Doulas and Dads work together in a birth to support the Mama and after their baby comes home.
Without a real understanding of what a doula does, I sometimes hear a Dad’s hesitation in hiring a doula. He’s involved in the pregnancy, supportive of his wife/partner; he wants to be active and have a main role in the birth of his baby, so he’s thinking, “Why do we need her?”
As a doula, I can assure all Dads, that I am not there to replace them, but rather as a part of the birthing team, to help enhance their experience, and to support Dads, too, prenatally, during labor and postpartum. Often, after the birth, Dads are more appreciative of doula support than Moms. Doulas and Dads work together as complementary parts of the Mom’s birth team.
Our presence lets Dads support their loved ones in their own way without having to remember position changes or comfort measures, reminding her to empty her bladder or release her shoulders. To a Mom, her husband/partner’s reassurance and presence are invaluable, he is emotionally connected and invested in her and the birth. In labor, I see Dads lovingly rubbing backs, whispering in ears, encouraging and comforting, when they’re working so beautifully together, I can stand back, softly add a word of praise or a suggestion, add a touching hand and let the couple dance the labor dance together.
As labor progresses and becomes more intense, my role picks up, Dad and I are a team in supporting Mom. We may take turns squeezing her hips or being the leaning post for her swaying body. We find a rhythm that works. For some Dads who feel more uncertain or nervous, they can observe how I talk, touch, encourage and they can feel more comfortable in their actions.
At our educational prenatal visits, I always tell parents that it’s important for them to understand the stages of labor and the possible interventions that may be suggested. They need to own their birth, be prepared to advocate for themselves, and make informed decisions, but they don’t need to remember every birthing position or detail we discuss, because at the birth, I am their “Cliff Notes.”
Culturally, we’ve placed Dads in the role of sole supporter of a laboring woman, but this is Dad’s birth, too, and even a Dad who’s been at a birth before has usually only been at one or two births. The doula is there as someone who really knows birth, who can help families navigate labor and who works to protect the space for the birthing couple. A doula doesn’t make decisions for the family or speak out for them, but may gently encourage them to advocate for themselves and discuss things with them in their decision-making process.
Doulas and Dads also can work together after the baby arrives. As a postpartum doula, I love helping families adjust and find their footing as new parents, or helping them transition to a family of 4 or more. Postpartum doulas support anyone in the home during the postpartum period, grandparents, siblings, and Dads. We offer emotional support, make sure everyone is fed, assist in household organization with a baby and provide guidance and encouragement with breastfeeding. We answer questions, and more questions, and help brainstorm solutions to any individual family situation.
I honor the deep importance of Dads at a birth and in the lives of their babies and kiddos. To all the future Dads, soon-to-be-Dads, new Dads, and Dads who’ve been in the trenches for years or decades: Happy Father’s Day!
A website I recommend: Fathers-to-be