Doulas and Birth Partners
Updated: Mar 1, 2019
Kaelie Harris- Doula, Huntsville, AL
I recently had a new father say to me after the birth of his third baby "Wow, you really changed my mind about doulas. I am glad you were here for this." This was an awesome compliment, but I was curious about his former opinion of doulas, so asked him what he thought going into this. His answer was similar to things I hear from partners in our initial consultation- "I wasn't entirely sure what a doula does. I honestly thought it was silly. But having you here helped her get the birth she wanted."
In my experience, the birth partner is sometimes a little wary of hiring the doula. Sometimes they don't fully understand what it is that I do and sometimes they think that I am going to take their place in the birthing room and there won't be a role for them.
I think that so much emphasis is put on the mother's experience that the partner is sometimes left out of the equation. Even if the partner goes through the classes and knows what is going to happen, many times they are not prepared for the emotions that accompany seeing the person you love most in pain and dealing with very intense contractions. Many first time partners also do not realize that you are largely alone for the bulk of labor, with nurses coming in and out to check on them, so having a doula there can be a good touchstone to remind them that this is normal and everything is ok. A large bulk of my job is emotional support for the birth partner. Yes, the mother is the one going through the physical process of birth, but the partner is also going through their own birth process in becoming a parent. '
My role as a doula in no way replaces the role of the birth partner. I am there for physical, emotional, and educational support, but I could never play the role in increasing the mothers oxytocin levels in the way the partner does. Oxytocin (sometimes referred to as the love hormone) is a hormone that plays a huge part in progressing labor. When your partner tells you they love you or when they rub your back in labor, that oxytocin increases, helping labor to progress. My job as the doula is to assist the partner in helping the mother raise that oxytocin level.
My other role with the birth partner is to take some of the pressure off and give them a break. If it is a long labor, the partner can take a break, sleep, get something to eat, etc. without leaving the mother alone. We can work in shifts to make sure she has constant care. In a 12+ hour labor, it can be hard for the partner to be physically and emotionally there 100% of the time.
Before I became a doula, I hired a doula for the birth of my son. My husband was not convinced we needed a doula and I had to convince him to hire one. He ended up throwing his back out the morning I went into labor (great luck, huh?) and because I had my doula to support me, he was able to rest his back and sleep until it was time to push and I really needed him with me. At our post natal appointment we told my doula how glad he was that she was there. Having her at our birth made all of the difference.
Doulas are not just for the person giving birth, we are here to support the birth partners too.