When I first became interested in natural birth I was pretty opposed to hiring a doula. I shrugged them off as unnecessary or for moms who didn’t have a supportive partner. Gosh I was wrong about hiring a doula! Of course I could not have foreseen what my labor would have in store for me, but I could have better prepared by hiring a doula. Now there are tons of posts on the benefits birth doulas.
And on what doulas do.
Sometimes (lots and lots and lots of times) I hear couples say “I don’t think we need a doula.” If you’ve said this to me, this post is not about you specifically. This happens a lot. Imagine I am a dentist writing about that one time I found a cavity. That’s how often I hear “I don’t need a doula.”
Let’s explore some reasons couples don’t think they need a doula, and why they still do.
“I don’t need a doula, I’m taking a birth class.”
I am so glad you are taking a birth class! It is essential that you and your partner prepare for your natural birth with nutrition, education, and relaxation. When you leave my class you will have everything you need to have an amazing birth… including my recommendation to hire a doula. Yep. That’s part of it! Can you have a positive natural birth without a doula? Sure, but a doula can make the whole experience easier and more enjoyable. Ten hours into labor your excitement may have faded, the details of your birth class may become fuzzy, and you and your partner may feel lost. Your doula’s knowledge will not become fuzzy and she, as an expert in natural birth, will help guide and comfort you. Your class is your map, your doula is your compass. You need both.
And if you think you can skip the class and hire the doula, read this.
“My husband will be my doula.”
Your husband shouldn’t be your doula anymore than he should be your midwife or obstetrician. Your husband should be your husband. He should love and comfort you the way he knows how and with the tools he learned in class. But there are skills he will not have. Do you have any idea what this doula is doing? Does your husband?
Maybe you are thinking “I don’t want a woman I’ve only met a few times doing that.” You may be thinking that now, but when she does that and all of a sudden your contractions are 100% more manageable not only will you be ok with her doing it but you will be begging “do that thing do that thing dothatthing!” at the start of a contraction. Actually… that probably won’t happen, because she will just do it before you even have to ask because she knows exactly what a woman starting a contraction looks like since she does this all. the. time.
Your husband doesn’t know how to do that thing. He doesn’t know how to do a lot of birth things because he doesn’t work with laboring women. This is a doula’s job, she helps laboring moms (and dads!) feel better physically and emotionally. How are you going to say no to that?
Notice in the picture that the doula is working on physically comforting mom while dad is loving and encouraging her. Mom and dad are still deeply connected, the doula supports that connection and does not interfere with it. Without this doula mom may be so uncomfortable that she and her partner would not be able to enjoy these tender moments. And if dad was the one using the rebozo (that’s the fabric the doula is doing that thing with), then who would be in mom’s ear loving her?
“We are having a home birth, my midwife will be my doula.”
Your midwife probably won’t be your doula. A midwife is there to intervene if a complication arises and to monitor you and baby. Your midwife is a wonderfully skilled lifeguard. Her job is not to provide emotional and physical comfort for a woman laboring normally*, it’s to help you birth your baby safely. A home birth couple will still have to labor and still deserves the support of a doula.
*Some midwives work in teams and one midwife, maybe an assistant midwife acts as a doula. Ask. Just because you have two midwives doesn’t mean one will be your doula.
“It would be weird to have someone other than my husband at the birth.”
Historically women have always comforted women in labor. It is actually weird to not have a woman knowledgeable in natural birth present to comfort mom and provide guidance. Up until birth moved to the hospital and support women were left in the halls, women were comforted by women… and it worked! You know what doesn’t work? Leaving mom and dad in a sterile hospital room alone with no support. Tired and discouraged in a foreign environment, those couples often watch their natural birth slip through their fingers.
A doula will be someone that you will get to know over the last months of your pregnancy. She will not be a stranger, she will be a friend. In contrast, there may be 2-3 nurses and 1-2 doctors that you have never met at your birth… and guess how many of them are going to rub your back? Probably none of them because they have their jobs. Of the many people that will be in the room, make sure one of them is a doula.
“Baby is low, I’ll probably have a really fast labor, we won’t need a doula.”
In class we talk about 5 hour labors and 25 hour labors and I know a lot of couples think they’ll get the 5 hour labor. Well… maybe… but realistically you will fall somewhere in between. I want to see my couples filled with confidence and excitement, but not to the point that they under prepare. In my last class three couples labored for more than 40 hours! Guess how many of them thought they would labor for 40 hours? Dads are you ready to support moms for 40 hours? Have you ever done anything for 40 hours? A doula has, she will help you.
“We can’t afford a doula.”
I compare a birth to a wedding day often. How much time and money did you invest in that one day? When it comes to the birth of a child there seems to be a disconnect between the importance of the event and a willingness to invest financially in it. Couples decide to forego the home birth they desire because the insurance will not cover it, or choose an unsupportive hospital because they will have to pay less out of pocket. Well… how much more important is the birth of your child than your wedding day? I don’t know your finances, but if it meant having the natural birth that I desire and a better Birth Day for mom, dad, and baby, then I would start selling things to make that happen.
My first birth cost over $30,000… double what my natural hospital birth cost. Yes we had insurance, but we still had to pay a percentage. A doula could have saved us a lot of money, and we could have had a better birth!
Some doulas charge using a sliding scale and give military discounts. Some insurance plans cover doulas. This friend had to choose between taking a vacation that year and a doula. She chose a doula and had her first natural birth after 3 medicated ones. You have options, get creative… if this is your first natural birth you really can’t afford to not have a doula.
Will a doula ensure you will have a perfect birth. No. Can you still have an amazing birth without one, absolutely. You still deserve a doula. You may only give birth a few times in your life, these are special days that you will remember forever. I know many couples who have realized that they should have hired a doula, my husband and I are one of them. If you are still hesitant, do a little more research, you don’t have to commit to anything. Check out yelp reviews of local doulas, browse your birth network listings, ask your care provider or childbirth educator for referrals. Interview a few doulas or attend a Meet the Doula event, you might be surprised how quickly you click with one.
Cori Gentry, BBCI
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