Sunday, August 8, 2010

Doulas Make a Difference for Dads

 As a doula, I am often asked " How does a doula impact the role of my baby's father at the birth?"
 This is an important question. Other doulas may answer it differently, but here are my thoughts.
One of my goals, as a doula, is to facilitate and protect the special bond between mom and dad during labor and birth, and not to interfere with their intimacy. Most couples do not understand that working through labor and birth together offers them one of the most golden opportunities to bond emotionally that they will ever have in their lives. I hope that the mother will see the father of her baby as her "hero" when all is said and done.  And, I hope the father will be in complete awe at the strength and beauty of the mother of his baby as she gives birth.

Men should know that many women are comforted simply by their man's presence in the room and don't expect them to know everything about how to meet their needs. I have had many clients tell me, "I just need for him to be there, but not feel like he has to fix it for me, and I am worried that he will feel confused and anxious about what I need.  That, in turn, will make me feel anxious!"

Many men do feel helpless when they see the mother of their baby in what seems like anguish. Because their nature is to be "the protector," men are often ready to give in to medical interventions in order to relieve the pain, even when those interventions may not be in the best interest of the mom or baby. They really have the best intentions, but this is often because of a lack of understanding about the process of labor and birth and the very real risks as well as benefits of certain various procedures.

Enter the doula. A doula can show a dad ways to touch and massage his partner that may relieve common discomforts of labor so that potentially harmful interventions can be minimized or eliminated altogether. A doula can reassure a dad when he hears or sees something he has never encountered before by saying "she's doing just fine, she's just vocalizing" or " It's OK, babies' heads are sometimes a little misshapen for the first few hours after birth." A doula can relieve the dad so he can use the restroom or get something to eat, or she can go get him a snack so he can stay with Mom.

When things get challenging, a doula can make suggestions to the dad about helping the mother with positioning and movement. But sometimes, the mom and dad are working together and what they are doing it is enhancing their progress. These are the times that I just hang back, sit on my hands, let my words be few and just "hold the space" for them. At some births I am very "hands on" and at others I have simply been a comforting presence, because that was all that was needed. I find that when couples feel safe and secure, they will be more able to listen to their hearts and do what comes instinctively. They will be able to ask for what they need, be it more attention, or more privacy.
Then birth just blossoms in the way that it should. I believe this builds strong, confident parents as they begin their journey together as a family.

I feel very blessed to be a doula, and have heard from many appreciative Dads who said that having me at present at the birth of their children made them feel more confident and equipped to minister to the needs of their wives and babies. This is the highest compliment I could receive.

For more information on dads and doulas, please see the following articles.

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