Disclaimer: In no way is this title written to offend or leave out same sex couples or single-mom's-by- choice, I pretty much just liked the alliteration of it all... that's it. This post is for all loving, supportive partners who are present during the pregnancy and birth of their baby.
As one of the founding members of Hudson River Doulas, I'm extremely blessed to witness and to be a part of, literally, the MOST AMAZING event that occurs on this planet. OK, I realize that Mother Earth has no shortage of mind blowing, jaw dropping, fascinating occurrences but for me, birth is pretty much the pinnacle of all things cool. Please take my word on this, or the word of any other birth worker in the world because I'm pretty sure we would all agree.
Anyway, back to the Dads/Partners and Doulas
Our couples come to us for a variety of reasons. Some just for answers to questions, some who have fear or anxiety surrounding their pregnancy and birth as well as 4th trimester concerns. Some need a hand to hold or eyes to look into during the most trying, uncontrollable, vulnerable, and intimate times of their life. Those same eyes belong to one who understands the birthing process first hand and honors that place and that need for understanding. Some couples are afraid of the medicalization of birth in our culture and want someone “in their corner” who can help explain what to expect and what is happening during their labor. We're often called on for a mom when her partner will be parenting their other smaller children too.
There are so many different reasons to hire a Doula. Some couples, for example, want a Doula for the benefit of the Dad (Partner). Plain and simple.
I'm always so very thankful to the couples who are aware of this need and share it with us right up front. Although it may seem that birth or having a Doula present at your birth is very Mom-centric, what our couples don't know in the beginning is actually how much support the partner is going to receive as well.
We're keenly aware that a laboring mom won't progress well if she is still in the role of caretaker during her labor. We can help to alleviate that stress-or, and thus allow the mind-body connection to do it's thing. By helping to calm nerves through answering questions, reminding partners to eat, drink and yes, even to pee because babies make us do silly things like forget to take care of our own needs sometimes...
We've absolutely rubbed some shoulders and backs for hard working and tired Dad's/Partners.
We hold up screens to Skype a partner who is overseas or serving in the military and can't physically participate in the delivery process, but will still be able to communicate and view this miraculous event through modern technology.
We sometimes have a “safe”word for an anxious partner that is only for us to know. If I hear that very innocent word, I will know that they need a break or are overwhelmed and will tend to them while not interrupting the birthing flow of the mama. They feel safe and heard.
We have our private laughs, talks, and sometimes cries with the Dad's because this is their birth too. They have their feelings, thoughts and fears and they should be heard should they wish to share them. They are terrified at times and we are there to help settle or hold them.
We're there to give them a tough talk when needed and to help them to ask all the questions so they feel empowered to make the wisest decisions during this process.
We make up chair beds (from quite possibly the world's most uncomfortable guest chairs in every L&D room all across the land – ask anyone, they're brutal. One of the many reasons why I'm sure home birth is becoming more and more popular in my very unscientific observation.) with linens and manage to acquire pillows from a full birthing unit that has none to spare and encourage Dad's that they should and NEED to rest during the labor process because, holy cow – some babies can take a LONG time to get the memo to come earth-side to join the party. Babies will need the Mom, Mom's will need the Dad's and if Dad/Partner is too exhausted from a marathon birth, they are good to no one. Kind of reminds you of the airplane and oxygen analogy...Take care of yourself, so you are able to help take care of others.
We have our own text threads with the partners because they don't have all the answers at the end of the day and literally say,”maybe you should call or text the doula.” We get messages that their partners had an especially crappy day and it would mean a lot if they heard from us just so that they can vent.
I cry. Every single time, along with the Birth Partner when I witness them becoming a parent. It's a REAL baby now and not just the inside movement, or heart-rate monitor or ultrasounds. Us mama's get ALL the feels of being a mama leading up to delivery and are hyper aware that, yes, we are the creators of the life within us. When a Dad sees his baby for the first time it is a life changing event that very few of us are privileged to bare witness to. I am able to share that story or capture those moments in photos of this sacred rite of passage.
A Doula will Sherpa all of the family's belongings into their new room and help set it up for them so that they can have the special bonding time beyond that precious “Golden Hour”.
I love to receive photos of them with their new babies making just about the goofiest faces possible and sometimes get invited to that baby's 1st birthday party.
I mean it when I tell you that every single one of them is so grateful that we were by their side too to welcome their baby into the world.
Truthfully, my husband and I had about zero of the correct expectations of how we would handle our birthing time. Although we took an exceptionally thorough class that was helpful in it's own way, we literally fell apart once it was labor time. Hell, I became a Doula BECAUSE of how we fell apart and I make it a part of my life's work to not have any of my families deal with the stresses, fears, frustrations, unanswered questions or possible disappointments and eventual resentment that begins to build from what is one of life's most beautiful and life changing moments. Nope! Not having any of it on my watch.
Recently, it occurred to me that we expect our life partners to be our birth partners or coaches during the delivery of their baby. That's asking a lot of someone who's perhaps not had any role-modeling when it comes to labor and birth. It's OK just to have your partner be your partner.
One of the greatest compliments that a Dad gave us was, “Thank you for being the tour guide to our birth.” They enjoyed the journey too.