[I realize that not all birth partners are men. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll use the masculine pronoun. The doula support is the same regardless of gender.]
A doula makes the dad look good.
Here is the truth: Birth makes most men a tad nervous. He wants to support her wishes, keep her safe, keep baby safe, not pass out, not have a baby in the car, say the right things, not get yelled at, have fresh breath at all times, look confident, and not melt into a pile of mush.
Dads really shouldn’t have to learn everything there is to know about birth in order to be Mr. Super Birth Partner. He already has all the tools to be this superhero. A doula can take the load off and let him do what he does best.
And what is that?
Love on the mama.
Inviting a doula into your birth scene frees up the dad to love on the mama. See, birth needs this one special hormone to get it going and keep it going. The Love Hormone, Oxytocin. Why yes, it does deserve to be in all-caps. An important hormone, this.
Oxytocin releases when you feel good. When you feel safe, warm, nourished, juicy. The saying goes “What got the baby in gets the baby out.” Go ahead ask. I know you want to. How many of my couples make out in labor? This doula’s lips are sealed. But it does work beautifully!
Partners do this best. I’m not going to smooch on my clients. And while I can hug and rub and spoon with them…I’d much prefer to guard their privacy and let the dad take this role. She probably would too!
My job is to quietly give them safe space to get cozy. Some clients want me to stay physically present and others want me to hang out downstairs or go for a walk. Some just want me available by phone until things really pick up. Often, for dads, the fact that I’m relaxed and in no hurry to call the midwife or go to the hospital frees them to relax.
During active labor, I might show the dad some ways to lay hands on the mama or hand him a warm rice sock for her back. Though I want to rush in and do it myself, it is best if I can stand back and let the couple do the work of birth.
If interventions of the doula sort are called for, then I step in. A dad shouldn’t have to worry about what to do with a cervical lip or a posterior presentation.
I’ve interviewed couples with concerns that the doula would “take the place of the dad.” Far from it. I give the dad peace of mind. I give him ideas or, better yet, make them look like his ideas. I permit him to experience the birth without worry. I give him bathroom and sleep breaks. I bring him dinner. I offer him gum. And I make him look like a rockstar.
I’ve never met a dad who said, “I really wish we wouldn’t have hired a doula.” Most become doula evangelists.