We are excited to share this guest post today from Megan Hughes, BBCI, about four reasons dad needs a doula. We often talk about why the birthing mother needs a doula, but the truth is that a doula can benefit dad just as much. There are many reasons a couple can both benefit from the presence of a doula, here are just four of them.
4 Reasons Dad Needs A Doula
My Name is Megan Hughes and I am a Birth Boot Camp childbirth educator in Fort Worth, Texas. I teach a 10 week intensive course for natural childbirth that’s geared towards moms AND dads. My class schedule and location can be found on my website at www.birthhigh.com along with my musings and rantings over all things birth and pregnancy related.
A couple weeks ago during one of my natural birth 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 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 a lack of experience. Others may charge very little, $100-$200 while still others may charge from $700-1000+. Location and experience all factor in to the price of a doula.
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
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. A doula's role is different than that of a nurse. 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
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 birth 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
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 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. 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 doesn't do much 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
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!
If you are looking for a comprehensive natural birth class in the Fort Worth area, then check out Megan. She can be contacted via e-mail at mhughes (at) birthbootcamp (dot) com. Visit her at www.birthhigh.com for more musings. She teaches a 10 week intensive course for natural childbirth that’s geared towards moms AND dads.
What is a partner to do?! How do you remember it all? How can you make it through with all well and a mama who still loves you?
Here are some fabulous tips from moms who KNOW what a woman in labor needs from her partner. Compiled from our expert birth instructors (who have each had a natural birth themselves) these ideas can help both of you come out better on the other side of your birth.
1. ”Don't take it personal if I don't want to be touched or talked to or tell you to be quiet.”
Some women just labor best when left alone. (But don’t plan on this because you never know!)
2. ”Be an active participant.”
Interact, massage, encourage, etc. Get involved. (This sounds contradictory to the last one, doesn’t it?! The truth is, different women want different things and you need to be prepared for ALL possibilities. Don’t assume she will be one way or the other because you really don’t know until you are in it! Your birth class should prepare you for all possibilities.)
3. ”Let me do what works for me!”
If mom wants to play on her phone and it helps her, don’t take it away! There isn’t really a “right” way to cope in labor, as long as mom is happy.
4. ”Don’t leave!”
Stay there--your presence is important.
5. ”For the love of all that is holy, don’t forget your Altoids!”
Breath mints. Do we really have to explain this one? Coffee breath, garlic bread from the night before, that tuna salad you had at lunch, for goodness sakes, brush your teeth or eat a mint!
7. ”When mom asks for something in labor it's because she NEEDS it (it's not a want).”
Women in labor have needs. NEEDS!
8. “The relaxation exercises will help dad stay calm in labor so he should practice too.”
You will get lots of relaxation exercises with your birth class. Use them, practice them, get comfortable with them.
9. ”It's okay to be nervous - most dads are - take a birth class to ease fears!”
10. ”My husband couldn't think of things to say when I needed him to give me encouragement. He said he hadn't had his coffee yet. Good thing the baby was born a few minutes later because he was about to get fired! So a list of good things to say to mom if she wants or needs encouragement is really helpful.”
You will talk about this in your birth class, so go home and write them down in the appropriate spot in your workbook! Review them. Then review them AGAIN.
11. ”I will feed off of your energy, so please be confident in me. (My husband was awesome at this!!)”
Sometimes the biggest help is just believing that she can do it when she doesn’t even believe it herself.
12. ”Be completely present with me.“
We make kids put away their distractions at school; possibly the same rule is appropriate for birth! The phone, the work, ESPN, whatever it is that distracts you- it can wait.
13. ”Maybe watching a movie or ballgame during labor will be totally not worth it later and she may never forgive you!”
14. ”Please cry with me when the baby is born. Because I will. And because if you can't, you're dead inside.”
(OK- not everybody is emotional or a crier - not even mom. That is fine and understandable. But it is also true that there is nothing wrong with a man being deeply touched and showing it after the birth of his child.)
15. ” Know how to set up and take down the birth pool...before I'm in labor!“
Nothing quite like yelling instructions in between contractions...
16. ”A doula will enhance Dad's role and at the same time take a lot of stress off him.”
A great doula doesn’t steal the show- she supports everybody there.
17. ”The most important thing (at least for me during my births) was simply his presence and holding his hand. I think sometimes dads feel too much pressure to do stuff beyond their scope…”
18. ”I think for me, at our home birth, it was just like 'Babe, take beautiful pictures of this amazing experience. Capture the essence of this!'
They're all blurry.”
(Maybe this tip should be, “Spring for a photographer!”???)
19. ” I always think it's powerful when dad gives mom a gift after the birth. I am not a gifty person at all, so I don't know why I feel this way, but after birth for dad to give something special to mom to acknowledge how much she went through to carry and birth their child is really touching. Especially something she can keep forever that has personal significance. Especially for dads that find it hard to be involved in birth in an intimate way or say emotionally intimate things in general. He can just hand it to her and say "Thank you."”
Who wouldn’t love a little bobble for their wrist?
20. ”My husband makes a cheese cake for us to eat after each baby is born. It's a tradition started by his father. This last time we used our own farm eggs and local blueberries for the topping.“
Awwwww!….Love is a timeless tradition!
21. ”Speak up! We created a birth plan together so remind me of my goals and encourage me to follow through with them, even if I look exhausted or defeated.”
After all the hours of preparation, talking, classes, planning and hard work, don’t let it all fly out the window in labor because you got nervous. You’ve got this! Sometimes a smile and a whispered compliment is just the thing she needs.
We can’t really tell you what your partner will be thinking in labor, but we can tell you one thing for sure--this day matters and you are one of the most important parts of it.
We hope that all women and their partners have an AMAZING birth! The work you put into it beforehand will ultimately pay off because then you WILL know what she is thinking and respond appropriately.
Here’s to a wonderful birth!
Looking for some great books for the partner to read to prepare for your upcoming birth? Here are a few fabulous ideas, in addition to your Field Manual:
The Birth Book by Dr Sears: This book is a classic with helpful hints that anybody can appreciate. With the perspective of both mom and dad thrown in but from one of America’s most trusted physicians, The Birth Book is a must-read and as invaluable as it is readable.
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin: This book is specifically geared for the partner and has a wonderful quick reference section with helpful, illustrated birth positions and much, much more. This is one to pack in your birth bag.
Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones is a short book but packed with information. This book will change the way you view birth!