Today’s fathers want to share everything with their partner: pregnancy, birth, and parenting. They feel they want to be actively involved, and they are proud to be the “coach” during the birthing experience. “Why do we need a doula? I will be there taking care of everything!” said one of my clients’ husband, when he heard about my coming into the picture.
A labor doula can help a father experience this magical time with added confidence. A doula provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support, to both the expectant mother and her partner during labor, delivery, and in the immediate postpartum period. When I am with a couple, I often whisper into the man’s ear a few helpful suggestions to ease the process. Often at the hospital, both the mother and her partner are left alone in the laboring room, nurses come and go, and there are many questions that still need to be answered. A doula can provide information to help the parents make appropriate decisions and facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and the medical providers.
At times, a father may not understand a woman’s instinctive behavior during childbirth, and may react anxiously to what a doula knows to be the normal process of birth. If he witnesses his partner in pain or distress, he himself can become even more distressed, and not much help to the woman.
I feel a Doula in the room brings peace and clarity to the whole process; her skills and knowledge take the edge off him. Sometimes, I call myself the “surrogate mother,” as the doula is like the couple’s mother (without the baggage), dedicated to preserve the sacredness of the birth memory. With her partner, and a doula at her birth, a mother can have the best of both worlds: her partner’s loving care and attention, and the Doula’s expertise and guidance.
Tips for the Partner, Coach, or Friend
If labor begins at night, and she is not in a lot of pain, help her back to sleep with a soothing massage. Call your Doula, then go back to your lovely mother-to-be and reassure her. If labor begins during the day, take her to a place you both love, where you can get used to labor together. This could be a park, or a comfortable room in your home. Enjoy your last moments together before your family size increases. Help her to remember to drink plenty of water or juice, and to eat small meals as long as possible; prepare (or buy) her favorite foods. Take responsibility for seeing that the bags are packed, and the baby’s car seat is properly installed in your car. Take a shower and wear something she likes—no aftershave, please. In labor, a woman’s senses are heightened, and she is very particular with smells. Even if she has liked your aftershave in the past, it might make her nauseous during labor.
Keep in close, relaxed physical contact with her. As labor progresses, soothe by encouraging her to let her body relax. Stroke her gently to reassure her. Breathe with her if she starts to panic. Help her to regain her control. Don’t be embarrassed to use common endearments in front of your Doula, caregiver, or nursing staff; she needs to hear them from you! In transition, speak tenderly to her between contractions, and maintain eye contact during contractions. Once she is pushing, get your body close to her so she feels your support and reinforcement. Let her know when you can see the baby’s head, and help her reach down and touch it. Tell her you love her, and don’t forget to thank her for the hard work she’s putting in for the two of you.