Healthy Beginnings

Doulas and Dads: Doulas Don’t Just Benefit Moms – They Benefit Dads, Too

For World Doula Week 2017, this year’s hashtag was #doulasbenefiteveryone to help raise awareness and acceptance, and to normalize that dads need a doula, too.

One of my clients recently said, “In the last few decades, fathers went from being in the bar with their cigar to being in the birth room, and being expected to know exactly how and what to do to support their wives. My family and friends had so little advice to give when it came to what I could actually do to help.”

So let’s ask the question, is it fair that we as a society are expecting this out of our partners? Really, it is okay to not know what to do. It is probably not ideal to rely on the person in labor for guidance, though. “She will tell me what she needs” is a common phrase I hear partners say. The truth is, when labor gets going, at some point she probably will not be able to tell you what to do. She needs to focus on labor. She needs to be in the zone, and expecting her to come out of it to explain what to do is, honestly, not fair to her. The presence it takes to labor is very much a mind-and-body connection, disrupting that can increase pain or panic sensations.

Many partners do not quite understand that a doula can be helpful for everyone in the birth process, not just the mother. Many couples do not end up hiring doulas because the partner is worried about being replaced, is unaware of how long and possibly di cult the process can be or doesn’t see the value in hiring someone to help navigate the twists and turns in the birth journey.

Doulas and dads work as a team so that you – dad – can be the best support possible. We know birth, but you know (and love) your partner. You won’t have to think about what else is going on or what needs to get done. You only have to focus on being present with your partner while her body works to bring your baby into your arms. A doula will not replace you, they allow you to be involved, right there with her, every step of the way.

A lot of what doulas do comes down to both experience and intuition:

  • I have taken turns massaging mom’s back for so long she had bruises.
  • I have teamed up with dads on applying acupressure points (evidence shows that applying acupressure reduces the perception of pain and can shorten labor).
  • I’ve been able to support moms while dads take a quick nap after being awake for 48 hours.
  • I’ve gone on food runs so dads wouldn’t have to leave their partner’s side.
  • I have answered dads’ worried texts at 3 a.m. in pregnancy and postpartum phases.
  • I’ve jumped in the back seat of the car with moms when it seemed possible that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time.
  • I have held dads’ hands and wiped away tears and assured them they that did everything they could to support their partner through their journey.
  • I’ve prompted dads with the questions to ask, and reminders to advocate.
  • I have sat in recovery with moms after surgery so dads could text me photos of babies, so that mom could see them while they were unable to be together.
  • I have run back and forth to the waiting room, assuring family that everything was going great.
  • I have taken photos of dads catching, dads announcing girl or boy, dads cutting cords, dads skin to skin and dads playing ukuleles to their newborn babies.

I do not want to minimize the important role you play as partner/husband/father, because let’s be real, you are her safe place, best friend and biggest fan, and she absolutely needs you there. I also do not want to pretend that birth isn’t often a long and unpredictable road.

Would you rather spend this precious time fidgeting and floundering around, possibly feeling helpless? Or, would you rather have someone there to guide you, suggest things that you can do to help and remind you of what is normal?

I honestly feel that you both deserve professional support so that you – dad – can continue to be present, and be a rock solid shoulder for her to lean and love on.

Doulas don’t just benefit mom. Doulas benefit everyone, including dads.

Sarah Geo Walton, Owner of Bright Heart Birth Services, is a Birth and Postpartum Doula, Placenta Encapsulation Specialist and GentleBirth Childbirth Educator. For more information, call 775-235-8272 or visit www.brightheartbirth.com. For more information about The Nurturing Nest, call 775-825-0800 or visit www.nurturingnestreno.com.