The Support Dream Team
When a family chooses to hire a labor doula, they are choosing to have an extra set of hands, eyes, and ears in the delivery room. A doula does not negate the support of a partner. I repeat, a doula DOES NOT negate the support of a partner, not during labor or postpartum. As a doula my job is provide emotional, physical, and informational support. I am also there to help the mother advocate for herself and provide partner reinforcement. This doesn’t just mean for the mother, this means for both people who created a human!
Let’s be honest, not all partners want to be in the room where it’s all happening, even if they are. Every partner doesn’t want to see what’s doing on down there. Every partner doesn’t feel prepared to support the mother during labor. Even if they’ve taken childbirth classes and watched videos. And to be fair, not every woman feels comfortable with her partner seeing her in such a vulnerable position, especially if this is the first time she’s birth. That’s all OK. My job is not to have an opinion about anyone’s birth preferences. My job asks me to help the couple welcome their child into the world without fear. The doula you choose can guide the partner in providing physical comfort while providing emotional and informational support. Or provide physical support if the partner is uncomfortable doing so. She can keep the couple informed as they progress through the phases of labor and help to coach the mother alongside the partner.
It’s important to know what role your partner would like to play in the birth before that day arrives. Here are some questions you can discuss with your partner before you choose to hire a birth doula:
How do you feel about hiring a doula?
How active do you want to be during the birth?
Do you understand what labor entails?
Can you be my advocate during labor?
What are your thoughts on a birthing center vs. a hospital setting vs. a home birth?
Whose advice will we follow if the birth does not go according to plan?
Can you support me with affirmations/physically/emotionally?
How do you feel about a natural birth/water birth/epidural/cesarean birth?
There are many reasons to hire a labor doula - shorter labor, more support, birth plan reinforcement or support during changes, etc. I could give you stats and numbers or quote the World Health Organization but what it really comes down to is how much you believe it will benefit you and your birth experience.
After the birth, the mother will need time to heal and adjust to her new life. Getting to know your baby can be overwhelming and exciting. It takes a lot of support to get through those first few bleary-eyed weeks. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t exhausted to our very core at about two weeks into parenthood. And to be honest, I am my worst self when I’m running on little to no sleep. My husband made or bought any food I wanted but we were both happy to have more hands on deck when friends and family came to visit. I was elated when my sister came to visit and bought groceries and let me nap without pause. Lucas’ godmother came a week later to run errands with me, let me nap, and be great company without feeling the need to entertain. I was thankful to have friends and family come from near and far to make sure we had groceries or even just a hot lunch. We could have used the help of a doula more when I went back to work than at any other time during my maternity leave. One thing I’ve learned since then is that doula support can start as soon or as late as you need. From breastfeeding support in those first few days, to helping you prepare for mom life after maternity leave! If you and your partner are on the fence about hiring a postpartum doula, there are a few things you should consider:
Will family/friends be able to help after the baby is born?
Will Your partner or family members be able to take on more household duties?
Does Your. partner recognize the signs of postpartum depression?
What kinds of things do you think you’d need help with?
Will you only consider hiring a postpartum doula if your birth plan changes dramatically?
What steps will you implement to make a smooth transition when maternity leave ends?
What steps will you take to make a smooth transition into becoming a stay-at-home mom?
If you have older children, how will you keep them engaged while breastfeeding/cleaning/cooking/resting?
The reasons you may consider hiring a postpartum doula may not be on this list. You may just want to rest and know that your baby will be fine for 30 minutes while you nap. You may just want someone to make you lactation cookies and nutritious postpartum meals. You may just want an ear while your laundry gets folded. There’s no bad or silly reason to hire extra help if you want or need it. Doulas exist because women need more help, especially during the initial postpartum period. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your partner is in this with you. They want to help but they may need your guidance. If you’re not sure of how to keep them involved, a doula can help. This is a massive life change and we could all use an extra set of hands on our journey into motherhood.