If you look back in history, you may remember that it was only a few decades ago when fathers were made to wait outside while mothers birthed unsupported and alone. Fast forward to 2019, not only are fathers present during the birth of their child, but they want to participate in the labor process by fully supporting the mother. But how?
Most couples will read books, take childbirth education classes, watch movies, and research online while preparing for labor. But having a personal relationship with someone who has done this hundreds of times can’t hurt, can it? It’s been our experience that many spouses feel unnecessary pressure to know how to support their wives through labor and to provide everything that is needed. Our response is: they can, but they don’t have to. That’s where doulas can help.
Most women know that a doula provides support through pregnancy, labor and delivery, as well as postpartum. When fathers-to-be were asked what a doula meant to them, it became clear there was a misguided belief that a doula meant a replacement. We quickly set about changing that perception by acknowledging the importance of the spouse as the key support person for a woman in labor. After all, they know her better than we ever will, but we know birth.
When asked if dads need doulas, a recent, second time father Chris said, “Why wouldn’t we? Someone who has helped couples through a ton of childbirths is now on YOUR team, helping you to have the birth that your wife wants, helping you communicate and decipher what’s being told to you by hospital staff AND has a bunch of knowledge and experience you can’t gain from books or second-hand stories. I can tell you during this second birth, with Stacy’s support, I went into the hospital knowing that everything was going to be alright, no matter what.”
It’s our job as doulas to provide family-centered support through all the stages of birth, ensuring that both parents feel their needs are being met. We spend hours working as a team discussing birth preferences, and educating our couples on options available to them, with the understanding that birth is unpredictable.
When labor took an unexpected turn, John said, “To see Sam’s familiar face moments before walking into a room where I would meet an unfamiliar face for the first time, was perfect.” He continued, “My wife and I successfully navigated the decision to deviate from our plan, I believe, in part, because of Sam’s influence over the previous months – the coaching of our doula contributed to our foundation.”
We teach comfort measures not only to the mother, but even more importantly, to the father, so he can be as hands-on as he wishes during birth. Many fathers aren’t sure how active a role they are comfortable taking during labor, and that’s okay, too. Some change their minds during the labor itself, becoming more comfortable taking the role that feels best to them, with their doulas’ support.
“She provided presence and experience that my wife needed,” John said. “Perhaps, I should say, that we both needed. I could support my wife completely, but there may be things in which I don’t have the answer. Sam’s participation allowed us to continue creating the best environment leading up to delivery.”
For more information, visit doulasofsouthernmaryland.com.