For the birth of our oldest, we did not have a doula. I barely knew what a doula was. We took a child birth education class and I read The Birth Partner. We had the breathing techniques, we had the relaxation techniques, I had the massage techniques. I was ready. I was unstoppable. The birth went smoothly. I talked Jessica through every contraction and kept things steady when she felt like it was getting out of control. I was kind but assertive with the nurses and other staff to make sure that all of my wife’s needs were met. During transition Jessica started to have the feeling that she wasn’t going to make it. But I was there, and we made it.
While pregnant with our second child, Jessica told me that she wanted a doula. A doula? What do you need a doula for? What was wrong with the first birth? I was there! I was ready! I was unstoppable! I didn’t want to be pushed aside for some doula to get in the way of our beautiful experience together. During the interview with our eventual doula I told her my concerns. She explained to me that I would not be replaced. The doula is there to support the spouse as much as the mother. There are certainly cases where a partner is not available or not comfortable playing an active role. A doula tailors her approach to each individual birth and situation. I wasn’t quite convinced, but I gave it some thought and decided I would be okay with having a doula.
In the end, the birth ended up happening so quickly I was the only one there for Jessica for the majority of the birth. The midwife made it to our house just in time to deliver the baby, and our doula made it shortly after. Even if you plan on the doula doing most of the work, you have to be prepared. I ended up comforting Jessica and helping her through all of the contractions anyway. A doula’s job is not over when the baby is delivered, however. She was there to help us in the early hours following the delivery. She made sure that we were setup and ready to go after she left. She helped talk our son through what had happened during the night.
If you are a spouse and are not feeling comfortable with having a doula for any reason, make sure you discuss it with a doula or many doulas. When you interview with a doula make sure you discuss what your respective roles will be. Make sure you find a doula that will be the best for filling that particular role. You may want someone who will take more of the role in comforting the mother directly during contractions. You may want someone who is knowledgeable of the hospital policies and staff because you don’t feel comfortable in the environment, understand certain procedures, or don’t know what is appropriate to ask. You may want someone there to answer questions or tell you that things are going to be okay, just because you as the partner aren’t the one giving birth doesn’t mean that you won’t be the one freaking out. And sometimes you may want a doula who can give you a break when the birth is getting long. Nobody is able to go forever.
Of course, nobody has to have a doula. You may be fine without one. But it is important to think through a birth in its entirety to know what you can handle and what you can’t. You might realize that a doula is right for you.