Dads and Doulas: The Dynamic Dou (by Ruth Ingebrand)

I try and support the community by volunteering as a Doula. What is a Doula? The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. I have done some pretty great things in my life, but giving birth is by FAR the most treacherous, exhausting, beautiful, awkward, frustrating rewarding experience I have ever endured. My only attempt at natural birth was a horror story. I was lost and afraid, and so was my husband. Our first birth story could have been one of triumph if we had a Doula by our side that provided us with continuous physical, emotional and informational support.

You would think that if there were an option for help during labor, most woman and their partners would jump at the opportunity. But that just isn’t true. In my experience most fathers and partners are often put off by the thought of having a “stranger” anywhere near their wives during labor. This response makes me laugh, because as most babies in 2015 are born in hospitals, the mother and father are ALWAYS surrounded by strange nurses and doctors. Even if a mother has an OB or Midwife that she has seen every month, often times it is not their OB or Midwife that are on call at the hospital when she delivers. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a calm, experienced presence in the room? One with whom you have rapport, who has been by your sides aiding you in your birth plans? While a doula may initially be a stranger, she can quickly become a friend. I am still good friends with all of the couples that I have supported in birth.

I came across a birth story on todaysparents.com entitled “Why a Doula?”. “I was really scared with my first child,” admits Annie Thompson. “I didn’t know what to expect.” Most women share Annie’s fear of the unknown perils of labor. In prenatal classes, Annie and her husband, Cam, learned about the role of the doula and decided to hire one. But Cam had concerns. Where does dad fit in? Do doulas supplant dads in childbirth? In this era, fathers want to be involved, and the idea that doulas are a replacement for them is a common worry. “I guess at first I thought it seemed like an invasion of privacy,” he admits. “But very quickly I let that go. A doula actually provided a buffer between us and the hospital staff, which minimized unwanted intrusions into our intimacy.” “I didn’t have to worry about what other people were up to,” continues Cam. “I was focused only on Annie. I guess that’s the idea behind the whole doula thing. I didn’t need to worry about details; I could just be with Annie.”

A dad’s emotional stake in the birth can quickly cloud his judgment and cause him to forget what he’s learned from books and prenatal classes. “It was an emotionally charged event,” stated Cam. “No matter how well you prepare, you still don’t know what you’re going to go through. I’ve never felt so out of control as I did when my kids were being born.” “ It’s natural to react when you see your partner in distress; it’s natural to want to make it stop. What’s hard to remember, in the heat of the moment, is how to help.”

As Doulas of North America (DONA) explains in its report on the relationship between dads and doulas, “a father may not understand a woman’s instinctive behavior during childbirth and may react anxiously to what a doula knows to be the normal process of birth.” Anxiety breeds tension, and tension is decidedly unhelpful in the delivery room. The pairing of doulas and dads is a winning combination. Moms feel looked after; dads feel functional and needed. Everyone wins!

Women need support during birth. Fathers and partners need support during birth. For these reasons I feel that every woman and her partner deserve to have a supported birth with a Doula. For this reason men/ partners need to get on board with hiring Doulas at the births. They both deserve it!

How to Get Involved

If you are interested in becoming a Doula, having a Doula at your birth, or just want to know more about Doulas check out www.mothertreebirth.com. The owner of this amazing company, Jesse Remer, offers many resources which include Doula services, postpartum support, child birth classes, Doula training, and a free consultation to get you fit with the right Doula and Midwife. I myself was trained by Jesse last summer. A great company to go to in Portland to find a Doula would be Portland Doula Love. They are conveniently located on MLK Jr Blvd and NE Stanton, their website is www.portlanddoulalove.com . If you are Vancouver side, check out Renaissance Doulas located at 113 NE 92nd Ave in Vancouver, or check out their website www.renchildbirth.com. Ask for Erica Godell, she is not only a great Doula but an even more incredible woman. You won’t be disappointed with what she has to offer. If you are looking for a Doula for someone you know that needs the support, but doesn’t have much income please contact me at dringebrand@yahoo.com, and I would be happy to take care and Doula for your loved one.

Bibliography

The bibliography below is a collection of articles that discuss the importance of having a Doula present at your birth, even when the father or partner is present. I found the information contained in these sources eye opening, and very helpful. I hope you will as well.

Thullen, Matthew J., et al. “Father Participation In A Community-Doula Home-Visiting Intervention With Young, African American Mothers.” Infant Mental Health Journal 35.5 (2014): 422-434. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Aug. 2015. This article is about how the presence of the father in all aspects of birth affects mother, baby, and the progression of labor. The researcher then compares how the presence of the Doula in all aspects of birth affects mother, baby, and the progress of labor. This gives the reader a really good idea of how wonderfully the Doula can affect a birth, even with the father/ partner present.

Boro, Jessica, and Samuel Boro. “Elizabeth Belle’S Birth Story.” Journal Of Perinatal Education 23.3 (2014): 119-123. Alt HealthWatch. Web. 8 Aug. 2015.This article is a birth story, and about a couples experience with a Doula. It also touches on how specifically the father felt about having a Doula before and after the birth. This is a very personal account of how the mother and father felt after having a Doula present at the birth.

Nagashima, L., Bertsch, T., Dykman, S., McGrath, S., Dellay, T., & Kennell, J. (n.d.). FATHERS DURING LABOR: DO WE EXPECT TOO MUCH? Retrieved August 8, 2015.This article is about what the expectations are for fathers at birth. What they were in the 50’s versus what they are now. It leads into how perhaps all of these expectations are too much and how having a Doula allows for the mother to be more supported, and gives a father the confidence and direction to feel useful.

douladad

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2 comments

  1. Brianna Ison

    Ruth!
    I always love and look forward to reading your work! You are so passionate for what you write about and it completely shows in this piece as well! Childbirth is an extremely scary and exciting thing for both the woman and the partner and I know this from experience! This was such a great piece of writing and while I had never previously thought about using a Doula in my next pregnancy, I am now seriously considering it!

    You are such a strong writer with an extensive vocabulary that really captivates your reader! The way you use facts, personal opinion and outside resources in this articles really ties everything together and shows off your amazing writing abilities. While there is always room for improvement in anyone’s writing I have a hard time finding any other criticism besides that which is positive! This is definitely a powerful piece and you should be proud of it!

    Bri

  2. JJ

    I agree with Bri, this is a well-written piece. I like how you are directly addressing the needs of the dads, something that often is overlooked. If only more people knew that a doula can be such a fantastic advocate for the mother AND the father.On a side note, I wanted to have a doula at the birth of my children, but things didn’t work out for me that way.

    If I could make one addition to this piece, it might be a paragraph explaining the training and qualifications a doula receives. This might help convince a dad (or a mom!) that a doula is a safe and desirable addition to the expectant couple’s birth plan.

    What a gentle, informative introduction to a valuable service! Wouldn’t it be great to have this printed on a flyer and available at doctor’s offices?

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