I hear it a lot from worried partners, “OK, I know what a birth doula can do for my wife/girlfriend as she labors but where does that leave me in the process?”. This is an excellent question! I love hearing that the expecting mom has a support person that wants to be there for her every step of the way and I do not want to take that experience away from anyone. In fact, my job is to enhance that experience. Yes, some partners want to be less involved than others but when a partner does want to be part of the action I encourage and help guide them to be involved at whatever level they are comfortable with.
Then the next question comes “If you are just going to be supporting me while I support her, why do we need a doula at all? I am not the one that needs support.” Again, an excellent question! If you and/or your partner are wondering the same thing then keep reading to learn 7 ways that a birth doula helps not only the laboring mom but also her partner.
- She brings an intimate knowledge of birth While you know your wife/girlfriend intimately, including what comforts her physically and emotionally, a birth doula knows birth intimately, including what is considered normal and what options you may have at various points in the process. This knowledge and understanding can bring a sense of peace and calm to the birthing space during an often intense, stressful, and sometimes scary time. This familiarity with the birthing process also gives parents the comfort of knowing that someone on their team can help them ask all pertinent questions to fully evaluate all options that are being presented by medical professionals and make informed choices.
- She knows a wide variety of coping techniques and positions Many couples take excellent comprehensive childbirth education classes that teach them coping techniques and positions for laboring. Practicing these in pregnancy can help them to become second nature for mom and partner and give a good idea of what mom likes best. Unfortunately, what mom likes best when she is NOT in labor may be completely different when she IS in labor. Even at different stages of labor the techniques that are helpful may change. As you can imagine, suddenly recalling more than 2 or 3 of the coping techniques and positions that were taught in class becomes very difficult with the emotionally exhausting and physically intense work of labor. A doula specializes and has a lot of experience in ways to help baby rotate into optimal position, and come down, give mom energy, and ease her discomfort in a variety of different ways among other tricks that come in handy during a labor and birth.
- A doula gives partners ‘permission’ to practice self care Unless labor is extremely short chances are good that at some point a support person will need to take a break to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, get some fresh air, nap, and generally recharge. It is common knowledge that labor is physically and emotionally draining for the laboring woman. However, it is important to note that partners also use a lot of physical and emotional energy while supporting mom. Unfortunately, this is often ignored by everyone including the partner until there are no reserves left to pull from and he/she cannot continue supporting mom at the desired level. A doula will not only remind mom to drink, snack, pee, and rest when she can but will also remind partner to do the same. A doula will encourage a partner to take a nap if the birth is long or to step out and get some fresh air to regroup and come back stronger than ever for the laboring mama. Knowing that they can stay strong by taking care of themselves without leaving mom alone and unsupported during labor is incredibly important for partners.
- Doulas give you encouragement Sometimes this encouragement comes in the form of letting you know that you are being an amazing support for mom. Other times this encouragement comes by reminding you that you have the ability to ask questions and get more information from the medical personnel to advocate for mom while she is focusing on birthing.
- Doulas give you ideas A doula will give you ideas on how to fully support mom at different stages of labor. From suggesting counter-pressure, hip squeezes, or positions to texting you reminders to verbalize what you are feeling to mom (i.e. “You are strong”, “I am so proud of how hard you are working for our baby”) Doulas are a wealth of knowledge on how partners can support mom through the entirety of labor both physically and emotionally.
- Doulas do not just quit after the birth Once your sweet baby is born your doula will keep working for you. She will take pictures of the 3 of you together in those early moments. She will make sure that you and mom have gotten something to eat and drink. She will help explain what to expect during your stay at the hospital or birth center. She will give more tips on how to take care of mom and make sure that she is able to take time to recover fully from birth. Doulas help with breastfeeding right after birth including helping partner learn how he/she can help with nursing. Even several days, weeks, and months later your doula is available and happy to answer questions, make recommendations and referrals if needed, or just “ooh and aww” over sweet baby pictures. In short, your investment in a labor doula gets your family a life long friend with unwavering love and support for you as parents and partners.
- Doulas are not afraid of change Finally, doulas bring flexibility to the process. A doula is there to support mom’s birth and postpartum plans. She will encourage and remind mom and her partner that they are doing great and can achieve their goals. However, a doula also knows how to help mom and her partner make decisions that they feel comfortable with should a change be needed. Once a decision to change the plan has been made your doula knows how to quickly and seamlessly change gears to support both of you through the new plan. This includes a partner that didn’t want to be involved much but once labor starts does want to be an active participant or vice versa. Doulas respect that this is not their body or baby and will support mom and her partner on every step of their path no matter how many turns that path takes. This flexible support continues postpartum as you get to know your baby and figure out the dynamics of your family and what will or won’t work even if what works is very different than the image you had during pregnancy.
If you have specific questions about how a doula will work with your partner during the birth process don’t hesitate to ask during interviews and/or prenatal meetings. Again, this is YOUR path to meeting your baby and you have a right to the support that you want and need along your journey.