Why would women have a doula when their partner will be there to support them?
Men attending their baby’s birth is a relatively modern phenomenon. My father was not present at either my birth or my brother’s birth and in the 1970s this was the norm in Australia. Fathers are now expected to be present and to shoulder a large part of the birth support role. Now many men want to be there. They want to support their woman and they want to see their child into the world. But how prepared are today’s men for this new role when their own fathers were at work or down at the pub when they were born?
Consider that first time partners have (most likely) never seen a birth. If it is your first birth, then the chances are you haven’t either. Your partner (most likely) hasn’t read positive birth stories, watched gentle birth DVDs and has consumed less information than you.
They have (most likely) been told sensationalised and frightening birth stories including stories from men about seeing their partner in pain, seeing blood, poo, vomit, fluids and very intense and stressful situations.
Your partner is also carrying the legacy of their own birth story and they have (most likely) not reflected on their entrance to the world and what this has taught them about birth.
They may be frightened – but they’re probably not about to let you know because they want to be a rock for you. Your partner may not have gone through the same journey of learning and transformation as you in preparation for this birth and the transition into parenthood.
If this is not your first birth, then your partner may be distressed by the memory of your last birth. Even a straightforward and uncomplicated birth may have been a shock. They will have had less opportunity and less support than you to debrief and integrate their experience.
Men don’t get to meet up with other men post-birth and swap experiences the way women do. Men don’t usually get to go to birth circles or have heart to heart discussions about their experiences and feelings. They don’t get to do prenatal yoga and meditation where they can bond with their baby and visualise the birth they want and how they want to feel. They will have had less opportunity to do the healing and growing needed to go into another birth feeling ready, open and strong.
Your partner has a huge emotional investment in this birth. It must feel like the lives of the two most precious people in the world are in a boat out at sea and your partner is waiting, hoping, and willing that they will see both you and your baby safe in the harbour at the end of birth.
A doula won’t take away from your partner’s role, nor destroy the intimacy of experiencing this rite of passage as a couple. However a doula can support and reassure your partner so he can support you throughout the birth. Your partner deserves this support as much as you do!
Some ideas and resources to help your partner feel positive, supported and ready for birth too!
Becoming Dad is a blog, a facebook page and a movement created by Darren Mattock: Connect your partner up with Darren’s community for support in the transition into fatherhood. http://becomingdad.com.au/how-can-dads-make-a-difference/
Men at Birth is a collection of men’s birth stories edited by David Vernon (also a contributor to Birth Journeys) (Scroll down the linked page to find this book)
Beer and Bubs is a childbirth class for men held in an informal, friendly pub environment. Men have the chance to talk with a father who has done Beer and Bubs before and since experienced the birth of their baby, as well as learn from childbirth educators. Available around Australia.
Cheers to Childbirth is the book that grew out of the Beer and Bubs program, written by Lucy Perry with birth stories from celebrity dads.
Birth Journeys – positive birth stories to encourage and inspire contains three stories which share men’s experiences of birth (so do pass these stories over to your partner if you have the book!). These are Lachlan and Bree’s story of their first birth, Christian’s story of his second daughter’s birth in the water (she was born in the caul!), and Chris tells the story of his second baby’s home birth. There is also a piece by David Vernon on how men can prepare themselves to support their partner during labour.