For Dads & Partners
Years ago dads were expected to wait in the hallway, pacing nervously and eventually handing out pink or blue cigars. Today, it is usually expected that partners will be in the birth room, and that they will love, support, comfort, and advocate for the birthing person in labour. That's a tall order, and not every partner is comfortable with it (although of course some are!).
It is a good thing that birthing people have increasing amounts of freedom and choice when it comes to who will be present to support them during birth.
My experience has been that most partners in the labour room like to be useful.... or at least they don't want to feel like they're in the way! They want to understand what is happening. They want to keep their loved ones safe. They want to fix things that aren't right. They want to provide for their loved ones needs. Some partners like to be very hands-on during labour, while others feel best when allowed to simply keep a quiet vigil nearby.
I believe that just as every birthing person experiences labour & birth in a way that is unique and significant to then, I believe every partner experiences birth uniquely as well. The birth experience is a significant life event. You are watching a person you care deeply for, go through one of the most challenging experiences of their life, so that the child you love can be born. This can be both exhilarating and terrifying, and despite all the things you may have learned, its hard to keep a clear head and healthy perspective when you have so much emotionally invested in a situation.
Here in the Western World, we tend to place a greater importance on the mind, than on the body. We don't have to break a sweat just to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. We spend hours every day sitting in front of a computer or television, and very limited time engaged in activities that challenge our body. Most of us have not seen a woman give birth, and many have not even seen a pet dog or cat give birth. Most of us don't truly know what its like to work our bodies until every fibre of our being has been stretched and strained to its fullest. Birth does this.
For many, giving birth is the first time in their life when their body takes over their brain. The work of a birthing person's body is so intense that they can't easily speak or make complex decisions. As the labour progresses, they typically draw more and more 'into' their body, and 'out of' their brain. This deeply physical experience often presents a unique challenge for loved ones who are on the outside looking in.
Some people expect that once labour starts, their nurse, doctor or midwife will be right there beside them every step of the way, ensuring both their medical well-being, and providing continuous comfort and support as well. The job of your doctor, nurse, or midwife, is to ensure medical well-being. They are excellent at what they do, but they can't do everything. Your nurse might stay in the room with you, but she (typically - although there are non-female nurses and midwives out there!) is required to provide extensive documentation of the labour progress, and rarely has time to give hands-on comfort. If you are fortunate enough to be under the care of a midwife, she may provide hands-on support when time permits during active labour, but time, circumstances and her personal philosophy of care don't always allow for this so a doula can still be of help (Please see the FAQ's for more on midwifery care).
As your doula (whether it be for birth, postpartum, or breastfeeding support), my job is not to replace your partner, but to provide support which fits naturally into your relationship, so that your birth is a positive experience for the whole family.
Some people are concerned that having a doula present will make the birth experience be less intimate; they don't want a 'stranger' there with them. In fact, having a doula can increase your sense of privacy and intimacy during a hospital birth. With every shift change in the hospital, you will be cared for by a new team of nurses, and possibly a new doctor as well. Lab technicians, janitorial staff, food services staff, and visitors all come and go from your hospital room over the course of your stay. As your birth doula, I can help create an environment which encourages all people entering your space to be respectful and supportive of your desires. I can ask questions which will allow you the space you need to labour well. And I can help partners understand what the birthing person is experiencing, and how you can best support them in the moment, so that in fact your relationship is strengthened, rather than diminished.
I understand the process of birth. I understand the variations birth can take, and I understand the interventions you will most commonly face. I understand hospital culture, and the midwifery philosophy of care too. I am passionate about women and families of all shapes and sizes having a great birth experience, but I have professional distance which allows me to stay 'out' of the labour fog, so that I can support you in the decision-making processes of birth. I know a wide variety of techniques, positions, and advanced comfort measures which can not only make the birth experience shorter, and more comfortable, but safer too.
Whether you are "hands-off", "hands-on", or somewhere in the middle, I can provide gentle guidance for the most squeamish to the most enthusiastic, so you can be involved in a way that is truly comfortable and helpful.
If you have questions, concerns, or would like to know more, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Over time you have come to know and love your partner. You know how they respond under stress, and you know what things help them feel better. When birthing though, suddenly a new side of your partner emerges. Suddenly their body is ruling their brain, instead of the other way around. What now?? The person in front of you is acting differently than you're used to. You don't know if what they are experiencing is normal or not. You want to help then feel better. You want both the birthing person you care for & the baby to be safe. You want the pain to go away. You don't know which of the things you learned in class, might help now. And you're trying to make decisions through a fog of worry, anticipation, and fatigue. This is where a doula can help.
Some people take a prenatal class together, watch tv shows, or read a book, to prepare. They expect that once labour starts, they will remember everything they learned, and be able to apply it appropriately. But once the labour fog settles in, it can be hard to remember and apply the things you've learned.