Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dads and Doulas

Instead of my typical Mama Monday post, I thought it fitting to focus on Dads since we've just celebrated Father's Day! I hope each of you had lovely Father's Day weekends as we did. We enjoyed some good food and fun family time in the Summer sun!

Clients and friends often ask me how fathers fit in to the childbirth experience when I'm involved as a doula. Some wonder why I would need to be there if the woman's partner is present, and this is a very good question.

First of all, it is not my role as a doula to take the place of a woman's husband, partner, mother or other close friend or family member she wishes to be present as a support person for her birth. In fact, I can't! Though I will have developed a relationship with her over the course of our prenatal appointments, I will never have the history and intimacy she has with those other special people in her life. I care for her but don't have the same level of deep love for her, and frankly she doesn't have that kind of love for me either! As I shared in my post last week about Love and Labor Hormones, oxytocin and endorphins are crucial in the childbirth process and the baby's father is often the greatest help in eliciting these hormones in the laboring mother.

Because of this unique connection between the mother and her partner, fathers have a key part to play in the labor support team. Dads working alongside trained and experienced doulas can be a powerful and effective duo. It is my job to help the father be involved to his comfort level, while making sure the laboring mother's needs are met. Some women prefer their husband's touch over mine when it comes to massage, slow dancing, and assistance in various position changes for labor comfort.

dads and doulas, doulas, tulsa doula, honeybee mama, supported squat for labor, slow dancing for labor

I often notice that fathers experience both a great desire to help their partners as well as a weighty obligation to be the "coach." When we have this expectation of men who have neither birthed a baby nor had any training or experience in the field, we can create an emotional and stressful situation for both the mother and father. However, when I am there to take the pressure off of Dad, help him with suggestions and model effective, empathetic care for his wife, he is better able to support her and also enjoy the experience of his child's birth. This also frees him to be able to leave from time to time to make necessary phone calls to friends and family members eagerly awaiting news throughout labor and delivery, or take meal and restroom breaks.

As the doula, I am also able to remain objective if the laboring mother experience moments of pain, fear or panic. I have noticed that dads often have a very difficult time seeing their partner in pain. Though they want to be encouraging, they may tense up and be unable to help the mother work through a difficult time in labor. Those are crucial moments in labor when I am able to remain calm and help them both focus and move forward with the process. Dads need to know as much as moms do that these occurrences are normal, common, healthy and that everything is going to be okay.

dads and doulas, Tulsa Doula, Honeybee Mama

Even when fathers are very well prepared from intensive childbirth education classes, reading and other preparation, they can run out of ideas when labor is long and everyone is tired. Because of my training and experience, I'm able to be the endless source of suggestions for positions, techniques, and tools to keep morale high and labor progressing.

When fathers are able to be present and involved in the birth of their child, I am delighted to work with them to offer the highest level of care for the laboring mother.  From the beginning I work to involve them in every aspect of childbirth education, preparation for labor and in writing the birth plan. Please contact me if you have further questions about how fathers can be involved in the childbirth experience.

At Honeybee Mama, I'm committed to getting you the tools and resources you need to make informed decisions about your birth. If you would like to know more about how your partner can be involved in your birth, contact me or schedule a consultation today!

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