So I hear this a lot, especially from first-time parents, and I understand it, I really do... "Well I have my husband and he's my rock and I don't need anyone else" or this "Well my husband doesn't think we need the extra support because we have the doctor and nurses there and that's their job" or even "It's a really special time for us and we don't want anyone taking away from our experience of the birth of our child".
So, here's the way we can help in ALL those circumstances and where you might not know we are actually really important! (and some pictures of some of our local doulas do what they do(ula) best!! )
1. Doula support doesn't start when labor begins! It starts the moment you hire a doula.
I've been hired as early as the first positive pregnancy test and as late as 38 weeks gestation and everywhere in between. But so much of what I do as a doula starts way before labor begins. Doulas are treasure troves of information regarding birth, all the tests that you may have or may opt out of during pregnancy, all the supplemental care givers your community has for you like massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, etc. I keep a running list of these resources that's 10 pages long and always growing. Doulas help ensure that you have what you need to have the best pregnancy possible, which any partner can get behind
2. Doulas are trained in pain management techniques for labor and birth!
Trained!! And we spend hours after our initial training oftimes learning even more tricks of the trade. For instance, I attended the Spinning Babies workshop this past year and it has proven to be an integral skill for my practice. Training in the use of a shawl or rebozo during labor, or a TENS unit, or acupressure or essential oils. These are all things that I know and am comfortable using during a birth.
These are pictures taken by my client's husband of me doing hip squeezes (she preferred my hip squeezes) and then later, pouring water over her back to help relax her muscles and help her rest. And while they had paid for birth photography (as evidenced by the camera slung across my back) they wanted some on their phones too.
Partners, you can hold hands, and look into your woman's eyes, and comfort her with word and touch the way no one else can, but what doulas do helps you to be able to do just that! Let us rub her back while you lock arms and whisper into her ear the things she needs to hear. Let us massage her pressure points in her feet while you hold her hand.
3. Doulas don't forget those labor positions you learned in your birth class!
I know, I know! You took the classes! And I'm so glad you did, but let's be real, did you actually go home and practice? Do you really think that in the maelstrom of emotion that is the birth of your child you are likely to remember that hands and knees is a great position for an OP baby (or even know what an OP baby is)? Well your doula will! And sometimes that's all it takes, is a little reminder from your doula and sometimes we need to really help especially if you missed that class!
4. Doulas are a non-invasive extra set of hands!
So often during labor extra hands are needed. I've never been a part of one that I wasn't needed to get more water, fetch a blanket or towel quickly, towel off mamas wet legs or help her in or out of underwear, do double hip squeezes while mama is hanging off of her partners shoulders, or holding onto mama while her partner gets into position to catch their baby! Let us help you make sure that the woman you love has everything she needs before she knows she needs it during her birth. We've got you!
You can see in the two images below (the first taken on the midwifes cell phone, the second taken by me) of how my client's husband was initially supporting his wife between contractions so she could completely relax, but then handed that duty over to me so he could get behind her to catch their baby.
5. We probably know where everything is in the hospital/birth center that you are birthing in....
This may seem silly, but in all the excitement of a birth, it's good to know that your doula knows where to check-in in the middle of the night, where they stash the extra pillows or where the blanket warmer is. They also likely know where the nourishment room is for juice and snacks. Partners, let us run around and gather the necessaries while you do what you do best, love on your woman!
6. We speak medical jargon AND normal-people!
So often in birth, especially in the hospital setting, things arise and nurses or doctors walk into the room and start spewing medical terminology rapid fire and all of a sudden things are happening, medications are being given, consent isn't being asked for, and it's chaos. Doulas have the uncanny ability to slowly explain what was just said in lay-men's terms, ask for time from care providers so decisions can be made, and then calm things down.
7. We fill birth tubs like a boss!
This may not be pertinent for everyone (though it should be, birth tubs are awesome!) but I can say from multiple experiences that even the best laid birth plans can go awry when someone forgot to check about how to hook up the hose for filling the birth tub, or forgot to buy a hose, or the hose doesnt reach, or it's not even blown up yet. We will problem solve and it's not our first rodeo! I'll have 6 pots of water boiling on your stove in no time if all else fails. This is not your job. The laboring couple needs to stay connected and the doula will get shit done.
8. We know when to head to the hospital/birth center or when to call the midwife to come
I cannot tell you how many times I've walked into the house of a couple, especially first-timers just to have the partner standing by the door with bags in hand ready to head to the hospital when their plan was to stay home for as long as possible. They are CONVINCED that the baby is about to fall out despite the fact that mama is pretty chill, breathing through contractions well, and talking in between. We've seen this before. We know the sounds and the visual cues to look for that help us know where a woman is at in her labor with pretty good accuracy without ever needing to "check her cervix". No one wants to head to the birth center or the hospital just to be told to go home, you're not even close...
9. You need a nap...
It happens. Whether you just got off the night shift at work, just got home from a business trip, or have been supporting this amazing woman in her labors for the past 2 days, sometimes you need a nap, but you can't just leave her with no one to care for her, to watch over her, to keep her company, to do those hip squeezes. Thank goodness you've got a doula. My poor husband and doula and midwife switched off multiple times to sleep during the birth of my first child during the 40 hours marathon of my labor. And I've most certainly stepped in as the main support person for mamas when their exhausted partners simply need to close their eyes for a while so they can get back in the game.
10. We know how to navigate and advocate when things go wrong.
What happens when there's an emergency cesarean section? What will that recovery be like? What about retained placenta or a post partum hemorrhage? Post-partum pre-eclampsia? Feeding issues? Knowing you have someone in your corner to help you navigate anything that is scary that might come up gives so much peace of mind.
I've had a client who was released from the hospital who I saw soon after that was showing symptoms of post-partum pre-eclampsia and I immediately suggested they go to OB Triage and get checked out. Sure enough. Her BP had skyrocketed again and she was close to having a stroke.
I can show mamas how to find positions that she can nurse in and get rest,
Make sure that she has what she needs to recover from her birth,
tell her the best post-partum support garments for c-section mamas and what to expect from healing,
suggest a sleep coach, a therapist, a naturopath for that post-partum depletion that has her down.
I'm someone to talk to about her sore nipples or that scar tissue that still bothers her.
These are not your jobs. You should be spending time snuggling your baby and loving on the woman who just birthed your child, not researching on the internet or talking to Dr.Google.
Doulas are there. And we are here for both of you.