both play a very important role. As a doula and mother who knows firsthand how important dads and doulas can be, I’d like to address some of the most common concerns – because dads and doulas make a great team!
Concern: If I have my partner, why do I need a doula?
Truth: The dad-to-be is in an unfamiliar environment, and trying to become familiar with the process and language of birth, understand medical procedures, and advocate for his partner is often extremely stressful. A doula can eliminate this stress by explaining what to expect, providing the information needed to help parents make appropriate decisions, and facilitate communication between the couple and medical team.
Additionally, it’s hard for a father to understand a woman’s instinctive behavior during birth and he may react anxiously to what a doula knows to be the normal process of birth. Seeing his partner in pain may cause the father to become distressed. A doula can skillfully help the mother to cope with labor pain in her own unique way, offer reassurance to both the mother and father, and encourage the father to participate at his own comfort level.
Concern: What if the doula takes over, displacing the father-to-be and interfering with the intimate birthing experience?
Truth: The doula can actually bring the couple closer, making sure the partner’s needs are met (food, drink, and reassurance) so the woman and partner can work more closely together. When the dad-to-be chooses to be the main source of support, the doula can help him be more successful by using her expertise to make suggestions for comfort measures, keep him informed about what’s going on, and offer words of encouragement and reassurance. During a long tiring labor, the doula can also offer the father a break or brief rest, without him feeling guilty about leaving his partner alone.
For the father who is shy, uncertain, or unversed in his role, the doula can suggest simple but truly useful tasks such as timing contractions, holding the woman, supporting her in a particular position, or showing him how to apply counter pressure to her back.
While the doula probably knows more about birth, hospitals, and maternity care, the partner certainly knows more about the woman’s personality, likes and dislikes, and needs. Moreover, he loves the woman more than anyone else there. The combined contributions of the father and doula, along with a competent, and caring medical team give the mother everything she needs to have the best birthing experience possible!
Concern: The doula has her own belief about how the birth should go, and imposes it on the woman and couple.
Truth: The doula’s number one goal is to help ensure the woman’s or couples birth plan is acknowledged and followed as best as possible. If the doula is thoroughly familiar with the couple’s wishes and their birth plan, she may actually think more about it than the couple, especially when labor is intense and things are happening rapidly. The doula can remind the staff or the couple of some items on the birth plan that are forgotten, but which later might be important. Sometimes when the birth plan is not followed, the couple later looks back with regret or disappointment- especially if it was a result of the choices they made.
The doula never makes decisions for the couple, but instead asks questions that will ensure the right information is provided so the couple can make an informed decision of their own. She may also suggest alternatives (like waiting a while) for the couple to consider their options.
In summary, the doula helps make the birth experience as rewarding and satisfying as possible. As one father said “I heaved a big sigh of relief when the doula walked in. I hadn’t realized how much pressure I’d been feeling. She not only calmed my wife, she calmed me down too.”
The father’s presence and loving support in birth is comforting and reassuring. The love he shares with the mother and his child and his need to nurture and protect his family are priceless gifts that only he can provide. With her partner and a doula at birth, a mother can have the best of both worlds – her partner’s loving care and attention and the doula’s expertise and guidance in birth.