As a mama who’s had 3 births where my partner was so important, I can see why many women (and their partners, whether partners in life or in birthing) feel that a doula would be unnecessary or take the place of a birth partner. Some couples feel that letting someone else into their very private and special occasion is unnecessary and invasive. In truth, a doula attends a birth in addition to the partner, not instead of.
I believe, for women in a partnership, that birth is a key point in their relationship. It has the ability to change how they relate to each other and the way they depend on each other, as birth is one of the biggest moments of a mama’s life. How her partner supported her, is going to make a difference. Doulas understand that the importance of a birth partner and how they hold a unique and critical position as they know, love, and care for the mom in a way no one else does! Which is exactly why sometimes it’s an unrealistic expectation for them to also be prepared to coach, inform, comfort, educate, advocate, and make decisions in a situation that they may have never been in before, or can only focus on their partner being in pain or have feelings about not be able to control the situation (and wishing, for their partner’s sake, that they could!). Often, the partner feels more able to participate because they feel the pressure has been relieved and they can be involved at their comfort level. A doula can focus on the “coaching”, freeing the partner to focus solely on loving emotional support.
Doulas can help partners by modeling (and explaining) specific pain relief techniques, explaining procedures and labor progress (into lay-man terms), and giving much-needed breaks. Bathroom breaks and quick snack breaks are important! Laboring mamas rely on their partners strength, so it’s important they can keep it up! A doula provides a confident reassurance that all is going well and normally. And something that I feel is of great importance is that a doula is often the only other participant who stays with you from beginning to end!
Another thing that I love, for families that want this, is the inclusion of any other family members during a birth (whether it be grandparents or siblings). It is so special to be able to facilitate in ways that makes the loved ones feel like their a natural part of things. (Like having the laboring mama’s mother rub a can on her back through a contraction, or having her be in charge of the cold washcloths.)
There are lots of reasons why having a doula is fantastic! After the birth of our first, my husband told every expecting family we knew that they had to get a doula. He frequently expresses that he walked away from the birth feeling like he was the one that was “doula-ed” and I walked away feeling like my partner was so amazing and supportive. He’s now admitted that our doula told him what to do every step of the way!
Here are some other great sites that answer all the “Do I need a doula if…” questions: threeriversbirth and Making Mothers Birth Doula Services.
And perhaps my favorite of all is Birthing Beautiful Ideas. It’s a must read for all expecting families. If you want a doula- read it. If you don’t want a doula- read it. I’m telling you, I just love the way she words things!