My role as a doula is to bring you two closer together during birth (if this is what you wish). This is your birth, your once-in-a-lifetime experience as a couple. So if it’s mum’s wish for her partner to be her main support person I will gently guide your partner to be the best support he can be and free him of the stress and worry he might otherwise feel. Relieved from any emotional responsibility for you he can then relax into the process of birth and be freed to have his own experience of becoming a dad.
Does a doula replace the partner?
Having a third person involved may raise concerns that doulas will come between the parents. Doulas are, in reality, a support person for fathers as well, ensuring that the partner’s physical and emotional needs are also met. Just as doulas see to the comfort, hydration, nutrition, and calm of labouring mothers, they also see to these needs for fathers. When doulas and partners work together, they are a very powerful support system combining knowledge of birth, labor, breastfeeding and newborns, with intimate understanding of this particular mother and her needs, desires, communication styles, and emotional responses. The doula’s training and knowledge are available to fathers and are shared via suggestions, examples, or referrals allowing the partner to be a greater participant in providing support and decision making.
A doula doesn’t replace anyone. She is another member of the birth team and supports everyone in their own role. A doula’s presence helps partners participate at their own comfort level, showing them how and when to use various comfort techniques, providing information, and in some cases, looking after them as well. Partners are often grateful to be able to share the “coaching” responsibility with someone more experienced and can therefore enjoy the birth experience more.
Aren’t the roles of the doula and partner so similar that only one is needed?
The doula’s role is unique because she is not going through a personal transition like the father is. She is there simply to provide support to the mother and father. The doula’s training and experience allows her to bring a wider perspective to the birth or postpartum period, tips and tools for coping with labour, recovery, newborn needs and breastfeeding in addition to information to help the couple make decisions. A doula cannot provide the same level of emotional support and connection a partner can, just as the partner cannot bring the same objectivity a doula can. Some fathers, while they want very much to be involved and supportive of their partner during birth and the postpartum period, feel a great deal of pressure to remember everything from childbirth class. Doulas bring a fountain of knowledge with them to the birth and postpartum period and this knowledge is available to both parents.
Doulas and partners
The father-to-be is expected among other things to become familiar with the process and language of birth, to understand medical procedures and hospital protocols and advocate for his partner in an environment and culture he is usually unfamiliar with. A doula can provide the information to help parents make appropriate decisions and facilitate communication between the labouring woman, her partner and medical care providers.
Your partner’s comfort level
At times a father may not understand a woman’s instinctive behaviour during childbirth and may react anxiously to what a doula knows to be the normal process of birth. He may witness his partner in pain and understandably become distressed. The doula can be reassuring and skilfully help the mother to cope with labour pain in her unique way. The father-to-be may need to accompany his partner during surgery should a cesarean become necessary. Not all fathers can realistically be expected to "coach" at this intense level.
Many fathers are eager to be involved during labour and birth. Others, no less loving or committed to their partner's well being find it difficult to navigate in uncharted waters. With a doula, a father can share in the birth at a level he feels most comfortable with. The doula’s skills and knowledge can help him to feel more relaxed. If the father wants to provide physical comfort such as back massage, change of positions, and help his partner to stay focused during contractions, the doula can provide that guidance and make suggestions for what may work best.
Your partner’s gifts are unique and irreplaceable
The father's presence and loving support in childbirth is comforting and reassuring. The love he shares with the mother and his child, his needs to nurture and protect his family are priceless gifts that only he can provide. With her partner and a doula at birth a mother can have the best of both worlds: her partner’s loving care and attention and the doula's expertise and guidance in childbirth.