A couple weeks ago during one of my classes, a colleague of mine came as a guest speaker to talk about the function of doulas in labor and birth. It got me to thinking about my own pregnancy and my husband’s response as one that may be fairly typical – and thus worth addressing. Many of the points she brought out were too good to be left alone and so I have included them within my ponderings.
There is a lot of information out there expounding on the virtues of doulas. A decent awareness of how important a function they serve to a laboring mother has been raised and is continuing to gain more attention all the time. What I want to concentrate on in this particular post is why doulas are important to DADS.
Statistically speaking, births where a doula is present are generally shorter, less complicated, and many mom’s report, less painful.
This is all well and good I think when considering birth in general terms. No dad wants his partner to be in more pain and for longer than she has to be. I have found, however, that in many cases, Dad’s enthusiasm for doulas may wane in view of their price point. Rates for doulas can vary drastically. Some may charge nothing or only the cost of their expenses. (Usually these are working on their certification) The tradeoff is perhaps a lack of experience. Others may charge very little, $100-$200 while still others may tip the balance of $750. Most doulas settle somewhere in the midrange of a couple hundred dollars.
In today’s society, with health costs rocketing ever higher, having a baby can get quite expensive – especially if mom is planning to stay home with the kids. The financial stresses placed on the father as a sole income provider can be severe. At this point many dads feel that while a doula would be nice…ultimately doulas may be a luxury and therefore an extra expense that bears considerable scrutiny before diving right in.
It is not my intention to beat up on Dads for perhaps having this mindset. After all, yes, moms CAN have babies without a doula present. My real purpose is to highlight why doulas are important to Dads in particular and why they also have a personal stake in determining a doula’s value.
REASON #1: Doulas Are Personal Birth Encyclopedias
Here’s option A, B, & C Let me explain them…
This is especially fortunate for those couples who have not taken childbirth classes or where mom took a class but Dad did not. During labor and birth questions and concerns may arise, especially for first-time parents. Depending on the couple’s birth location and care provider, staff may not have the time (or frankly the inclination in some cases) to sit down and fully explain exactly what is happening, why is happening, and what (if anything) needs to be done. This is where doulas come in handy for Dads as they are able to explain and translate the medical and technical jargon. They are also versed in offering different alternatives to choose from when considering options for any given situation. i.e. labor is stalling out. Instead of going straight for the Pitocin a doula may offer some suggestions to try first such as changing positions, getting upright, walking, calling a chiropractor, etc.…
This sort of knowledge and experience can be tremendously helpful for Dad as labor wears on and mom makes the trip to “labor-land.” As is common, mom withdraws into herself, concentrating on what she must do. Dad becomes mom’s advocate and possibly defaults into making some decisions for her and the baby. How much of an advantage would it be to have the knowledge and resources on hand from an objective party whose SOLE interest is the well-being and healthy outcome of the birth? Doulas do not work for the hospital, the birth center, the nursing staff, the grandparents or extended family. They work for YOU! They work for Mom and Dad. They are thus enabled to provide options and alternatives as an unbiased party.
Even if the couple HAS taken childbirth education classes, it is sometimes easy to forget things you’ve learned in the heat of the moment. Having a doula there to remind both mom and dad of the choices available or just offer general encouragement to help keep both parties emotionally and mentally grounded.
REASON # 2: Doulas Call Time-outs
- Calling a Time-out
Some couples may consider hiring a doula because they are unsure of themselves in the face of medical opposition and feel like having a doula is kind of like hiring their own personal referee. And while it’s true that a doula can be useful in helping mom and dad express their wishes, she is not a gladiator. She does not fight your battles for you. She is not your voice. She does remind you that you HAVE a voice.
Many Dads may be intimidated by the fact that they are their partner’s advocate; some prefer to entrust any responsibility for their partner’s care to the medical “birth professionals.” I don’t believe this is done out of indifference but rather out of fear that some preference they should push for or decision they should make could somehow end up harming mom or baby. (Much of this fear can be taken away though education, which is why it is so important for dad to attend classes with mom.) This attitude doesn’t just occur in hospitals but in every location from hospital to homebirth.
It is at this proverbial ‘fork in the road’ type decision where Dad has that ‘deer in the headlights’ expression that a doula may pipe up with a simple, “Can we have a few minutes to talk this over privately?” It’s a simple sentence but the effect can be profound. Even just a quick timeout where everyone takes a breath and a step back can give a couple a chance to regroup and decide for themselves what their voice will sound like.
This also applies to the over defensive Dad that just isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with a provider. Having someone there to call a timeout may help Dad to regroup and possibly come up with a better way to communicate his partner’s needs and wishes in a manner that will be more likely to see them filled.
REASON #3: Doulas Share The Heavy Lifting
- Labor Support is Physical
For those Dads who have never participated in a birth before- labor support can be a very intensive manual labor job. Depending on how long mom labors, DAD may need a chiropractor before all is said and done! With the possibility of hours of continuing contractions in which Dad (the wonderful, sensitive guy that he is ) may bear mom’s weight partially or wholly, applies hip squeezes and counter pressure…or the myriads of other physically taxing comfort measures that are so helpful, (and much appreciated) having a partner to share the physical burden can make the difference between a tired but still functioning dad, and a stressed out, exhausted, and overwhelmed Dad. Remember, the attitude and energy in the room affects how mom labors as well.
Even if Dad does no must of the physical labor support, having someone there to tap him out so he can run to the bathroom or get a quick bite to eat, or even just a small break to gather his energies can be extremely helpful. After all, it’s not like mom can hit pause on the contractions so Dad can take a pee break or because his arms are sore and cramping up.
REASON #4: Doulas Shine UP Dad’s White Knight Armor
Dad's Shining Bright!
I think it’s safe to say that pretty much every man wants to be a hero in his partner’s eyes. One of the great things about this period of time between partners is that it is an opportunity for Dad to shine in his capacity as protector and care-giver. And doulas can provide that extra spit to make Dad shine like Prince Charming.
The thing is, in 20 years a woman may or may not remember the name of her doula. She will ALWAYS remember her partner’s attitude and actions at birth. Therefore it is not the doulas place to horn in and replace Dad as mom’s anchor but rather to help in whatever capacity she can to enable DAD to be mom’s rock and anchor.
For example, she might suggest quietly a comfort measure that Dad could do – maybe mom needs a cool rag on her forehead. Of course a doula could just do it herself but by enabling Dad she has enabled the one person with whom mom has the strongest, most personal connection, to show how much he loves and cares for her by being her comforter.
As much as a mom my like her doula, ultimately it will be the tender touches and enduring constancy of DAD’S support that will mean the most to mom. And that is as it should be.
So for the Dads that want to help, want to be there for their partners, and just aren’t quite sure how to go about it, having a doula to be your trusty squire will make being the White Knight an easier and more assured role.
So when considering a doula, Dads, consider your personal stake in her and get involved! They aren’t just a luxury or an extra expense. They are an asset to YOU! Go with your partners to meet and interview them –you will be working with them quite closely so it would be a good thing to have a hand in the selection process.
After all, every White Knight needs a trusty squire in a fairy-tale ending!
Fairy Tale Ending!